After a number of years making just-for-fun videos with friends to post on YouTube, Branden Stoltz launched his own YouTube channel to share the gospel through short videos focusing on spiritual themes.
“While I was working on the pastoral staff of the Simi Valley Adventist church, I realized I could function as a kind of virtual pastor to people who would not normally be in touch with religion,” Stoltz says. “I could make videos that were interesting in content and illustration. So I went for it. I just hit record, smiled, and shared Jesus.”
A La Sierra University graduate in 2006 and 2008, Stoltz loves stories and finding unique ways to teach the Scriptures. His first video was aimed at encouraging people to read their Bible.
“I just want the videos to be helpful, Jesus-filled, and a little bit enjoyable to watch,” Stoltz says. He has posted 14 videos on YouTube so far, with two more planned to be available before the end of 2011. Stoltz sees his typical viewer as a late-teen to early twenties student. He particularly wants to reach young people who have some exposure to Christianity but who aren’t quite sure how or if they should relate to it.
“I suspect that youth today will go to the Internet before they’ll ever go to a local pastor,” Stoltz says.
Stoltz’s videos cover topics such as forgiveness, navigating through the Bible, worship, and creation. Recently Stoltz became more ambitious and presented snippets from the Letter to the Seven Churches, which could best be described as “a pastoral video travelogue” through Turkey. His videos range in length from about two minutes to
18 minutes. Stoltz’s video ministry is pretty much a one-person labor of love. Once he settles on an idea, he takes about two afternoons to shoot and edit a video. He sketches out a script to keep him on subject and to help guide him in the editing process.
“Pretty much everything I do is filmed either on my webcam or my pocket digital camera,” Stoltz says. “I’ve gotten pretty adept at positioning the camera and guessing whether I’ll be in frame or not. I edit on basic iMovie. It just takes an idea from the text, the drive to actually do it, and the Holy Spirit all too often takes care of the rest.”
Stoltz has had viewers ask him to pray for them, while others report they have been blessed by his videos. He plans to continue some sort of personal online ministry after he completes his ministerial studies at Andrews University and returns to serve congregations in the Southern California Conference.
Stoltz received a boost for his unique style of outreach while he was a student at La Sierra University.
“I worked for the Office of Spiritual Life, where I was in charge of creative ministries. There, I was allowed to stretch my creative limits,” Stoltz says. “I was able to present the Scriptures in new and meaningful ways—lifting up Christ in every way possible, and I was blessed to see my fellow students being drawn to Him. This YouTube channel is just an extension of that original ministry.”
To see the videos, go to www.youtube.com/user/pastorbranden.