In light of recent events in Israel, we approach this interview with a deep sense of sensitivity. As we speak with Dan Luxenberg, CEO of SoulShop, we hope to foster open dialogue and understanding to gain insights into the pivotal docu-series “Walking the Word.”
Dan Luxenberg, CEO Of SoulShop, On Crafting Engaging Faith-Based Content For Gen Z And The “Walking The Word” Docu-Series
What is SoulShop?
SoulShop is a hub of faith-based content. The inspiration for SoulShop came when Dan noticed a gap in faith-based content for younger audiences, particularly on social media. Rather than focusing on education, SoulShop’s accounts seek to engage people with entertaining content that’s also rooted in faith.
Dan shares, “We sought to bring the Bible to light for this generation.”
Recently, SoulShop was introduced to a group of creators by Bishop Robert Stearns, who later led the “Walking the Word” group through Israel. After learning the creators had always wanted to visit Israel, Dan saw the opportunity to connect more people with the land of the Bible, which prompted the creation of the docu-series “Walking the Word.”
“Walking the Word” Docu-Series
Some creators on this docu-series trip include Noah Schnacky, Allie Schnacky, Kristin Marino, and Austin Armstrong. Dan shares that the influencers are more like ambassadors or partners to this project because of the passion they bring to the project and their loyal fan bases.
Alongside the mission of engaging people online with faith-based content, Dan shares that in light of the recent terror attacks in Israel, they have added highlighting the profound stakes of the war to their mission. As he explains, the stakes in Israel are a battle of good versus evil, and this series works to inspire faith and show the humanity of the victims in Israel and Gaza.
The “Walking the Word” series brings Israel and Biblical archaeology to life rather than the information being presented in a stuffy lecture format.
As part of this, the SoulShop team partnered with the Israel Antiquities Authority to further enhance the storytelling for the series by exploring ancient treasures.
The series is also rooted in science. For example, the archaeologist who showed the group around wasn’t religious but presented Israeli archeology in a scientific way. Science and faith have a place together, so Dan chose to work with religious and non-religious individuals and groups to examine Biblical archaeology thoroughly during the series.
Dan says, “My partner, Rabbi Ari Lamm, is a brilliant human being. The other person we partnered with in this series is Bishop Robert Stearns. They know everything about history and faith, and it’s inspiring us as much as it is knowledgeable and educational and just eye-opening.”
Crafting Engaging Content for a Young Audience
One of the most significant ways the “Walking the Word” series engages younger audiences is by leading with a strong hook and a compelling story.
For example, in one episode, the hook was a funny moment that wasn’t shown in full until the end of the episode. This hook keeps the audience watching longer, especially when there’s a significant emotional payoff from the episode’s storyline.
The team also focused on not coming across as “preachy” or heavy-handed with the faith-based content.
Dan shares, “In order to penetrate this audience, this digital native audience, our content needs to be great storytelling that is also rooted in faith. The way we balanced it was we had to make sure that each episode was entertaining to watch, period. Then, we implemented the education and the inspiration and the faith elements.”
SoulShop’s Influencer Marketing Strategy
One aspect of their strategy was choosing passionate creators with strong faith who have engaged audiences. Creators know their audiences best, and if a creator feels mutually invested, the content will reach people more authentically.
Dan explains, “I want brands and studios to stop thinking they’re [creators], not our partners in our initiatives. They are not just talent that you pay, and you leave. Listen to their insights. Stop giving them a script to read on camera. They know exactly what their audience relates to, and it’s in their best interest for their content to succeed.”
The topic itself also drives engagement because it is so personal. The creator, their audience, and the Christian community are compelled to engage with and share the series because of the emotional connection everyone shares to the subject matter.
Likewise, coming together over the current events in Israel brings people together because regardless of political or religious beliefs, there’s no reason for the cruelty happening.
Dan explains, “The goal here is to remind people that Israel is a land of people that are so dedicated to God’s word, and it’s separate from politics.”
Creator Intellectual Property
One future shift that Dan predicts is more creators investing in long-term intellectual property.
One of SoulShop’s missions is to help individual creator ecosystems. While the creators work on creating consistent content to maintain and grow their audience, they can also look to the future by investing in intellectual property that they have ownership over.
For example, SoulShop or a creator may invest capital, infrastructure, and strategy into helping build intellectual property like merchandise, films, or animated series. After the initial work is completed, these properties can continue making the creator money.
@soulshop_studios like it's the least – the LEAST – we should do Credit: @Jacob Petersen #christian #love #jesus #prayer #bible #bibleverse #biblestudy #god #pray #soulshop #jesuslovesyou #churchmemes #resurrection #preach #preaching #biblequotes ♬ original sound – SoulShop
This diversification gives creators one way to “own” their influence and audience, so they aren’t left relying on other platforms or constantly changing algorithms.
The JWLKRS Conference and Community
JWLKRS WORSHIP is a Christian faith social media collective with a massive social media presence. They share videos of Christian music performances and worship events and were a part of SoulShop’s new digital docu-series.
In September, the group held a conference featuring six days of worship music, messages, and community.
While a common criticism of youth today is that they don’t attend church or practice their faith in traditional ways, Dan shares that younger generations are showing up and connecting to their faith at events like these, proving that social media impacts faith.
Creating Unity Online
Recent events in Israel only reinforce why highlighting the humanity of the Israelis, separate from politics, is so important.
Influencers can have a considerable impact by uplifting affected voices and sharing current events with their audiences.
While many movements are highlighted online, Dan shares that he’s disappointed in the lack of support for the Jewish people in Israel and the rest of the world.
“More Jewish people were murdered October 7th than any other day since the Holocaust because they were Jewish.”
Dan explains, “The way influencers can play a role is not by blindly saying anything – I’m not asking anyone to be a blind supporter of anything. If you’re going to post, then do your research, talk to your Jewish friends, and give other people use of your platform to amplify their voices.”