I know what you're thinking: "Criticism? Nah. That only happens to those pastors and elders. Won't ever happen to me, bro. I work behind the scenes with all the techy stuff. I'm safe."
I hate to rain on your parade and poop all over your party, but yes, you will be on the receiving end of criticism, even in the Church Communications world. This is ministry. And if you're in ministry at any level, there will be criticism. In fact, some of it may very well be harsh criticism. It could be leveraged at your work, your team, or even at you as a person. Whatever the case, it will be happen. That I can promise you. What matters is how you perceive it, process it, and respond to it.
During much of my early years in Church Comms, I struggled with receiving criticism. And it's no wonder, really: I was that young, high school-aged, wildly inexperienced, know-it-all, hot-shot brat who thought he had everything figured out when it came to digital media, social media, graphic design, video production, public relations, marketing, and communications and how those elements integrated with the Local Church At Large and the Gospel. Little did I know that my college years were going to blow my mind on all of those things and then some deeper real-world experience would blow my mind even more. (It's a wonder I still have a mind at this point.)
Over the course of my twenties and thirties I came to learn that criticism in the ministry world is just a normal part of life for people at every level — from the sweet grandmother volunteering in the nursery to the lead pastor of the church and everyone in between. No one is immune from it. And, frankly, you should enter ministry expecting it to happen at some point.
Of course, this doesn't make it any easier to handle. I still cringe when I receive complaints about a project I had a hand in; rude comments about how our livestream isn't good enough; insults about an on-screen graphic I designed; remarks about a font being too hard to see; or a challenge to a comms decision that I made. So often my flesh has wanted to respond with nothing but pure, sweet, unadulterated sarcasm. It's just the way I'm wired. Obviously, this would be the worst thing that I could possibly do.
So, what is one to do when criticism comes knocking at the door? Here are a few tips and suggestions from my own experience and my years as a pastor's son:
#1. First, do nothing. Take a deep breath and chill out.
One of my favorite lines from the 1985 western cult classic film Silverado comes from Kevin Kline's character Paden when he says, "I'm a great believer in doin' nothing."
Believe me I know you want to blast a fiery zinger right back across the bow as soon as you receive that harsh e-mail, direct message, comment, text, or phone call. I've been there. We all have. It can be easy for anger to flare up and before you know it we're on an emotional rollercoaster for the rest of the day. This is never good. You won't be worth much for Kingdom work when you're seething with rage or letting criticism drown you in depression or discouragement.
A lot of times we think we can respond quickly and just make the situation go away. Sadly, quick responses usually wind up making things worse because we respond in anger or frustration. Take an entire day and step away from the criticism, whatever it happens to be. Pray. Rest. Reflect. Seek guidance, wisdom, or counsel if needed. But never respond hastily in anger.
#2. Ask yourself if the criticism is actually true.
It’s so easy to just dismiss a critic without a second thought, especially after you’ve just been run over by a Mack Truck of total hostility and rudeness. I don’t know anyone who actually enjoys that feeling. But, if you’re going to mature in ministry — as well as grow spiritually — then you really do have to assess and examine the criticism to see if there’s any substance to it. It’s not fun, but it’s necessary and always worth it in the end.
#3. Ask yourself how Jesus would respond.
I know this is the “Christianese” answer, but you’d be stunned how many pieces of criticism you’ll be able to diffuse or walk away from by simply responding with the love and grace that Jesus would if He were in your shoes. If you’ve been walking with the Lord long enough, then it really shouldn’t be all that difficult to know how He would reply to that furious congregant who criticized something about your church’s social media or that fellow staff member who blasted you in an e-mail. Jesus dealt with criticism all the time during His days on earth. He was opposed by an entire group of people who hated Him and spent much of His adult life dealing with people who couldn’t stand Him. Love your critics the way Jesus loved His. Extend them grace the way Jesus extended grace to His.
#4. Don’t take the criticism personally.
This can be hard to do, especially in the Church Comms world where so much of our ministry is attached to the things we create and the endless hours we spend perfecting designs, managing social media, strategizing posts, writing and proofing copy, setting up sound and lighting, and many other tasks. When someone criticizes our work, we almost feel as if we’ve been attacked on a very deep and personal level. It’s like they’ve said something mean about us. But, we have to be mature enough to separate our worth and value and our identities from our work and remember that — at the end of the day — everything we do and create is all for Christ and His Kingdom. And His approval is all that matters.
#5. Be personable, engaging, and relational when you respond.
