Back around 2014 I read a book that changed a lot of my perspectives on church ministry. The book is called The Social Church: A Theology of Digital Communication by Justin Wise.
Now, let me start by saying that the book isn’t perfect, after all, what book is? But it does offer a lot of great insight into incorporating digital and online mediums into church ministry. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s worth reading, but in the meantime…
Here are my five biggest takeaways 🤔:
1. God has gifted every church with a unique niche or “big idea”
Churches are very diverse and will often have some peculiar slant if you look closely enough at the congregation. For example, the pastor and half the congregation being long distance runners or a high percentage of the congregation being lawyers. Accompanied by prayer and discernment, these are likely indicators that God has gifted your church to reach out to these groups and it is worth both doubling down on reaching them as well as crafting your online presence to engage more people from these groups.
2. Culture has shifted from “broadcast” to “new media”
We used to read newspapers and watch TV, that was one-directional or “broadcast,” but now everyone is able to both consume and create content without a gatekeeper. This means that interaction, sharing, vulnerability, and authenticity have become hallmarks of communicating messages in digital formats like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn TikTok, etc. We can’t put something out and assume the congregation will listen, we have to give them some ability to interact back and forth with us as ministers.
3. Churches need to be able to share the same timeless message, but via modern mediums
Different mediums require couching the message in ways that fit that medium. This means that maybe livestreaming service isn’t the right way to go but livestreaming something topical or contextual to your community from your office or living room mid-week is the way to go. Maybe your church YouTube presence should be “talking head” videos with cuts to memes amid your teaching as is common among popular YouTube channels. The Sunday sermon in the church building will always be there in some form, but that doesn’t mean it should be our online or digital presence.
4. Generations that aren’t digital natives need to be humble and willing to adapt for subsequent generations
Coming from the tail end of Gen-X… yeah, I’m one of those 🤣… I’m actually a digital immigrant and not a digital native. There’s a part of me that really doesn’t enjoy things going digital, which can come as a surprise given my role, but this is where my fellow digital immigrant generations need to set aside our preferences and humbly try to “become all things to all people” in order to reach younger generations that are digitally native. This might mean that the member profile that used to go in a printed bulletin is now part of a church podcast interview and we need to work together as digital immigrants to be able to interact with that medium and share it with others.
5. Churches need to be more daring when it comes to embracing new technology trends
There’s always some reluctance to embracing new technology trends. As groups of people, there’s a tendency to fear things that are new and unknown. Often times, these fears come from a desire to protect the churches we are entrusted with, which is understandable and even admirable on many levels. The problem comes when we don’t embrace new technology trends and risk our churches being viewed as increasingly less relevant to the societal contexts they exist in. Should we completely change everything? No! Should pastors try sharing devotions on Instagram or TikTok instead of the church newsletter? Absolutely!
Those are my five biggest takeaways from having read The Social Church, want to talk more about engaging your congregation and community digitally? Book a meeting with me.