They call themselves the Pastoral Brothers, and apart from their regular work, they also prepare some rather specific YouTube videos. Their names are Jakub Malý and Karel Müller and they are two Protestant ministers from Prague. Their videos, in which they present Biblical themes to the wider public and also comment on public affairs in a satirical manner, have gained much higher numbers of views than the authors had originally expected. They have thousands of followers. Weekly, their videos are viewed by as many as tens of thousands of people and they have certainly managed to reach far beyond the borders of the „seniorate“ (parish), or of the whole Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren, for that matter.
It should be noted that the idea of making videos for youth was a spontaneous one and it was not motivated by a desire to actually become a couple of YouTubers. It was more of a crazy decision than of a specific, well thought-through plan. They simply wanted to give it a try. They said they had felt for a long time that the church lacked a communication channel that the young generation could relate to. However, neither Jakub nor Karel had any real experience making videos.
The beginnings were hard, but you could always tell that they were enjoying the work. „We like thinking about how to spread Christian content in a humorous way. We’re constantly learning new things – from writing screenplays to actually producing a video,“ say the Pastoral Brothers.
After a year on YouTube, as they started gaining more fans, they applied, through the ECCB, for a subsidy from Scotland. „We received approximately 200 thousand CZK, which we used to buy semi-professional technology, software, we paid for a graphic presentation, and being promoted on social networks. This was a significant step further,“ describes Karel.
The spring of 2020 saw a breakthrough for the Pastoral Brothers. The Czech Republic was dealing with the first wave of the pandemic and the government was introducing extraordinary measures that basically brought social and cultural life in the country to a halt. In a traditionally atheist country, however, the government kept ignoring churches and spiritual services.
The situation was almost absurd: while hobby markets and circuses were gradually reopening, Sunday services at churches were forbidden or subject to tough measures. That was when the couple of YouTube pastors came to the attention of the media.
They made a video in which they were walking around a Hornbach shop and discussing the possibility of organising Sunday services at a shopping centre. This made them one of the most-watched documentary shows in the country. The restrictions imposed by the government made it possible to have tens of thousands of people shopping, but strictly forbade a handful of people gathering in a spacious church. This was a comprehensible way of exposing how ridiculous the situation was even in a country where only a minority of people actually go to church.
In their usual videos, Karel and Jakub strive to present the Biblical message even to people who have never heard of it before. They have, for example, dealt with the Ten Commandments, ethical questions of life, they have prepared youth Sunday services during lockdowns, they have even made a series of videos in which they tried to explain some rather bizarre Biblical passages that may take a lay reader of the Bible by surprise.
From the very beginning, they were also wondering about how to efficiently step out of online space and be able to reach out to all the seekers out there – in real life, not only through screens and displays. „We opened a Christianity course. The capacity was full in two hours,“ says Karel, remembering the summer of 2020, when the governmental restrictions were eased and it was once again possible to meet face to face. „We’ve stayed in touch with these people, some of them are even planning to get baptised. In the future, we would like to organise low-threshold Sunday services for our fans. We are also working on a book that will present the basic ideas of Christianity in a comprehensible manner. It should be published in a non-Christian publishing house that contacted us with the idea.“
They have also started preparing a podcast, in which they interview lecturers from the Protestant Theological Faculty of the Charles University, providing in-depth analyses and debates on the issues of faith and of the Biblical message. They also focus on interreligious dialogue and talk to respected representatives of various religions, or important public personalities. Their guests included, among others, theologian and Templeton prize winner Tomáš Halík or one of the leading Czech economists and a former Václav Havel aide, Tomáš Sedláček.
Karel and Jakub say they are still surprised by how much interest is being shown by people from ecumenical relations as well as people who have nothing in common with the church. The original intention was to make videos for Protestant youth, but they are being watched by people up to age 45 from various denominations, and even people that do not declare themselves as belonging to any religion.
The Pastoral Brothers have become influencers. The media, as well as other members of the YouTube community, request them for interviews. They have been spotted several times on nationwide TV and radio. They were featured in the „30 Under 30“ selection of influential Czech personalities of the Forbes magazine in 2020.
Surprisingly perhaps, neither Jakub nor Karel grew up as churchgoers. They only discovered faith gradually, at high school. Shortly after, they decided to study Theology and started serving the church. In addition to this, Karel also teaches ethics at one of the schools of the Evangelical Academy. In the regions where they live, they mostly focus on working with the local youth and as soon as the pandemic situation improves a little bit, they want to start their “live” courses of Christian faith again.
They refer to themselves jokingly as the best YouTubers among pastors and the best pastors among YouTubers. Since this year’s spring, they have been working on a show that should air on one of the biggest digital tv channels in the Czech Republic.