This applies whether you're responding in-person or digitally. I learned this the hard way from over a decade of working in the customer service industry. There’s nothing that will surprise a critic more than receiving a cordial and friendly message after they just sent you a nasty one. So often in the business world — and yes, even in the ministry world — people expect you to stoop to their level and reply in a similar way. But, why not rise above all of that? Go a step further and speak with that person face-to-face if possible. In other words, don't hide behind the glow of your computer screen like some sort of digital monk furiously pecking away on your keyboard. You're better than that. Offer to meet them somewhere for coffee or lunch at the location of their choosing. Heck, offer to pay. I can guarantee you'll not only surprise them, you'll be on your way to diffusing the tension as well. (Side-note: Most critics are much braver in their e-mails and social media messages than they are in person. If you don't believe me, let's talk about trolls sometime.) And as long as both of you are mature enough to talk through the issue, it will all likely go away on its own.
How do you handle criticism in the Church Comms world? What have your experiences been like and what have they taught you? Is there anything you would add to my list? Drop a comment below or shoot me a DM or an e-mail. I'd love to hear from you!
Social media can be a really crazy arena where emotions tend to run high. Millions of people spend endless hours per day glued to their devices and immerse themselves in high-stress, high-drama, high-angst content like politics, Hollywood celebrity news, crime news, personal gossip in their own friendship circles, etc. There have been dozens of psychological studies on the negative effects that prolonged time spent on social media can actually have on the human mind.
In a culture that's become more divided and opinionated than ever, you've probably noticed people becoming more outspoken than ever before on social media where things were already tense, emotional, and drama-oriented. And if you're a social media manager for your church, then you might have noticed that you've had to keep a closer eye on the comment sections of your platforms — whether it's Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. And whether you're a pastor or the Communications Minister/Director at your church, you might even notice that social media interactions between people in your own church have become more tense or politically-charged.
So, What Should We Do?
#1. Post Plenty of Bible Verses.
"For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of the soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the hearts." — Hebrews 4:12 (The King James says the Word of God is powerful.)
There will be far less likelihood for people to engage in drama and tension in the comment threads of your pages or profiles if you're posting Scriptural content. The Word of God has power to speak directly to people where they are in life. Sometimes the simplest post of a Bible verse to your church's Facebook Page can minister to one of your followers in ways that you might never know. I really do believe in the power of Scripture even over social media and in its ability to gently soothe, alleviate, and dissolve tension, hostility, and animosity.
#2. Be a Role Model and Lead By Example.
As a pastor/church leader, don't engage in drama, hostility, political nonsense, etc. on social media yourself on your own personal profiles or in the comment threads of other Pages where your church congregants might see what you're saying. Don't get caught up in petty or trivial debates on social media that don't matter or further the Gospel. — "Don't have anything to do with foolish or stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels." - 2 Timothy 2:23
On a side note: There's nothing wrong with posting FUN stuff on social media. I'm totally all for that. But there's a difference between having fun and stirring up pointless drama or hostility. As the administrator of your church's Page, don't ever post anything to the Page that could be controversial or might incite potential hostility, arguments, debates, etc. — "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all men." - Romans 12:18
#3. Keenly Monitor And Observe All Platforms.
To "keenly" observe something literally means to intently, intelligently, and attentively monitor it. You should be doing this every day with the platforms that you manage. It really should go without saying if you're a social media manager. Nevertheless, it will absolutely help to alleviate potential hostility and drama issues on your Page if you are regularly aware of what is happening on the Page. In other words: You should be checking in on it throughout the day. Know who is posting what on your Page. — "Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won't need to compare yourself to anyone else." - Galatians 6:4
#4. Delete or Hide Comments When Necessary.
Social media is home to a lot of people who are just plain bullies and live to intentionally blast Christians in comment threads. They are known as trolls. Do not respond to them. Do not reply to them. Do not engage with them. Most trolls aren't even loyal followers of your Page anyway. They don't attend your church. They probably stumbled across your Page through an ad or sidebar or a share from a friend. My Church Communications buddy Seth Muse is the king of writing about how to deal with trolls. He has a phrase he likes to use: "Don't feed the trolls." As the administrator of the Page account, you have total control over what comments will be displayed on the Page. There is a difference between hiding a comment and deleting a comment. Know the difference and know when to do one or the other. Don't get all panicked and worried about deleting a comment from your church Page or hurting someone's feelings. You can always direct message the individual and explain why you deleted their comment if you feel that it is appropriate to do so.
