Walla Walla Prepares to Launch Master's in Media Ministry

(Spectrumbot) #1

The Walla Walla University Department of Communications recently announced a new master’s program in media ministry set to debut in the fall of 2015, contingent on student interest.The newly created master’s program will attempt to close the gap between ministry and media. While early Adventists embraced the popular media of the 1800’s to share the gospel, the church of the 21st century has been slow to encourage mastery of digital communication. As the secular world relies heavily on new technologies to communicate, Adventist culture has fallen behind.

The addition of a graduate-level media ministry program at WWU has been in the works since 2013. In February of this year the program received administrative consent to move forward. The first workshop is scheduled to begin in September, but may be postponed if the minimum number of 16 students enrolled is not reached.

In a phone interview, WWU Communications Department Chair David Bullock expressed his desire to attract a wide collection of students to the program. There has been potential interest ranging from Canada to the southern United Sates.

WWU has brought on new faculty member Lynelle Ellis to help teach media ministry students. Ellis recently obtained her Ph.D. in Communications from Regent University, where she analyzed the church’s history of conflict with visual media­–along with its current struggle–in her doctoral dissertation. She is joining current WWU professors from the departments of communications and languages, computer science, mathematics, technology, and theology, respectively.

The program takes two years to complete, and is made up of a collection of on-campus workshops and online classes. Students can take classes with titles such as “Foundational Theology,” “The Production Process: Script to Screen,” and “Web Design and Development.” The program is designed to allow students to choose between two concentrations: Media and Cinema, and Web and Interactive Media.

The mission of the media ministry program is “to build God’s kingdom by inspiring creativity, innovation, and excellence in media endeavors; to foster critical thinking and creative methods in presenting Biblical themes to today’s culture in modern language; and to cultivate the development and use of research methods in media and ministry.”

Dr. Bullock expressed his excitement at the possibilities the new master’s program will bring, stating that he hopes the media ministry center will bring students together into a community that could tackle media questions and share innovative ministry ideas.

“We will have here a center for media ministry,” said Dr. Bullock, “which would bring together speakers to give keynote addresses for our students and also create an opportunity for media organizations to use the resources we have to research in the areas of media and ministry.”

This year WWU had several student representatives at the SONscreen Film Festival, hosted by the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists. The festival is one way that the Adventist church has been celebrating young adults who express an interest and display talent in creating film or videos focusing on “social awareness, outreach, and uplifting creative entertainment,” according to the festival’s website. WWU students Erik Edstrom, Jesse Churchill, Michal Hall, Stephen Farr, and Cloud Tsai all contributed to award-winning submissions.

While there has been some buzz about the new degree, the program’s future at this point remains unclear. If sixteen students have not enrolled by the first workshop in September, the program may be halted.

WWU is now accepting students at wwumediaministry.org

Title image: WWU students setting up for filming Pilgrim Series, Episode 1

Rachel Logan is a writing intern for Spectrum Magazine.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6827

(Elaine Nelson) #2

This will be a “how-to” program for all the forms of communication today, and what might be developed in the future.

But what of the content? There are a number of video ministries today, some featuring the same 19th century apocalyptic scenes and fear tactics. Will these new forms also develop a message with a different message projected and who are the expected audience to attract? Unless there is a different content than what has been presented before, the form will have little impact.

(Thomas J Zwemer) #3

interesting to start a media scholastic prigram 2 years after the church closed its media center. It reminds me of the number of students at E M C that changed their major from the ministry just as soon as VJ occured. one at least became a disk jockey. Also they dropped their engagement to piano playing “sweet hearts”. As the world turns Tom Z

(Kim Green) #4

Not that this doesn’t sound like a fabulous major to have…I just wonder what types of jobs that the grads will actually end up with. I suppose they could work in the secular world if push came to shove.

(Elaine Nelson) #5

Colleges all wish to attract students and by offering new majors it sounds intriguing for some, but the schools are not concerned about the possibilities of future employment, something all students should consider, especially before taking a graduate degree.

