Churches know ‘Chuck’
Church leaders have used the "Chuck Knows Church" and "The Committee" series in sermons and Bible studies to educate their congregations about what it means to be a Christian. Both video series offer a United Methodist take – often laced with some humor – on church practices and teachings.
The creators of "Chuck Knows Church" expected to have only six episodes, but the show caught on so quickly that the Rev. Steve Horswill-Johnston, producer, made a proposal for a year. More than 90 episodes and a spin-off series later, "Chuck Knows Church" is still entertaining and informing 100,000 loyal viewers.
The show has a strong following of 28,000 on Facebook and other social media. That, said Horswill-Johnston, executive director of communications and brand strategy at Discipleship Ministries, was crucial to the show's success. Week after week, viewers show their support through comments and emails, he said.
In the segments, Chuck offers insight on many often-misunderstood church symbols, traditions and terms. Some topics are universal to every Christian denomination, like the Great Commission, Holy Communion and Bible translations. Others, however, are specific to United Methodists like John Wesley or district superintendents.
"Churches use the episodes in confirmation classes, worship, Bible studies and fellowship groups," said Horswill-Johnston. Churches can also suggest topics.
Alamo United Methodist Church in San Antonio uses "Chuck Knows Church" videos in its Sunday services and airs them on its radio station, KPPC-FM.
The station, located on the Alamo church campus, plays 1950s to 1980s rock music "to reach the kind of forgotten generation," said Tom Kinkead, lay minister. Two-thirds of the baby boomer generation that this radio station targets are unchurched.
Every hour on KPPC-FM, there is a word of hope and audio from a "Chuck Knows Church" video. Kinkead said that the videos clarify church terms that "no one understands that much."
"[The show] does a lot to explain those things in a way people can understand," he said, noting that the conversational language and humor of the show is its appeal.
Kinkead said, "Chuck Knows Church" is popular among the congregation, especially young people.
Faith United Methodist Church in North Canton, Ohio, received a shout out from Chuck for using the videos in their children's "Faith Connection" Bible study on Wednesday nights. Attendees wore "Friend of Chuck" buttons to show their enthusiasm for the show and made a "Friend of Faith" button for the life-size cardboard cutout of Chuck.
"It's a great way to introduce children to a variety of things, especially during (liturgical) seasonal times," said Kathy Schmucker, spiritual formation director at Faith. "The kids love it because it's something they can relate to. And they remember what they've learned."
The success amazes Horswill-Johnston, who has served The United Methodist Church since 1989. "It's been off the charts," he said, "This is the most successful video series that I have ever seen in the church."
Earlier this year, a second "Chuck Knows Church" series, "The Committee," premiered. It follows the fictional and failing Park Grove Community Church. The show deals with internal issues churches face to help viewers "dive in" to leadership, hospitality and other issues that may prevent them from reaching their potential. A study guide accompanies each episode, and some have webinars.
Faith Church has used the "Small Groups" episode of "The Committee," said Schmucker.
To become a "Chuck Knows Church" partner, churches can post episodes of either series on their websites or Facebook pages. A new "Chuck Knows Church" episode is uploaded every week and "The Committee" every month. Episodes of both are available on the "Chuck Knows Church" website, www.chuckknowschurch.com.
Mahalia Smith is a sophomore at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee. She was a 2015 summer intern at United Methodist Communications.