Three years ago last week, I posted my very first video on YouTube. It was dreadful. But it was also so cool. With just a camera and a computer, I was able to tell my story in a quasi-entertaining way and reach people all around the world. Sure, it was rough, but after only ten videos, I knew that I had tapped into something special.
In today’s world, nearly anyone can produce high-quality and entertainment works. Technology has become so accessible and easy to use that full-length documentaries and award-winning movies have been shot on iPhones. Right there in nearly everyone’s pocket is all that one needs to reach the world in a breath-taking way.
And so many are taking advantage of this incredible time in history. YouTube is absolutely exploding with new content and creators, standing as the second largest search engine in the world. People with no film background, no media training, and some with as little technology as their smartphones have mesmerized the world with their creativity. They have a story to tell, and they’re doing it. They don’t need a movie studio. They don’t need a production company. They don’t need expensive equipment or big budgets or powerful friends. In today’s world, all you need to get your story heard is a phone and enough ingenuity to tell it right.
For three years, I have operated under that assumption for the sake of growing the kingdom of God. I have a story to tell. We have a story to tell. Even more than from the pulpit or soapbox, our story can be effectively told from our living rooms in front of a camera, reaching people where they are rather than expecting them to come to us. This is not a hobby or a fun activity but a ministry as important to the life of the Church as the early missionaries going to foreign lands. Pope Benedict XVI himself said it a few years ago, encouraging those missionaries who evangelize on the “digital continent” to see what they do as critical to the life of the Church.
But do we? Do we invest enough time, talent, and treasure into our digital media? Do we take seriously our parish websites, Facebook pages, videos, and digital identity? Too often, the Church finds itself in a category of its own: watchable only because it has a good message but otherwise dull and out-of-date. Recognizing of course that there are some out there that do this very well, I think that we could do much better. The stakes are just too high and the opportunity too profitable not to.
As I look to the future of Breaking in the Habit, I find myself called to a two-fold mission. First, I want to encourage the Church to take up this incredible opportunity we have in our age and begin to take seriously the digital world as a realm for evangelization. I want to support new creators to think boldly, offering them what I have learned so that they don’t have to make the same mistakes that I have. I want to remove any excuse in people’s minds that they do not have a story to tell or that they are unable to tell it. The world needs to hear their voice. Your voice.
On the other hand, I want to create an environment of collaboration for the “best of the best” in both the Catholic world and the media world. I know that anything that talks about God will have an obvious disadvantage in our world today, but I honestly don’t think that the bar we have set for ourselves is high enough. Even the best creators in the Catholic world—men and women far more talented than I am—weigh in as below average in the grand scheme of YouTube creators. Maybe we won’t ever be able to amass 25 million followers like some secular channels, but the fact that there are only a small handful of Christian-based channels above 500,000 subscribers and not a single Catholic channel over 150,000 frustrates me. Jesus said to go to all nations… not a population roughly the size of Bridgeport, CT. We can do better.
If either of those goals inspires you, let me know. I do not have a magic potion or a secret plan to accomplish either, but I have three years of experience, a lot of passion, and a few good ideas rolling around in my brain waiting to be put into action. Maybe you’re the person the Church needs to get that done.