Is there someone who can inform us of the rate of employable M.Div graduates from Andrews? Do all the students have subsidies from conferences for employment on graduation?

(Steve Mga) #6

Remember it has been not very many months ago that an innovative series was created under the contract with the GC. It was very good, the sections that were allowed to be publicly viewed. Flack from a very conservative group, and the whole thing cancelled, and shelved in the dark basement of Silver Springs.
The Series belonged to the GC, so all the artistic work of the producer/director, all the artistic work of the actors will never see the light of day. And the director and actors will NEVER be allowed to use this very creative series on their resumes.
I think an event like this will, especially THIS event will cause a CHILL for persons NOT to work for the church directly. Will be better to work in the Secular World and just pay their Tithe at the end of the week.

(Elaine Nelson) #7

I cant’ imagine the restrictions and later refusal to distribute what was paid for! Working for the church would be akin to working for Russia; Be very careful of what is said, written, or seen.

(Steve Mga) #8

Saturday night I was over at the Rabbi’s house. After our Torah Study some of them were sitting around talking about Films. And how a lot of films are using digital insertions in the story presentation. One of the persons volunteers at a local theatre.
They were discussing that it takes an understanding of Old filming techniques to be able to give graphic realism to digital insertions.
I thought that was an interesting insight.

(Lynelle R. Ellis) #9

Innovation and an entrepreneurial mind-set will likely be needed. While there will certainly be a number of relevant jobs in current church ministries and organizations–as well as in Adventist health care and mission work, perhaps the most exciting job opportunities will be those created by the graduates themselves. Back in the early days Adventists were leaders in media innovation. For example, the very first Christian television show (of any kind or denominational persuasion) was Faith for Today (1951). William Fagel, who started that program was a visionary. That’s what the church needs today. Hopefully, this new program will inspire this kind of innovation.

(Lynelle R. Ellis) #10

Content is always most important. As we film/video people say, “it is all about the story.” Technologies constantly change, but good storytelling principles remain constant. We have the greatest story of all stories to tell, so we must do it in many different creative and engaging ways. I see the opportunity for a broad spectrum of ways to tell that story. Some who come to this new program at WWU will be interested in media ministry in a more traditional way, while others will be more progressive innovators. I expect to see students who are interested in all kinds of ministry from social activism to evangelism–and everything in between.

(Elaine Nelson) #11

There must first be an audience. Who is expected to be the audience for this new media project? For many Adventist TV and video programs, the major audience are church members. How is that expected to change and why?

(Kim Green) #12

Yes, hopefully they have this mindset. I would like to think that independent innovation will come out of this program. My thought is that to be independent would give graduates the most flexibility to be creative- they would be more curtailed in denominational employment.

(Lynelle R. Ellis) #13

I expect audiences will be found in new innovative ways as well. Certainly we know that traditional television is not what it used to be in terms of audience. Mobile and interactive media are the new platforms. And long-form visual media like feature-length movies are certainly a viable way to find an audience. Christian fare at the theater is much more welcome than in times past, and Adventists should be a part of that.

(Lynelle R. Ellis) #14

Yes. I think you are on to something here.

(Kim Green) #15

Video is exploding on the Internet and it is still just at the beginning of it’s growth. Hopefully some of the students will jump on this opportunity and start their own businesses. It is an exciting possibility for many of them and the sky is the limit for creativity and growth. I, myself, am going to be going in this direction this year so I know that there is much ahead for a creative with good business sense :slight_smile:

(Lynelle R. Ellis) #16

I’d love to know more about the work you do. . .and will be doing in the media area.

(Kim Green) #17

I have training as a direct response copywriter and am going to specialize in video scriptwriting for the Internet. Currently there are not many copywriters in scriptwriting but, as you are most likely aware, there is a lot of opportunity in this area as it is a real specialty. Currently I am niching in E-learning to start and then will see what the market opens up after that. I would also like to do some pro bono for non-profits and charities in the future as well. Lots of exciting possibilities :slight_smile:

(Lynelle R. Ellis) #18

Excellent. Writing is a very important art. More people in the video field could benefit from stronger writing skills. I trust you will do well.