A Lesson From Fox News

Michael K. St. Pierre is a teacher of theology at Oratory Prep School in Summit, NJ, and co-founder of CatholicVentures.com. This article is used with permission from Mike St. Pierre's free monthly e-newswire, Catholic Ventures Newswire, available for from CatholicVentures.com.

The recent popularity of the Fox News cable channel has led CNN and others to reevaluate their approach to news reporting. What makes Fox News so popular and what can we in ministry learn from them? Why do they attract a younger audience than the other networks? This month I’d like to suggest some of the key components of their success and how we can incorporate some of their techniques into what we do at the parish, high school or diocesan level.

A quick click away, Fox News is always on and the screen shot is always moving. A primary focus is featured in the center of the screen while a “news ticker” flashes across the bottom. In the top corners, one finds various images to let you know that you are watching Fox and not CNN or MSNBC. The reporters are often younger adults in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s and many are good looking. All of this adds up to a terrific image for Fox and increasing numbers of viewers. They do a good job!

For those of us in ministry, perhaps we might do well to consider a few questions:

1. Is our ministry always “on”? Can young people reach you or someone else in authority when they need help, a shoulder to lean on or a listening ear? Is there a month when your ministry closes up shop and young people have no where to go?

Some suggestions: make sure that your website is always accessible even when you are not, allow for people to leave a message on a machine or voice-mail system that is trustworthy, and provide the number for a person to reach a trained counselor when someone is in a state of emergency.

2. Is our ministry image conscious Do you always ask Jim or Susan to do the readings or make the announcements? If so, others will pick up the impression that they are not invited into the ministry. Also consider the impact that your up-front persons have on the wider community. If they are perceived as “religious fanatics”, this might not be the image your ministry needs in order to grow.

Some suggestions: be conscious of the image of your ministry so that you can grow and invite more people in, only use crisp and cool handouts and flyers, create logos for your upcoming program or trip so as to promote it more effectively, and most importantly make sure that you have cool people who are also living a Christ-centered life – especially if they are your leaders and up-front people.

3. Is our ministry dynamic and active? If your schedule for this year features the same events as the past five years- the red light goes on to let you know that you might want to try something new. If a program works then go with it but if all that we do always looks exactly the same as in previous years, this is not a good sign. Remember the six most dangerous words, “We’ve always done it that way.”

Some suggestions: when you set your goals for the upcoming year- be sure to include one new initiative that you’d like to try, make it a point to ask often the question, “is this ministry merely a holy huddle or the frozen chosen?” Finally, reward creativity within your core team. If someone has a wild and crazy idea that might not work at this time, still be grateful for the creativity and willingness to share a new idea.

If you can look seriously at each of these three questions and then respond to them, I am confident that, like Fox News, your ministry will grow and God will bless your efforts to serve Him more effectively. Enjoy!

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