Alan George served as the former Church Online Pastor at Life.Church. He currently partners with churches and leaders to help them identify how they can leverage technology to further the Gospel and reach people like never before.
If you feel woefully underprepared for this current season of doing ministry online, you are not alone. And, truthfully, you won’t be able to do it alone. The next phase of ministry leadership is going to feel much more like a team effort than ever before.
Not every pastor has a seminary experience. But for those who do, they recognize that, while ninety hours of graduate-level work may make you a great theologian, what makes you a great pastor is “doing life” with others. With preaching, worship music, and educational experiences now ubiquitous and available on any device that might be in your hand or pocket, the fundamental value proposition must move beyond knowledge transfer to a more integrated and holistic experience that is multi-sensory, multi-dimensional, and multi-stage in orientation and design. Further, this dynamic experience must be in a state of continuous improvement.
If you’re struggling to keep up, you’re not alone. Let’s unpack some characteristics of digital engagement that are key to consider as you look to bring this into your ministry context:
Digital is less about a channel and more about a way of existing. It is the stitching together of interpersonal and real-time encounters and online interactions that create a continuous, ongoing, and self-perpetuating way of engaging with what is believed to be relevant, timely, and specific.
Digital can still be human. Just because it’s digital doesn’t mean it can’t be human. Think about the power of text messages, voice messages, and even videos to convey verbal and non-verbal information. It’s different than being in person, but that doesn’t make it any less valuable.
Digital is the norm for a growing population. Many people aren’t just buying products, reading books, and watching TV online. They are also meeting with doctors, taking college classes, and even working online. If the church doesn’t adapt, it risks becoming out of sync with lifestyle changes and preferences.
Digital is a moving target. This isn’t a “one-and-done” project. It’s constantly shifting. And, to even further complicate this new reality, it isn’t “one size fits all.” Each segment of your congregation—no matter how big or small—will bring their preferences with them.
Digital will continue to challenge norms in every area of our lives. This is more than just churches, but you can’t underestimate the long-term impact it will have on how membership, participation, and affiliation will be achieved.
It has never been easier to reach people with the Gospel than it is today. But, in many ways, it has never been more complex. The good news is the technology and data platforms exist to help you get there. You’ll have to assess your readiness and determine how to skill up and shift your leadership and organization to prepare for a persistent season of disruption.