The Truth About Being a Christian YouTuber Pt.1: The Metrics Matrix
The Good Old Days
It's not like it was when I started back in 2013. Back then, YouTube was for the creator. It was actually YOU-Tube. There weren't any influencers or content creators. You were simply a YouTuber or even plainer, "a person who has a YouTube channel." You could be someone like me; just a radical, zealous random guy, making videos in his backyard and in front of the snacks in his kitchen to tell anyone who would listen about Christ, and someone just might discover you and watch. I remember discovering other born again YouTubers. It was so refreshing to find other brothers and sister in the Lord who had been called out of the world and were on this great journey of salvation. It almost felt like discovering Pokémon (lol). You'd know they were a brother or sister because Jesus told us His sheep know His voice. I'd even say that we had a small YouTube community of content creators and subscribers. It was common to watch and support each other's channels, comment, and even collaborate sometimes. Those were the good ole days, but now things feel different.
Today's YouTube is not the same YouTube that it was years ago. Over time, things have changed to shift YouTube from being a platform for the small creator into something that's all about big business. Viewership is down across the board due to oversaturation, and any content that speaks too much truth is either shadow-banned or taken down. Many smaller channels have fizzled out because they see their viewership declining and wonder if the time, resources, and effort are worth the results. Mainstream companies and news outlets have hopped onto the YouTube gravy train with world-class production quality and talents, effectively making it difficult for the smaller content creator to compete. So what does all this mean for an aspiring Christian YouTuber?
Simple... it means nothing at all. If God tells you to do something, you do it. Your motivation for having a YouTube channel should be because the Holy Spirit told you to. If the Lord is your motivation, then your success won't be based on how many likes, views, or subscribers you have, but it'll be based on your obedience to Him. However, if your motivation for starting a channel is notoriety, selfish ambition, or money, then you'll be bound by the frustrations that come with it.
Maybe, Maybe Not
The easiest trap to fall into is the numbers game. In the world, success is measured by metrics. It's all about analytics and viewership. The likes become addictive and we march to the beat of the comments section. If people view my material, then it must mean it's good. If no one watches my material, then obviously it's trash and I'm just wasting my time. This is the thought process of the metrics mindset and it can drive you insane if you let it. It makes you question what's wrong and if you're the problem:
Maybe if I had better video quality, I'd have more viewers. Maybe if I sounded more intelligent, people would hear what I have to say. Maybe if I were more attractive, folks would click on my video. Maybe if I had a fancy thumbnail or awesome video editing, people would subscribe. Maybe if I were more like this other person, people would like me more. Maybe if my voice were deeper. Maybe if my voice were higher. Maybe if I were nicer. Maybe I'm coming on too strong. Maybe I'm coming off too weak. Maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe...
Maybe we should all focus on doing what God has told us to do and not worry about anyone else. When I first started this channel, it was because I felt like everybody needed to hear the gospel. The Lord was leading me to start it, and I didn't care if only one person watched and got saved. I wanted a place to archive the revelations that God was giving me, in the event that if he ever called me to preach, I'd have a whole inventory of messages and sermons stored up that I could use. Over time though, it's hard not to get sucked into the metrics matrix.
I'd be lying if I said that I never paid attention to numbers. It's almost impossible to have a YouTube channel and not notice them. I love likes and I hate dislikes just like anyone else. The real challenge is being able to have the numbers, but making sure the numbers don't have you.
Less is More
My channel began experiencing consistent growth around 2016 and by March of 2019, I had gained over 4,000 subscribers. Although I never made it about the numbers, I did look forward to reaching the milestone of 5,000 subscribers. As of right now, it is a little over two years later and it seems like the channel has plateaued. I've been stuck just below 5,000 for quite some time now and there are a number of factors and theories that I can point to as to why, but regardless of the reason, it just hasn't happened yet.
At some point, the stagnation of the channel began to bother me. It didn't eat away at me, but it was definitely something that would come to mind. I started to question if the quality of my content was going down. Am I not as submitted to the Lord as when I first started? Is my anointing diminishing? Am I speaking too much truth and being shadow-banned? Am I a one-hit-wonder with my few well performing videos? Did I say something to offend people? Are people upset that I rap now?
I know all of the tips and tricks to gain more views and subscribers. I could easily name-drop celebrities and current events. I could talk about Jezebel and demons and name-drop false prophets. I could title my videos in a very alluring way to get people to click. I could create cheesy and phony thumbnails with big, bodacious fonts. But all of that is just not me, and it never has been.
After a while, the Lord gave me a peace about it, and reaching 5,000 subscribers was no longer an issue. I began to consider... What if I woke up tomorrow with twenty thousand, 100 thousand, or even a million subscribers? Would I even be able to handle that many people? Does this ministry even have the bandwidth and infrastructure to support that? Do I actually desire the attention, the notoriety, and the criticism that comes with that?
So, I began to appreciate the faithful few that have supported the ministry over the years and decided to really focus on cultivating those relationships. God has never been interested in numbers. In fact, He loves to do a lot with a little, such as the story of Gideon, feeding the 5,000, or the apostles who were called "ignorant and unlearned men." Also, the truth is that anyone who is truly preaching this gospel won't be loved by the world anyway. So what would it say about me, as a minister, if I did amass millions of subscribers? It would likely mean that I'm watering things down and compromising. So, I am content with my just below 5,000 and the less than 200 that watch consistently. I now delight in being a small fry, and I can honestly say the numbers don't bother me. I see them, but they don't define my success.
This is the true blessing of being a Christian YouTuber. We don't need to be bound by the analytics and politics that come with having a regular YouTube channel. We don't need to get caught up in the latest and greatest tech because most of our audience is really just concerned about the message. I will admit that I am into gear, but that's because of the love for tech and cinema that the Lord has placed in me. However, many of my favorite Christian channels simply use a cell phone or laptop, and I almost prefer it that way because it feels more genuine. It reminds me of the good old days back when things were more pure and the metrics didn't matter. So, my advice for any believer starting a YouTube channel is that you do it for the obedience and not the applause, for the great commission and not the compensation, and for the love and not the likes.