Douglas was invited to write an article for the UK’s LWPT/Preach magazine about his first year’s experience of running his Lectionary readings channel on YouTube.
Here it is!
Hello. I am Douglas Brown, the owner of the Lectionary Readings YouTube channel. Not heard of it? I am not surprised, but with God behind this project, that may change.
As I am writing this, it is early May 2021, and the pandemic is settling down in the UK to the level of a ‘minor inconvenience’. What a contrast to Spring 2020!
The national atmosphere back then was one of Fear & Doom (™). By April, the country was in total lock-down with no sign of anyone returning with the keys. Along with the nation’s experience of forced idleness, uncertainty, fear and depression, our beloved churches had to close. How could we function as fellowships if we couldn’t meet? In response, churches scrambled to put worship online and encouraged entire congregations, irrespective of age, to become familiar with new terms like Zoom, WhatsApp, YouTube, Facebook, Messenger, Instagram TV, Vimeo, Skype, Jitsi, and many, many more.
Before retiring in 2017, I was a software ‘geek’ and a trained actor. Inevitably, my church got me involved in organising & training the Multimedia Team (projection & sound-desk), leading church drama when needed, and providing dramatic readings during Sunday worship. In the sudden switch to online worship, all that crashed to a halt, so I started providing readings with accompanying images for our Sunday services via video clips on YouTube.
And that set me thinking.
Perhaps other churches needed help? Were there preachers ‘out there’ struggling with new technology who might appreciate someone offering lectionary readings free of cost and copyright issues? If so, maybe such a need extended wider than just the UK?
From this, my lectionary readings channel was born on YouTube, and I published the first set of illustrated readings videos on 12th April 2020.
Like writing fiction (my new post-retirement ‘career’), the hardest part was ‘getting the word out there’ about this new free Christian resource for worship leaders — both free-from-cost and free-from-copyright. Consequently, my church, Sandhurst and Yateley Methodist, was the sole user for several months and, even by January 2021, the channel still only had a few subscribers. I never did discover an effective way to ‘grow the channel.’ Simply keeping it up-to-date every week took all my available time and left none for a proper publicity effort.
But God had a plan for that…..
Recording in high quality, editing, illustrating and publishing each reading was hard work and there was plenty of it. Despite all my experience in dramatic reading, computers and writing software, video production turned out to be a whole new ball-game for me; I had so much to learn. Three months into the project, the struggle to keep up was affecting my physical and mental health. The channel had all-but obliterated my fiction writing, and publishing the Book of Ruth for Bible Month 2020 (in addition to the regular weekly lectionary) had exhausted me. I developed a serious bacterial infection and was ill for nine weeks. I became depressed — a common experience that year — and I seriously considered closing the channel, convinced no one would miss it.
So, you can imagine the incredible lift I gained to find this comment on one of the published reading videos …
“Hi Douglas – this looks like a great resource. Someone passed it on to us at LWPT/Preach as we work with the Methodist Church on producing the Bible Month resource materials […]. (Message from Louisa Lockwood, firstname.lastname@example.org)”
Maybe, with hindsight, I should have contacted LPWT/Preach immediately — it might have solved my publicity issue — but the comment fired me up with newfound enthusiasm for the project, and I threw myself back into the work.
Many novels have a turning point that happens at the plot’s ‘darkest hour’. Similarly, Louisa’s comment marked the turning point for the channel. Subscribers began signing-up from all over the world. Videos gained ‘Likes’ every week and people began appending favourable comments. It seemed viewers ‘out there’ found the channel enjoyable and useful after all, so my depression left and never returned.
For an entire year, I have updated the channel with fresh content every week, without exception, and I hope to keep this up for two more years (completing the 36 month collection of the Revised Common Lectionary).
Being a ‘geek’, I have a weakness for facts & figures,so please indulge me in a slight digression. At the time of writing:
- The channel contains 316 readings, each illustrated with fine art paintings, stunning photos, and occasional biblical cartoons, all published online and free-to-use by Wikimedia Commons. I chose to use the CEV-UK as the bible text; though it is covered by copyright, I can use it ‘by permission’ with the prescribed statements & accreditation.
- 104 subscribers signed up, many of them in the last quarter. Not amazing by PewDiePie standards, but this is solid organic growth from zero — with no publicity involved in my part.
- These subscribers reside in ten English-speaking nations around the globe, with the largest group in US, followed closely by the UK and India.
- 96.5% of viewers are ‘casual browsers’ who discover specific readings via search tools — mainly Google and YouTube. 3.5% of them are now regular subscribers who started as ‘casual browsers’ and signed up for notifications.
- Viewers have watched the videos 17,915 times, amounting to 324.6 hours of viewing time.
- Readings are grouped by book by using YouTube ‘playlists’. The top playlist is ‘Book of Acts’ (36.8% of views out of the 40 playlists).
- The top reading is Exodus 14:19-31, Crossing The Red Sea, published in September 2020, which has since clocked up 2,924 views and 39.3 hours of viewing time.
As a paid-up, certified (and certifiable) ‘geek’, I could go on. However, to stay within the word-count limit, I must now testify about something that has both amazed me and reaffirmed my faith.
As mentioned, I started this channel in April 2020 from what I am certain was a Holy Spirit nudge just as Easter was ending. I now realise this timing was critical, and I believe I see God’s perfection in it. Launching this project to coincide with the first week of Lectionary Year A (early December 2019) would have been the smart thing to do, you might think. However, had I done so, the workload for Easter 2020 would have been a tremendous shock, catching me unprepared. Allow me to present Exhibit A: For Easter this year, I published 25 readings in eight days; some of them were entire or even double chapters. That’s a lot of work. I could not have coped with that in 2020, and I am convinced I would have abandoned the project in frustration. But God’s timing gave me almost exactly a year of more-or-less ‘ordinary services’ on which to learn my trade, grow my skills, and refine my software tools. Thanks to His foresight, I was fully prepared for Easter 2021; shocked, certainly, but neither deterred nor defeated.
A year later, this OAP is surprised to have become a new-kid-on-the-block minor YouTuber and the proud owner of a channel that is growing in popularity and use. I am certain this is largely thanks to LWPT/Preach’s ‘cheering from the sidelines’, exactly when it was needed. Thanks Louisa.
[ Digression: my favourite comment since Louisa’s comes from a Baptist church in the US where all the children in their junior church are reportedly huge fans of the channel. I choked up when I read that. ]
Against the odds, but thanks to this magazine’s unwitting boost of confidence, the channel has achieved its first anniversary. It now shows early signs of exponential growth and is spreading the Good News across the world. Equipped with the skills and tools, I hope to record the entire RCL lectionary over the next two years and tackle a few more special requests like Bible Month. For me, this experience has been clear proof that God ‘works in mysterious ways’, with perfect timing, and it demonstrates (in Louisa’s words) “the mysterious grace and power of the Holy Spirit”.