As a church, when it comes to ministering online, nowadays, you’re likely asking yourself how you’ll be present online instead of if you will be present online.
One effective way to establish yourself in the online space is by setting up a digital discipleship ministry within your church.
Setting up a digital discipleship ministry has many benefits and in this article, we’ll share the positive impact it can have on your church.
1. Shift from broadcast mode of live streaming to creating an online presence
Typically, as churches, we’ve thought of ministering online like broadcasting on TV. We press “Go Live” when our church service starts, send our message out into the world and pat ourselves on our back for a job well done.
However, what if the online space offers us a new opportunity to do something different? What if the idea is not to push out communication but to allow a back-and-forth exchange between broadcasters and viewers, creating a conversation and providing a forum for questions?
Think of the way American Idol transformed the way we viewed TV, each week keeping audiences on edge to see if their singer made it through the competition. It created all the drama and anticipation of a create-your-own-adventure story.
Digital discipleship ministries allow us to reimagine the way communication can happen between the church and the people it wants to engage. And because there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, it can be tailored to the needs of your church and the people you’re making an effort to reach.
2. Multiply the church’s efforts in the online space
Because digital discipleship ministries take a holistic approach to engaging the church, they present the opportunity to get more people, beyond the talented media and communication people, involved in the ministry.
When thinking about the role various people play in sharing the compelling and life-changing story of Jesus, we have the chance to multiply the efforts of the church in the online space.
The reason this works is because of the Digital Discipleship Ecosystem. The Ecosystem identifies engagement, conversation and sharing as being equally as important as content creation and this is a shift in the way we’ve traditionally done ministry in church.
So, when the church creates a poster for Instagram or posts a livestream, its efforts are multiplied by the people in the church who are also prepared to share the content on their personal social media accounts. Those efforts are again multiplied by the number of people who are prepared to engage in conversation, show empathy and offer help in the online space around all the content that’s been created and distributed.
3. Get larger number of members involved
Not only are the efforts of the church multiplied because of the church’s digital discipleship ministry and the Digital Discipleship Ecosystem, the number of people who can potentially be engaged increases as well.
When the Ecosystem is explained, people are better able to imagine the ministry and see how they can contribute to its efforts.
The Ecosystem includes:
Visionaries – Visionaries include those who imagine a ministry, come up with an idea or innovate a new solution to lay out a vision of what the future may look like.
Content Creators – Creators are our photographers, writers, videographers, artists, designers, techies and musicians. (And I’m sure there are many others I haven’t mentioned).
Content Distributors – Distributors give your content legs and help it get out to various people who might benefit from seeing it.
Content Engagers – Engagers are skilled at having conversations, showing empathy and providing space for discussions.
Content Curators – Like librarians, curators gather content in one place that can be of service to the community to whom the church is ministering.
Influencers – Influencers can be content creators, distributors or engagers, however, they recognise that the words they say online can have a large impact on a wider group of people than the average digital disciple. Therefore they understand they have more responsibility to be accountable for their words and actions online.
Supporters – Supporters support the efforts of ministries, financially and through service, encouragement, supplies and recommendations.
Good Neighbours – Good neighbours carry out acts of kindness both online and in person. We can think of them as being modern-day Good Samaritans.
Because of the Digital Discipleship Ecosystem, the opportunity exists to get more members involved in the ministry. This is because roles that require engagement and conversation and sharing content are not just valued in the Digital Discipleship Ecosystem but necessary.
Given that there are various roles within the Digital Discipleship Ecosystem, a large number of people within your church may easily see themselves fitting into the picture and feel empowered to get involved.
4. Utilise more of the church’s talent
It’s often said that 20% of the people in church do 80% of the work — the Pareto Principle at work.
In the midst of this reality, we wonder if it might also be true that a lot of the talent at church goes unused and unnoticed because it doesn’t align with any of the church’s traditional ministries.
Creating a digital discipleship ministry creates space for the talents of various people, especially when a variety of roles are identified and valued.
5. Create a way to get the content the church creates seen by the people who need it
The Digital Discipleship Ecosystem encourages churches to be mindful about how the content they create will be seen by the people for whom it was intended. This is a shift in the traditional way churches create content.
The church then has the opportunity to think about how the content it creates, like it’s weekly church service, musical items, sermon, social media posts and videos are going to get to the people who need to engage with them.
6. Impact individual discipleship journeys
Ministry encourages both the people you’re ministering to as well as yourself.