#5. Speaking of Direct Messages...
The private message feature is always another great tool for alleviating a potentially hostile situation or calming someone down or addressing a sensitive issue because it's, well, private. That's the whole point! It's a conversation between you — the Page administrator — and that individual. Doing this can seem like a lot of work or potentially awkward, but I promise that taking the time to personally engage with someone more directly — especially because of how impersonal social media already feels — can really go a long way in helping that individual feel like you actually care about their question or problem. Here's a Pro Tip: Be speedy when it comes to DMs. Not only do people appreciate you taking their questions and concerns seriously, but Facebook also displays how well your Page replies to DMs right there on the Page itself.
#6. Consider Developing A Social Media Policy For Your Church If Necessary.
A social media policy is essentially a booklet-style set of guidelines — usually in print form and PDF form — for how an organization's employees should conduct themselves while on various social media platforms. Most small churches do not have this, although that doesn't mean that they shouldn't consider it. These tend to be more common in the "big church world." If you're going to assemble one of these, be sure to include guidelines for how church leaders should act on social media in regards to the kind of content they should post. Back up your statements with Scripture verses. Make sure the guidelines apply to how they act on their own personal profiles and when they post content to the church Pages or account as well.
A good verse to include in your policy for this point: Colossians 4:6 — "Let your conversation always be full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." (NIV)
A few things to consider including in your policy:
If you're the Communications Director or Communications Pastor, you can and should have guidelines for the person who will be running the Page(s) and social media accounts. These should include things such as:
#7. Be A Communications Pastor More Than A Communications Director.
Always care more about people than about media, design, perfection, and production. Care about using your God-given gifts and talents to promote and influence peace, unity, and harmony in the Body of Christ for the betterment of your church and the Kingdom of God as a whole. Always be willing to learn from someone who is a little further down the road from you in the ministry, especially if it's your field or notch of ministry. Listen to older and wiser counsel, pastors, elders, deacons, etc.
Further Verses For Reflection:
"So then, let us pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another." — Romans 14:19
"My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry." – James 1:19
"There is one who speaks rashly, like a piercing sword; but the tongue of the wise brings healing." — Proverbs 12:18
"Honor belongs to the person who ends a dispute; but any fool can get himself into a quarrel." — Proverbs 20:3
How Can I Help You?
Need help overhauling your church website? Ready to implement some social media? Stuck on how to design and develop better social media graphics or manage your social media pages? Want some help with effective church marketing and community relations? Book me for a coaching session or request me to speak at your church about these issues. Want to meet for coffee first? Visit my contact page and send me a direct message.
In today's fast-paced culture of modern design, slick marketing, and ever changing technology preferences, the church website is often seen as the red-headed stepchild of the Internet. And usually for good reason. Let's face it: Most of them are cheesy, confusing, poorly put together, and simply can't keep up with their chic and stylish counterparts. We live in a Digital Age where even many small businesses and mom-and-pop restaurants hire professional web designers. This has sadly led to a lot of church sites being laughed off before they have a chance to make a connection or impression. Bottom line: A lot of church websites aren't taken seriously.
But, it doesn't have to be this way. Just what exactly is it that causes so many church websites to be unsuccessful? It could be ignorance about good web style and development. It could be a lack of financial resources to pay, hire, or outsource a skilled designer. Perhaps the lead pastor doesn't really see it as a necessity. Maybe the board or elders are standing in the way of approving the needed finances to enhance the current site.
Whatever the situation, here are a few dead giveaways that you might have an awful church website:
#1. It's unfriendly.
Your site has the potential to be much more than just a giant billboard on the high-speed freeway of the Internet. If a visitor is whizzing by at 120 miles per hour, will they even notice your site long enough to slow down, pull over, and check it out? For this to happen, it needs to be engaging and personable. The only way to ensure this is by making your site friendly. — Friendly in tone, friendly in language, friendly in photos, and friendly in overall design and appearance. Here's a good starting tip: Make sure your staff members actually smile in their photos.
#2. It’s confusing.
Seriously, folks. If the average seeker can’t even navigate around your site without getting lost, there’s a problem. They should be able to find the staff page, the service times and location, the beliefs page, the “new here” page, the sermon audio/video/podcast, the calendar, and the ministries page all without ever missing a beat. This means your menu bar should be easily accessible and visible both on the desktop view and mobile view of your site. The menu bar should also conform well to any template you might be utilizing.
