I have a rule. If you work closely with me in ministry, then you know it well: No Newspaper. I use the term newspaper as a loose reference to media and publicity in general. However, there are times when the media can be a huge blessing to our ministry in the community.
Here in our city, there is a community center located within a government-housing complex where we do a summer camp with kids. We also do an after-school program throughout the school year. On holidays we share meals and gifts and invite the families to join us.
Gangs control this neighborhood and because of our continued presence it occasionally draws attention from local media. A few years ago, during our Thanksgiving celebration, a local television showed up with cameras to do a story. I was very proud of our team as they refused to be interviewed. Instead, we pushed the media to interview women from the neighborhood that were helping us with the kids. The result was that the entire community saw these women taking care of their own neighborhood kids. We were visible in some of the background video, but it was all focused on the community loving the community. It also showed the local gangs that their own community cared about their neighborhood children.
I am always mindful of what Jesus said to His disciples, “and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mt 20:27–28)
Inviting the media to promote what we do gives the wrong impression to the community. It suggests that we are there to ‘fix’ them and ‘document’ them as needy people and celebrate ourselves as their providers.
However, utilizing the local media to promote people within their own neighborhood can win the respect of those you are seeking to reach. It must be something that we never exploit but always handle with humility and respect for the privacy of our community. But the ability to lift up others while surrendering your right to be recognized always results in strengthening friendships and growing opportunity for making new friends.