When your church members start ministering in the online space, it will encourage them to continuously stay connected to Jesus and to ensure that their relationship with God is strong. And, it will encourage those ministering to let Jesus into all parts of their lives, including the digital space.
7. Expand the ministry outreach potential of your church
When your church’s territory expands beyond its geographic boundaries, you will open your church to the possibility to minister to more people. This could include generations of people you don’t typically reach, people in different locations and even people from different cultures.
The opportunity lies in being open and aware that your church’s territory will expand and having a plan in place to understand how your church will respond.
8. Develop a ministry that is naturally intergenerational
The internet is one of the few things that truly unites so many of the members in your church, whether young or old, they will likely find themselves using the internet sometime during their day.
A digital discipleship ministry doesn’t have to try hard to be intergenerational and to stretch across various life stages as well.
From mothers worried about exposing their children to too much screen time to teenagers playing minecraft to singles looking for a life partner (or just a hookup) to seniors seraching for ways to find companionship online – the internet affects us all.
What if we could use this common denominator and build a ministry around it? How would it impact the unity and togetherness of our church?
9. Increase the opportunity for collaboration
A digital discipleship ministry will allow your church to work collaboratively across several departments. While this list isn’t all inclusive, you may find that some of the following areas might find good synergy with digital discipleship:
- Creative Ministries (this ministry may not currently exist at your church, but imagine those people in your church who are creatives, artists, crafters and in other ways driven by beauty and aesthetics)
- Technology Ministries (this ministry may not specifically exist in your church, but it may overlap with those in the audio/visual team)
- Personal Ministries
- Pastoral Ministry
A digital discipleship ministry would combine the efforts of these departments (and potentially others) to share the story of Jesus online and give your church members another avenue through which to minister.
10. Find and connect with people you might not otherwise find
Digital discipleship ministries place our churches where people are searching instead of expecting people to come to us. This shift in our connection model means we have the opportunity to connect with people we wouldn’t have otherwise come in contact with.
11. Increase ability for church to minister to various groups, like senior members of society
The online space offers so much opportunity for us to minister to a variety of people who we might not have traditionally been able to reach. One of those groups is the senior population.
Through technology, like Zoom, we are able to have regular catch-ups and meet-ups while being considerate of the health threats that abound these days. Additionally, other groups, like mums of young children, health workers and those whose work require them to travel might also find a digital discipleship ministry to be useful.
12. Be more intentional in providing information that aligns with people’s needs
“Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Savior mingled with people as one who desired their good. He showed sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He invited them, “Follow Me.””Ministry of Healing 73.4
What would this quote look like in the digital space? How would we live it out?
Having a digital discipleship ministry at your church can position you to assess the needs of people, both online and offline and find ways to meet those needs, just as the Author Ellen G. White describes Jesus as doing during his ministry here on earth.
It’s the difference between pushing a message out and pulling a message in. Having an online ministry will guide your church toward being more intentional in its ministry towards other and actually making sure your church is meeting the needs of people rather than simply broadcasting the message they want to communicate.
Churches have traditionally been best equipped to present a program to a captive audience each week. A digital discipleship ministry encourages the church to think more holistically about the needs of the people the church is trying to reach.
13. Alleviate pressure from the pastor and “the church” from being solely responsible for sharing Jesus
Often, church members see sharing Jesus as the responsibility of the church pastor or a ministry of the church. Digital Discipleship shifts the responsibility to being shared amongst the pastor and the members of the church because engaging and distributing are identified as specific and important roles in the Digital Discipleship Ecosystem.
14. Increase the reach of the church to the contacts of the members of the church
As a follow-on point from the previous point, by giving members a greater responsibility in sharing Jesus with others, the church’s outreach ability grows to include the contacts of church members. This is an expansion from the people the church reaches from its evangelistic meetings and from people walking in the door.
15. Church members can see the value of sharing a piece of content and how their contribution impacts the whole
Within a digital discipleship ministry, church members are able to see more clearly how their contribution to the system can have an impact and be beneficial.
If your church has ventured into the digital space and is looking for a bit of direction on their “why” and their “how”, a great place to start is by downloading our guide or by visiting our Services & Training page to learn how we can help you get started.
How to Set-up a Digital Discipleship Ministry at Your Church
In this guide you’ll be presented with a series of questions to prepare you and your team to set-up a digital discipleship ministry at your church. You will also learn how a digital discipleship ministry can help your church fulfil its mission.