This cultural moment is unique—for everyone! None of us has escaped the radical changes of the last two weeks.
For preachers, this unique moment poses unique challenges.
We cannot hold our usual church gatherings. Many of us are navigating “on the fly,” trying to minister to our churches and communities digitally.
Are you ready for some practical keys to navigating digital ministry? As a veteran in the digital space, here are the top five things I’ve learned that you can implement right now.
None of us is becoming a Hollywood producer of an online church “show” overnight. (And do we want to anyway?) But we always want to give God our best, and we want to do whatever we can to provide a beautiful space for people to worship, even if that’s online.
So with whatever you do, do your best to make it look great.
A better camera is preferable. Decent sound quality is, too. Can you adjust the lights to give things a warmer look? By recording in a different part of the room, will it look or sound better?
Make sure you look presentable. (I realize how funny that may sound to you coming from me). Put on a nice shirt. Take note of the background you have.
If you are posting or sharing something you’ve written, have someone else look it over and edit it.
Quality is in the details, but really it just takes a few moments and a little thought to make some simple upgrades to your presentation that will go a long way.
Get Help from the Younger Folks
Most of us have already given a lot of thought to trying to engage the younger generation in the work of the people of God, especially with all the statistics about the younger generation leaving or disengaging from the church.
Well, guess what? Technology, social media, digitalism––that’s their native language! The younger generation naturally speaks digital, so ask them for help. Invite them to help you form your social media strategy. Allow them to speak into your digital strategy because they are already lightyears ahead of us more seasoned folks.
I’m not saying that you should do everything they recommend. But give them a voice and empower them to do some work. You’ll be blown away by how easy it is for them to jump on in and rock it.
Comments Are Conversations
One of the beautiful things about digital ministry is that there is an opportunity for conversation. All. The. Time.
Let’s be real. In our usual Sunday gatherings, even in the most unique environments, there’s not a ton of dialogue. Sure, we may have some responsorial elements to our services. But that’s not really an opportunity for interpersonal engagement.
The digital landscape is actually designed for conversations. So not only does the digital space deliver content, it also creates an environment for discussion about that content. So don’t be afraid of the comments section. It gives you a built-in opportunity to interact with people about the things of God!
The comments section is also a natural place to deploy great leaders to help and minister to people.
Now, it goes without saying that the comments section can be a mixed bag. Sometimes you get haters and trolls, sometimes you get people who are just looking for a place to vent, sometimes people have a theological hobby horse and are seeking to derail the ministry you’re avidly trying to do. That’s just part of that space.
My encouragement is to simply mute or block those commenters. It’s easy to do and helps keep your people safe, and it’s not killing freedom of speech. You would probably politely ask someone to leave if they were standing up shouting hateful things in the middle of your congregation, too.
Leverage Is Key
Oftentimes people are nervous to step into the digital space because they already feel that they have more than enough work to do. It’s true, everyone is busy. But I love to remind people that the digital landscape is a great way to repurpose the content you are already producing.
So much of what we do here at Crossroads Community Church, or on my own personal social media accounts, is just a repurposing of previously created content. For instance, our social media accounts are full of clips of our pastors teaching. Those are just segments from Sunday sermons we recorded live. Our Internet campus is simply what we are already doing in our sanctuary, only facilitated online with people hosting. I share daily Two Minute Messages on my Instagram and Facebook, and the topics of those come from my sermons, a staff meeting, or conversations I’ve had.
For me, it becomes a question of leverage. How can we get the most ministry done without adding a lot more work for our staff? Don’t shy away from using older content. It may be old for you, but it’ll be brand new for the person hearing it for the first time. Your old sermon might be right on time for someone who wasn’t there when you preached it. That devotional that you wrote five years ago might be exactly what someone needs to hear today.
Don’t Forget You Still Have Analog Opportunities
Even though everything happening in our world right now has everyone scrambling to figure out how to practice church digitally, don’t forget we still have a ton of analog opportunities to explore.
Yes, maybe you can’t visit someone in person right now, but the telephone still works. Pick up the phone and call people. You might not be able to hold your prayer meeting at the church, but you can write a 21-day prayer guide and ask the entire church to pray together at 6pm in unity. You might not be able to share your message in the sanctuary, but you can still write a devotional and photocopy it and drop it in the mail. Even though small group gatherings may be limited, people can still check in on each other and share needs and prayer requests.
Even though our in-person gatherings may be limited, we still have lots of non-digital ways to be the church. Now is not the time to abandon the analog opportunities. Now is the time to press in, and do whatever we can in the name of Jesus.
And as we thrust ourselves and the gospel of Jesus into the digital space, I want to give the freedom to try different things. Some things won’t work. When they don’t work, don’t get discouraged, simply move on to the next idea. When you find things that do work for your congregation, keep doing them, and try to incrementally make them better.
Unique times call for unique steps of faith.
Let’s take those steps of faith together.
Daniel Fusco is the Lead Pastor of Crossroads Community Church in Vancouver, WA.