#3. It doesn’t have a Google Maps Plug-In
Speaking of location, it never ceases to amaze me how many church websites I still see that don’t put a Google Map plug-in somewhere on their site. Google basically does half the work for you. It really couldn’t be any easier to copy the provided HTML coding and then embed/paste it into your site. Seekers will not only want to have quick access to this map for GPS features on their smartphone, but will also appreciate being able to see frequently updated exterior photos and Street Views of your building when they are prepared to make their first visit.
#4. It has obsolete and/or useless content.
Is the sermon audio three months behind? A year behind? Did you hire a new youth pastor and forget to update the staff page so parents are showing up looking for the dude who was there four years ago? Did your ladies small group stop meeting last month, but still has their own ministry page with photos and everything? Keep your site updated with current information. Otherwise, people will ask: What's the point of this website even being here in the first place?
#5. It implements cheesy typography, fonts, and design templates.
*Insert facepalm emoji here* Too many church websites have had fantastic photos, powerful messages, and great content all mutilated and marred by terrible font choices and design templates from the early nineties. Please don't do it. Just...don't.
#6. There's no mobile version.
I've mentioned this in previous posts before. The vast majority of the folks landing on your site will be viewing it from a smartphone or tablet. Your site should have a mobile view to accommodate these people. Not everyone church shops from their laptop or desktop computer. In fact, most people don't. They Google "churches near me" on their iPhone or Android and start searching. Make mobile view a reality for these people so that they can easily access and engage with your site.
#7. It has no clear objective.
What's the point of your website? Have you even paused to ask yourself this question? More importantly, what is the point of each page? Is one page designed to feature the history of your church? Perhaps another page is meant to attract people through your church's worship experience. Still, another page is meant to offer effective sermon content. Every page and subpage has a unique function. It's your job to ensure that those functions are carried out and that each goal is met.
A lot of church websites today are sort of the equivalent of large buckets of paint thrown at a blank wall. Whatever happens to come together just happens while the creator shrugs it off and says, "Well, it's the best that we can do." And nothing is ever touched or updated again. This sort of apathy is the problem in many churches regarding digital and social media, technology, and several other areas of revitalization. Don't erect a site for your church simply because you feel like it's the thing to do. Truthfully, you'd almost be better off without a site.
How Can I Help You?
Need help overhauling your church website? Stuck on how to design and develop better social media graphics or manage your social media pages? Want some help with effective church marketing and community relations? Book me for a coaching session or request me to speak at your church about these issues. Want to meet for coffee first? Visit my contact page and send me a direct message.
If you've ever been behind a laptop or computer screen during a worship service with the weight of perfectly timed slide transitions, video cues, and sermon media resting on how quickly you can think and pay attention, then you know the intense pressures that go with this job. Live digital media management is no easy task. You are literally responsible for displaying every song lyric, sermon point, or Bible verse for an entire congregation as it happens in real time. Whether you're at a church of 40 or 4,000, everyone in the room is depending on you for accurate typography spelling, proper media formatting, video and audio prompts, and — above all else — well-timed and smooth slide changes.
Let's just be real for a minute: Even if your graphics, worship backgrounds, and fonts all suck, your people should — at the very least — be able to read and follow the slides. There's a lot that goes into making digital media look presentable, much less attractive, but the bottom line is that none of that will matter if your folks can't even figure out what the crap is going on. The live digital media management operator can often be one of the most demanding, nerve-wracking, and frustrating roles in the church tech world. However, it need not be this way.
Here are 10 suggestions on how to keep your cool under the pressure while you juggle media, run slides, and attempt to avoid frustrations as gracefully as possible:
#1. Be flexible and adaptable.
Anyone with seasoned ministry experience will tell you that things won’t always go as planned. The worship leader will change his mind at the last minute about the order of the songs. The soloist who was scheduled to sing the offertory special will get sick and cancel thirty minutes before the service. One of your two media screens will go out on Sunday morning potentially leaving half the congregation straining to see the words to all of the songs and sermon notes. The pastor will come to you four minutes before the service and ask, “Is it too late to drop in a really cool YouTube video I found as a sermon illustration for one of my points?”
These are all just a few of the many situations and scenarios that you need to be prepared to handle on the fly. As a digital media operator, you should maintain a positive attitude of flexibility, knowing that you’ll have to adapt in the moment. There will be times when you can make things work and times when you can’t. Learn to know the differences. If the worship band suddenly decides to improvise and play a random song that isn’t in your morning media set, be OK with that. If you have enough time to drop it in, then do so. If not, just revert back to a generic title slide. Adapt in the moment and then step back and let God handle the rest. Trust me, He’s more in control than you are anyway.
