Show Stopper! is the new book by Shonda Carter that has grown out of her startup company, Shonda Carter Productions. Set to release later this month, it has been a bestseller among Amazon preorders. So: how did a former prison employee become a best selling author and what does this have to do with ministry technologies?
Paid to be Mean
Shonda wasn’t raised in the church. When she went to college, she wanted to become a judge; she wanted to have power. She studied Criminal Justice, but unlike high school, she found that it took more than smarts: it took hard work to get good grades. She wasn’t willing to put in the work to pursue a Law degree so she graduated with her Criminal Justice degree and started her first career.
She got a job working for the prison system as a probation officer. She loved that she got paid to be mean. And she was good at it! From there, she moved to a child support enforcement role. Even though these jobs seem to have nothing to do with her current calling, Shonda points out that God never wastes anything—these jobs taught her how to tell people what to do, which has made her a better video director!
God Saves the Mean Lady
Shonda and her husband began attending church, but she just didn’t “get it.” She looked around at all the people that were full of joy in the Lord and she prayed, “God, don’t you want me?” One night, Shonda and her husband took their kids to the local drive-in to see a movie. It was a double feature, and although they didn’t really have any interest in watching the second movie, The Passion of the Christ, they figured they were already there, so they stuck around. Shonda realized that she was a visual learner, and once she saw what Christ did for her, she could finally understand all that she had heard at church. God literally opened her eyes to see and understand the gospel.
Not only did God use the film to save Shonda and her husband, it helped her realize the power of video in communicating His deepest truths. As she began studying the Bible, she saw that Jesus is the master storyteller. In gratitude to her pastor, instead of simply writing him a thank you note, she wrote a play for him. A year later he asked her if she would start a drama ministry with live, on-stage monthly productions. Shonda loved applying her creativity in service to God’s people, but the live productions were too unpredictable.
Technology to the Rescue
Thinking back to The Passion of the Christ, Shonda realized that video might be the answer. Her computer had some software called Movie Maker, so what could be so hard about making a movie? “I realized I knew nothing about making videos, but the Holy Ghost and YouTube taught me enough to get started.” Eventually, she went back to school to learn video production, quit her child support enforcement job and took a minimum wage job as an Associate News Producer for the local television station. She felt called by God to spend a year there, but she got promoted to News Producer and overstayed the 12 months before God made it clear that she was to move on.
As she continued to make videos for her church, she thought about creating a YouTube channel with spiritual content. Jesus went to where the people were, and video, if it’s engaging, can help people understand the message.
To figure out the business side she plugged into the local startup community. Video marketing on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook was becoming increasingly important to entrepreneurs, so Shonda started helping her new friends with their videos. I asked her what the hardest part of starting her business was and she said it was believing that she was good enough to get paid for video production. It’s called the imposter syndrome. Everyone told her she was good and her work was valuable, but she didn’t feel comfortable charging for her service. She finally bit the bullet and Shonda Carter Productions was born.
Three Video Tips
I asked Shonda if she could share three tips with us for making great videos. Her best advice boils down to this:
• Make it short. The shorter the better
• Tell a story. People want to feel, not just hear. Jesus used stories to powerful effect
• The music matters. Special effects don’t impress anyone anymore, but music helps the audience get in the moment faster
Finally, I asked Shonda how her faith impacts her as an entrepreneur. She said praying for God’s wisdom in all things is her most powerful business tool. When opportunities come her way, she turns to the Lord for direction in who to work with and who to decline. As a startup with limited resources, she also prays constantly for wisdom on spending money, for example, on which conferences to attend. She is thankful that the Lord has been faithful to her.
“For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” (1 Corinthians 1:25 NIV)
In this article series, we’ve defined a Christian entrepreneur as a person driven to glorify God in all he or she does, and ruled by the Word of God, who starts a new venture and is willing to risk a loss in order to achieve the success of the venture. Each month I’ve been introducing you to specific Christian startups and entrepreneurs, some of which may be helpful to your church, ministry, business or family, but my main intent is to encourage and inspire you to be entrepreneurial in your ministry and career. Are there Christian startups I should know about? Contact me at [email protected].
This article originally appeared in the January 2017 edition of Ministry Tech Magazine.