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Netflix for the church

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“We’ve lost our Christian bookstores, and it was getting hard to view good Bible study resources,” says Fran Browne, SunWest Christian Fellowship, Calgary, executive assistant.

RightNow Media, the “Netflix for the church,” filled the gap for SunWest.

RNM offers three libraries: Bible studies, customizable training posts and leadership events. Content can be streamed through a Smart TV, Apple TV, phone, tablet, Roku or computer. Developed by Dallas filmmaker and church elder Brian Mosley in 2000, RNM has 8,000 affiliated churches.

Some 2,000 Bible study videos are searchable by category, including finances, parenting, youth, children, outreach, and books of the Bible. “I like the variety,” says Browne. The site lists companion books or workbooks available for free download or purchase. As with any material, leaders need to be discerning.

“If I look at my curriculum and wonder how I’m going to grab the children’s attention, videos will do that better than what I can,” says Janet Janz, children’s ministry pastor at King Road MB, Abbotsford. She used Veggie Tale’s creator Phil Vischer’s “What’s in the Bible” clips to introduce Paul’s journeys to Grades 1–5. “Having the map with an airplane flying from place to place added interest to what could have been a dry story.”

“Discussion with kids is tough,” says Janz, but the videos get them talking. Parents tell Janz that they watch “Paws and Tales” or “Adventures in Odyssey” on RNM for family devotions.

In her session on training children to serve, Janz shows a RNM clip from “Spiritual Parenting” by Michelle Anthony. “I love teaching kids, but struggle with teaching parents,” says Janz. “She can say it so much better than I can. I use it to fill in where I feel inadequate.”

One of the biggest reasons Westwood Church, Prince George, B.C., signed up for RNM was the customizable training library. Adult ministries pastor Craig Reimer explains: “We find our own content on YouTube or RNM, come up with our own questions and email the post to staff or life group participants. We can track who’s finished the training and then schedule a meeting to discuss it.” Individual pastors also access the leadership events library for personal enrichment – more affordable and convenient than travelling to a conference from northern B.C.

Westwood’s Sunday school also uses “What’s in the Bible.” “We value kids working through all the major stories of the Bible from preschool to Grade 5, and this series does that well,” says Reimer. Parents can watch the same videos at home to “keep up to date with what their kids are learning.”

Reimer assigns engaged couples videos from RNM as premarital counselling homework. A men’s mentorship group with no time for prep watches the videos together on their phones at the coffee shop.

All Westwood ministries agreed two years ago to stop buying DVD resources and dedicate that portion of their budget to RNM. The monthly subscription cost is based on average attendance ($150 for churches under 100, $350/month for churches over 250), which allows them to offer unlimited free access.

“People have come to church for the first time, learned we offered this resource and signed up right away,” says Reimer. Newcomers who are uncomfortable asking questions about what the church believes can search for answers on RNM. “It’s deepened their engagement with the church.”

“A lot of people use it individually for devotions,” says Reimer. “There’s something for wherever they’re at in life.” However, some Westwood members tell him they aren’t in a life group because RNM meets their need for spiritual fulfillment. “There’s always the danger that people separate themselves from community and still call it Christian living,” says Reimer.

“A definite strength of RNM is that it puts practical tools in the hands of leaders for their small-groups and/or their personal development,” says L2L’s Daniel Beutler. “But it doesn’t do away with the challenge to wrestle together with how we come alongside each other to discern God’s purpose and mission.”

—Angeline Schellenberg


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