On May 3-6, 2019, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Bulgaria organized a Media Academy to improve the use of communication skills to reach people with the good news of salvation found in the Bible. More than 80 participants attended the meeting, hosted in Golden Sands, Varna, on the Black Sea Coast.
The Media Academy was held under the motto “Let Us Do Something New!” Participants with various interests in communication met to develop their talents; a majority of them were young people. Addressing the audience, Inter-European church region (EUD) communication director Corrado Cozzi emphasized that the audience seemed to him like a youth camp. “This is surely the best investment for the Adventist Church: to have young people involved in evangelism through media,” he said.
The idea of the organizers was to combine lectures and workshops with practical project development. To motivate participants, Bulgarian Conference communication director Peter Kuzev invited outstanding international speakers like Trans-European Division (TED) communication director Victor Hulbert; Franco-Belgian church region communication director Pedro Torres; and Wolfgang Schick, vice-president of Stimme der Hoffnung, the Adventist Church media center in Germany.
Media and the Adventist Church
Guest speakers talked to the group about the role of media in the church’s outreach activities; how to get a local church event into the news; how to avoid the traps of the fake news; and how church members and volunteers may become full-time media employees.
On the first evening, the participants were challenged by Corrado Cozzi to decide who they want to be — journalists or witnesses. Journalists report other people’s stories, which they have not seen for themselves. Witnesses talk about their own experiences, as the gospel’s mission demands, he said.
A high point of interest for the participants was workshop topics like “Smartphone vs. Hollywood”; “Blogs and Vlogs”; “Journalistic Writing”; “How to Become a Successful Leader”; “Article, Documentary, and Movie Script Writing”; and “How to Improve Society’s Image of the Church.”
One of the ideas that emerged at the Media Academy was to organize an outreach event through the exhibition of texts, with people from literature and the arts as a target group. Some of the young people produced their first short video clips on values and presented them at the closing of the event.
Guest Trainers Impressed
Hulbert said the engagement in the workshops and projects was “impressive.” “It bodes well for the mission for Bulgarian-speaking people,” he said, “both in the country and the wider diaspora.”
Schick agreed. “The dedication to the task during the Media Academy was outstanding. I congratulate the Bulgarian Union for the outstanding organization and their efforts to include young people in the work of the church,” he said.
Torres, on the other hand, emphasized that seeing so many young people engaged and willing to serve God and His church is encouraging. “Now I feel I want to continue in my ministry with even more enthusiasm,” he said, adding, “The [Adventist] Church in Bulgaria has a brilliant future.”
Some recommendations came from the young participants to implement in the role of this Media Academy. Among them, one that caught the attention of all, was to include retirees as a viewer target group on YouTube. The main recommendation, however, was to dedicate more time to practical implementations of the group’s ideas.
Participants at the Media Academy also launched a non-governmental organization (NGO) that aims to reach people through media. Its name? PIN-media, an abbreviation from Bulgarian, “We do interesting things.”
“This Media Academy was an inspiration to me,” said event co-organizer Iskra Tomanova.
Hulbert concurred and added that he hopes this model can be replicated in other countries.
“To see a very small but committed team of church employees generate such a high level of commitment, dedication, and passion from a mixture of youth and volunteer professionals makes me wonder how many times this could be mirrored across Europe,” he said.