By Holland Davis, originally posted on Technologies for Worship Magazine
I recently read a post from a senior pastor in a small rural church. Like many pastors in this situation, he works a full-time job and the demands of ministry can be very draining. When he was younger, he earned a living as a professional photographer and is now looking to use his talents to provide a new and fresh avenue of ministry in the digital domain.
Sound familiar? Here’s what you need to know about the digital realm and ministry.
The DIGITAL WORLD Will Never Replace the REAL WORLD
There is an aura of mystery around the digital world where people believe by posting something online it will automatically propel you into digital mega-stardom. Nothing is further from the truth. Everyone has an audience and the people who will follow you in the digital domain are those who are aware of you in the real world. You may get exposure to people who are connected to those you know, but unless you are marketing outside your sphere of relationships (which means paying for it), you will not see an overnight explosion of viewers. There are exceptions – but they are EXCEPTIONS.
Use the DIGITAL WORLD to Connect the REAL WORLD
People who are in your church are already on social media. If they have a “smart phone,” they are most likely on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Tik Tok or a host of other social media platforms. Find out where your people are and be there.
For instance, we were broadcasting exclusively on YouTube, but the majority of our church was on Facebook. When we posted by accident on Facebook using an iPhone because our media system went down, we noticed we had ten times the number of viewers. Now we do both, but most of our focus for additional programming goes to Facebook. I recently started a group on Telegram because it’s the new Twitter for conservatives. However, no one from our church is on Telegram. So, it’s not an effective use of our focus.
Be Clear on the PURPOSE for Being in the DIGITAL WORLD
Alan Stoddard, Pastor of Calvary Chapel Ruidoso, keeps his purpose simple. His presence on social media is designed to encourage people in their walk with God and connect them to the life of the local church. As a result of the pandemic, he started a 30-minute daily devotion that airs on Facebook Live from 7:00 to 7:30 am. He discovered an audience of people who are online, who want to spend time with Jesus before the day begins but don’t know how to have a daily devotion or personal Bible Study. His daily audience is between 20-30 people. Alan says it’s like a “small church online.” He admits it’s a grind, but overall it has paid off greatly, especially in his personal life with God. Alan keeps his purpose simple: to resource people’s lives with good spiritual resources.
Don’t Do Something You Can’t Maintain Yourself
Pastors of small churches do not have social media marketing teams. They don’t have people running multi-camera shoots and setting things up before they arrive. Whatever you do, you have to be able to set it up simply and maintain it consistently. Simple and Consistent are the two main qualities of any successful social media presence.
During the Covid shutdown I did a daily prayer time from 12:00 to 12:30 pm, Monday through Friday for one month. Because I did it all, I needed to preset a camera, set up a place to sit, lighting, audio, everything so all I needed to do was open a webpage, turn on the camera and lights and start broadcasting. My total set up time was five minutes daily. It was easy to maintain and simple to execute. that made it possible to stay consistent.
Finally, I want to comment on a couple ethical concerns about being in the digital domain. One is giving online or asking for donations online. Is it ethical to ask people to use credit to give? Here’s how I answer. Most people have a Debit Card. When you give using a Debit Card, it’s giving directly from your bank account. It’s not credit. I personally don’t have an issue with online giving. Most people pay their bills online and giving online falls under the same mechanism. There are many great platforms to choose from. We use Planningcenteronline.com and Zelle.
The other concern is marketing. Is it ethically wrong to “brand” yourself? Is that pride or arrogance? The answer is: it depends. If you are simply informing people of resources that are available to them and they happen to be resources that you created, the answer is no. You’re just informing. If you’re bragging about how this resource will absolutely change your life forever, that’s a value judgment that you’re making about yourself that may or may not be true, and I hope it’s true, but it’s probably not. That kind of “branding” can be inappropriate. Better to stay in the realm of information.