the shape of leadership

Digital Ministry: The Wave of the Future

How your church can advance the gospel online

Angela Craig on May 29, 2018

When I ask pastors what area of ministry presents the biggest challenge in today’s church, they inevitably talk about attendance.

Based on the most recent figures from Barna Research, 38 percent of U.S. adults are active churchgoers, while 43 percent are unchurched — meaning they haven’t attended services in the last 6 months, apart from a wedding or funeral. Around one-third of Americans (34 percent) are “dechurched”; these formerly active churchgoers have not attended services for at least six months.

These statistics are probably no surprise to you. Most pastors I know struggle with people’s waning interest in church attendance and activities.

This leads us to an important question: How can we fulfill Jesus’ Great Commission (Matthew 28:19) if most people no longer attend a brick-and-mortar church?

Before planting Pursuit Church Live (PCL), we considered this challenge with great seriousness and in-depth research. We looked for the place where those not attending a traditional church are gathering.

We found that place online.

On Sept. 1, 2017, we launched PCL. Not only are we an online church, but we are also the first church in the world to host its main campus on Facebook.

Many churches already have an online presence through a Facebook page that doubles as a church bulletin. Others stream their messages online to a website or Facebook page. These are a good start, but they are different than an online church.

An online church serves those who cannot or will not attend. It is a place of interaction, engagement and community.

Many pastors worry that online churches will decrease in-person attendance and discipleship. Others object that they don’t have the time, money or volunteer power to manage an online church. These are understandable concerns.

At PCL, we discovered that digital ministry is actually the answer to these objections. With a small budget (around $50 a week) and like-minded volunteers, an online church gives us the opportunity to dedicate our time to inviting and engaging people in a life of faith and purpose, getting them plugged in to a local community, and releasing them as missionaries to the world.

Here are 10 practical steps your church can take to increase your influence through digital ministry:

Many pastors worry that online churches will decrease in-person attendance and discipleship.

1. Be intentional. Integrate digital ministry into the core strategy of your church to reach people who are not attending church. Think of online church as your “front porch” to faith. It is a safe place for people to find out who you are.

2. Ask three people to give feedback on your current digital presence. Before you ask, consider the demographic you want to reach, and then ask people within this demographic to share their opinions. When possible, make the changes they suggest.

3. Invite like-minded people to be digital missionaries. Right now, there are people in your church who spend a good portion of their day connecting online. Many desire to serve but have physical or time constraints. Digital ministry overcomes these obstacles by giving people the opportunity to do purposeful ministry anytime, from anywhere.

4. Train volunteers. Online volunteers need training in cyber security and online discipleship. At PCL, we have a social media checklist that everyone must sign and adhere to. This removes the fear in online discipleship.

5. Try Facebook Live. Facebook Live allows you to stream and save your messages to your Facebook page. It is free and effective. Set up your cell phone on a tripod, or ask someone in your congregation do the recording for you. I suggest going live after worship to avoid copyright and licensing issues with music.

6. Ask your congregation to share your Facebook Live stream. This is an incredible way to teach and empower each person to share his or her faith with friends and family members.

7. When using Facebook Live, welcome your online community, and give them a call to action. Help online attendees feel included with a shout-out at the beginning and end of your talk. At PCL, we offer three options: respond in the comments, send us a message, or fill out the connection card we post in the comments.

8. Consider boosting your post. You can boost a post starting at $3. Facebook also gives you the option to choose the demographic you want to reach. It is a minimal cost to reach the lost.

9. Follow up. At PCL, we believe every like and every comment is an invitation and opportunity to encourage, engage and invite.

10. Don’t be afraid to try new things. At PCL, we have found ways to incorporate all five practices of the church: fellowship, discipleship, service, worship and evangelism. Be innovative.

If you are still wondering how you will implement the change you need to increase your influence using a digital platform, start by trying one new thing.

The last world population count reported 7.6 billion people in the world. Each month, two billion people across the globe are on Facebook. That does not include every other digital platform. Let that sink in for a moment.

The lost and the unreached are literally a click away. Can you imagine how our churches could grow if each one took the great opportunity to reach the world through digital ministry?

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2018 edition of Influence magazine.


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