By Deborah Quinn Hensel
HOUSTON (Reuters) - The Rev. Joel Osteen, who leads the largest U.S. church congregation, said he has signed an agreement to develop a reality television show.
"What I'm excited about is that it's another way to take our message of hope and inspiring people to another venue," Osteen said at a press conference this week.
The series, which is still in the formative stages, would be based on the church's missions. Some 300 to 500 members of the church would go to help a community in need -- sort of like "Extreme Home Makeover," Osteen said.
Osteen inked the deal with Mark Burnett, the producer of popular TV series such as "Survivor," "The Apprentice," "Are you Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?" and "Sarah Palin's Alaska."
Osteen said that Houston-based Lakewood Church, which broadcasts its services weekly to 10 million viewers from a former sports arena, had been approached in the past about a television series.
None of those opportunities seemed a good fit for the ministry, he said. Osteen said that he has known Burnett for about a year.
"I've always admired him and liked his shows," Osteen said at a press conference recorded by KTRK-TV in Houston. "I like his values. I like his style. I believe he knows who we are and what we're all about."
"When I think of reality shows, I think of cameras following you, doing nothing," Osteen said. "We don't want to do just a reality show. We want to do something that inspires people and makes them better. It's not only entertaining and fun, but leaves some kind of message."
Church spokesman Don Iloff told Reuters on Thursday that some examples of recent missions include helping people in the tornado-ravaged community of Joplin, Missouri, or continuing trips to help New Orleans residents still recovering from Hurricane Katrina. An upcoming mission to Washington, D.C., is expected to bring up to 1,000 young people to help refurbish parks in disadvantaged neighborhoods, he said.
(Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and Greg McCune)