On July 31, 2019, Rev. Steven Koster stepped down as the Director of ReFrame Media. Beginning in 2006, Steven led the digital transformation of Back to God's English language ministry. Starting with two radio programs, including The Back to God Hour, Kids Corner, and the Today print devotional, Steven set a vision to develop a wider family of interconnected programs for the internet age. More than a decade later, ReFrame Media produces six different programs with one shared mission—to build the church and engage the whole lives of our users with the gospel story.
Steven brought a passion for using media to enact God’s kingdom when he set about creating ReFrame Media, which launched in 2008. Following Steven's vision, ReFrame relaunched BTGMI's Kids Corner children's ministry, redesigned and digitally launched the Today daily devotional, and acquired the online magazine Think Christian. In 2010, Steven helped sunset the long-running The Back to God Hour one week and then launched its successor, Groundwork, the next. ReFrame media also stood up brand new programs like Family Fire, a marriage and parenting ministry; Walk the Way, a video blog, Under the Radar, a Christian music show; and Church Juice, a marketing and communications resource ministry for churches. ReFrame Media even joined other partners to produce Spotlight, a Christian, short-form audio program for English language learners from around the globe.
Under Steven‘s leadership, ReFrame became an early adopter of social media, particularly Facebook. Social media was shiny and new, but many organizations hesitated, wondering if Facebook and Twitter were mere fads. Steven led the team to dive in; Family Fire, for example, grew primarily on Facebook, well before taking residence on the robust website it has today. “We cultivated an approach of ‘being a good date’ on social media,” relates Steven, “not only talking about ourselves, but hearing people's stories and offering whatever resources we could find that would serve our audiences.” ReFrame achieved outstanding engagement on Facebook. When the Facebook went public and began to view messages from other organizations, even non-profits, as advertisement, ReFrame shifted audience-building to email.
The team developed a comprehensive marketing and engagement process to meet and minister to audiences across multiple platforms. On Steven's watch, email subscriptions grew from a few thousand to hundreds of thousands across all programs, this in addition to print, Web, radio, and mobile device channels. Along the way, the team updated social media methods and engagement climbed to high levels again, still always with that foundational idea of listening and serving.
Steven led ReFrame Media through painful but necessary post-recession cuts, when ReFrame was straining beyond capacity to continue producing nine different programs. Steven made the difficult decision to withdraw ReFrame from the Spotlight project, and spin off Walk the Way and Under the Radar to become independent ministries, all in order to allow ReFrame’s six remaining programs to grow and flourish. His leadership also kept the team focused and “on mission” when the ministry’s headquarters moved from Chicago, IL to Grand Rapids, MI in 2018.
Another major accomplishment for Steven was the exponential growth of the ReFrame Media Prayer Team. BTGMI and ReFrame have a long history of dedicated follow-up and prayer ministry, particularly via mail and phone, but in 2013, ReFrame launched its online pastoral care ministry. In just over 5 years, the ReFrame Prayer Team has grown into a full-blown ministry of 6500 Prayer Team volunteers, today led by Pastor Emily Vanden Heuvel. This team provides robust and high quality prayer and pastoral care for each of the program’s audiences.
“After more than a decade of building a ministry team and expanding the reach of ReFrame Media, the time has come for me to focus on some new challenges,” said Steven. Among the challenges, Steven plans to finish his doctoral studies in family ministry and organizational leadership through Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He will also focus his efforts on his family’s bed and breakfast in Grand Rapids, MI. “I’d like to develop our bed and breakfast as a bivocational ministry opportunity,” says Steven. “We've already hosted some marriage retreats there, and I want to expand that with more retreats and other events for parents and pastors.”
Over the next few months, the leadership teams of BTGMI and ReFrame Media will be discussing the best way to move forward following Steven's departure. “Changes in leadership of this degree always provide a good opportunity to evaluate current ministry needs,” says Kurt Selles, Director of BTGMI. During the transition period, Kurt, along with Robin Basselin, ReFrame’s Associate Director for Content Strategy, and Justin Sterenberg, Director of Digital Media, will oversee the day-to-day operations of the ministry. “I cannot thank Steven enough for his commitment to expanding God’s Kingdom through media,” sums up Kurt. “We wish him the best in the next phase of his life ministry.”