Everyone Brings Something to the Table
What do beans and corn chips have to do with an up-and-coming Adventist media hub?
Most Adventists love haystacks. There is no denying that the tasty amalgamation of beans and fixings styled any number of ways is a staple at Adventist tables around the world. But the haystack talked about in this article is quite different from that to which most are accustomed.
Instead, we turn our attention to a unique media ministry geared to Adventist millennials that borrows a core idea from the beloved potluck dish—that everyone has something to contribute, and all Adventists have a place at the table. I talked with founder, Andrews University seminary student, and Crossfit gym owner Jeff Tatarchuk to discover what thehaystack.tv is all about.—Wilona Karimabadi.
Jeff, give me the backstory. What is thehaystack.tv and how did it all come together?
It came about a little more than two years ago. I’m an entrepreneur at heart; I love starting things. I’m also a seminary student (at Andrews), and before coming to seminary, I’ve always tried to find out ways to use business to reach people. I met this guy here at Andrews who has a YouTube channel and a blog, and he’s reaching more than 70,000 people every single time he posts a video or blog. There’s no way I’m ever going to have that kind of influence as a pastor—so I thought I’d better get into this blogging thing.
I started exploring different avenues online to see what blogs were successful. One of them was a YouTube channel called SoulPancake. It was this whole thing just to create positive interaction and connection online in using really positive videos and going to communities doing really cool things. And I thought, Man, this is it! We need this in the Adventist Church! There is nothing currently for millennials. There is Relevant magazine, and it was really inspirational to me. It is the most relevant magazine I’ve seen, engaging with culture from a Christian perspective. We needed to come up with a way to do this!
As I was considering my options, I thought: The idea of a haystack is a perfect symbol for what I think the church is, and especially how it resonates with millennials. At a haystack potluck everybody has an opportunity to bring something to the table. One person can bring the chips; another can bring the cheese; another the beans, the lettuce, and so forth. At the end of the day we’re all enjoying this meal together, and we all get to enjoy it in our own way. So the same ingredients are shared, but I might not like sour cream or somebody else might not like cheese or guacamole. Still, we can experience the joy of a haystack together even though it can be individualized.
How can people be a part of it?
I want to emphasize this—we’re not creators of Adventist culture, but we’re curators of it. We’re not here to push the right or left agenda, but we want millennials, especially, to be aware of what’s going on in the Adventist Church. Our goal is to be fair and balanced as the Adventist spectrum is broad and diverse, and we want to properly represent that. Our target is Adventists, and we are very specific about that. Any Adventist can be a part of it.
We have a “submit a video” section on our site, where if you have something that you created for a local church, a video about Adventism, or an issue or a song, etc., you can submit it. We do screen everything, and we look for good quality. So if it’s not good quality, we won’t show it, and if it’s too extreme, we won’t show it. We do make sure within the submission area that contributors tell us what conference they’re a part of, and what local church they belong to. As for bloggers, we have a team of bloggers right now, but anybody is able to jump into that team. Our topics usually deal with Adventist lifestyle, music, issues, theology, and things like that.
In terms of topics, are there things you would stay away from? Is there anything that would just not make the cut (outside the obvious)?
During the women’s ordination debate—pre-General Conference session—we were very intentional about not being divisive. We wanted people to be informed about the decisions that were being made and what the actual vote was about, but we were specific about not letting people choose theological sides on the blog.
One of the most popular articles posted was [a piece titled] “Why the Next General Conference President Should Be in Their 30s.” That one got the best response. I definitely think that stirs the pot in a positive way. We have CEOs of some of the most powerful companies in the world—some in their 20s—and yet we have our church that wants to reach young people, and it’s just getting older. Those are some of the things we are big on. We are willing to wrestle and discuss from a positive perspective pretty much anything.
How are you covering your costs?
It’s been out-of-pocket so far. Hosting and all that kind of stuff do have a price. But basically our designers believe in the mission of thehaystack.tv, and I feel like that cut out our biggest expense. We all have DSLR cameras, so that enabled us to pull our own personal resources together to make stuff happen. The biggest financial contribution we got was a sponsorship to help with the world’s largest haystack event [at General Conference session in San Antonio this summer].
What’s the feedback been like?
It’s been positive. We do put memes out, and that has probably generated the most traffic, especially on our Facebook page. Some of our memes have gotten more than 100,000 likes and more than 2,000-3,000 shares. So it creates a lot of traffic. We do listen to people who respectfully have suggestions when we may have stepped over a boundary, and we’ll retract or change a photo if that happens.
While you are specific about your ministry to millennials, is this for them only?
No. Everybody has access to it, but it is targeted to millennials unashamedly. [As I said previously,] there isn’t much out there for the Adventist millennial demographic. If you look around at the kind of content we put out, we have some awesome stuff. We are starting to do Periscope concerts with the best singer-songwriters in the Adventist Church. We want to do a whole music section dedicated to them, because there isn’t really one place to go if you want to know who these people are. We want to be that hub. If you’re an Adventist millennial and want to find out things about your church, this is where you go.
The Food Truck
If a haystack-themed media hub for Adventist millennials wasn’t enough, Tatarchuk says they are in the process of fund-raising for a haystack food truck! Just sit back and think about that for a minute.
“We are so excited about this,” he says. As are we. Just imagine “a gourmet haystack food truck with exotic sauce options as well as vegan options. Also a haystack wrap so you can easily take it to go and many other surprises. We want to use this as a form of outreach offering free food to the homeless on Sabbaths, in addition to it being a way to spread the word about our Adventist staple. We hope this can open the door to being able to tell people about the church and the awesome, creative God we serve.”
Tatarchuk also says the plan is to have the truck summer camp/camp meeting tour ready by summer 2016, then in the fall do a college tour. To contribute to this project, go to: igg.me/at/haystackfoodtruck or indiegogo.com and search for “haystack food truck.”
AR Loves Haystacks
“I have really enjoyed getting to know Jeff and his team over the past few years. They have a sincere passion for the mission that Christ so boldly lived. If you are looking for a way to tangibly be a blessing to a generation of innovators and those who will be reached by this ministry, please help us see this become a reality. This food truck will be an amazing way to travel to different communities around the country and inspire and educate many people on how to live a better life with the many blessings that the Adventist movement has to offer. Adventist Review is honored to actively support a venture like this.”—Jared Thurmon.