#2. If you have a slide guide, print it well ahead of the service.
If you like to have a hard copy of the slides in your hand — rather than a digital view on a tablet — while you run the media, be sure to print this way before the service actually starts. There’s nothing more stressful and frustrating than realizing the countdown video is almost done and you don’t even have your slide guide ready yet.
#3. Make sure your team and fellow staff members are prepared.
If you have someone designated to make announcements at the top of the service — which will be accompanied by media — then make sure that individual is ready and knows his or her role. If someone is going to be giving a missions update — accompanied by photos on the screen — then coordinate and chat with that person before the service. In other words, don’t wait until the last second to see if the media you’ve created even remotely matches what the person will be announcing or if it even meets their needs. It would be rather embarrassing to find that out in the moment. Better to find out before the service begins.
#4. Arrive early to the church to rehearse slides with the band if possible.
Your church’s worship team probably practices their music early. You can always run through some or all of the worship slides in real time as they play. This will allow you to determine whether you have all the verses and choruses that you need — especially if they are performing a new song or a song that they have never done at your church.
#5. Pay attention.
It sounds rudimentary and you might think it would go without saying, but “pay attention” is one of the best pieces of advice you can give your digital media operator. A live worship service is full of potential distractions and it can be easy to get lost or to be overwhelmed by having to multitask.
The last thing you want is to wind up three slides behind the worship band or to be scrambling to find that sermon bullet point that the pastor is asking for as the entire congregation turns around to look at you. You can avoid a lot of unnecessary frustration and stress by simply keeping up with what is happening as it all unfolds. Be present in the moment. Know what’s going on. Concentrate.
#6. Check your tech before the service.
I can’t tell you how many times a random software upgrade or a Facebook Live glitch has thrown off the success of an entire service or made a sermon moment terribly awkward. Before the service begins, make sure you won’t be interrupted by any foreseeable “ghost in the machine” sort of problems. In other words, do a little basic troubleshooting. Know your stuff. Aim for quality in your work. You’ll thank yourself in the long run and so will your congregants, your online audience, and your fellow staff members. Of course, you can’t predict every problem. That’s just the nature of the beast with technology. But you can certainly strive for excellence and make sure everything is in proper working order beforehand.
#7. Develop good rapport and communication skills with your fellow AVL and media staff.
Depending on the size and layout of your church, there’s a very real likelihood that you’ll be working in rather close proximity to other tech personnel during each service. If you’re tasked with running the digital media, you may literally be standing or sitting just a couple feet from the sound and/or lighting guy. This is a good thing, of course, because it opens the door for teamwork and synergy. But it can also mean the occasional moment of friction or tension. The Enemy would love nothing more than to take advantage of this and destroy the Kingdom's work in your church. Don’t let that happen. Have patience when needed. Develop harmony. Strive for workplace compatibility. Above all else, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Colossians 4:6, ESV) You'll be shocked at how many frustrations and little irritations you can avoid by simply exercising Christlike communication. Bonus note: Listen more than you speak.
#8. Take care of yourself mentally, emotionally, and physically.
Newsflash: You're not indestructible. Despite what you might think, you do need adequate sleep, proper hydration, appropriate sustenance, and healthy emotional support. Schedule time in-between services or worship events to recharge your batteries. You need to relax. You need to eat. You need breaks from electronic devices and time away from your laptop screen. Do the things that keep you healthy and energized. Next to God, no one knows your body better than you. Sometimes something as simple as a relaxing walk with a friend, spouse, or significant other can be a healthy emotional recharge before diving into your next service or event.
#9. Stay organized.
Yeah I know I probably sound like your mom telling you to clean your room. But there's a reason that our moms always knew best. A sloppy tech booth environment is the quickest way to add frustration and stress to your live worship service media management experience. If you relax your standards for cleanliness and efficiency, you'll soon be misplacing flash drives, losing slides guides, and spilling coffee on your tech, all during live worship. Be as neat and orderly as possible.
Last, but not least, is the most important thing that you can and should do before and during every live worship service: pray. Pray by yourself and pray with your team. Ask the Lord to usher your congregation into His presence that they might experience a true sense of worship free of distractions and that your team might help to facilitate that free from frustrations — technical or otherwise. Remember: "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." — James 5:16
Did I leave anything out? Would you follow these tips and suggestions? Is there something else important that we should add to the list? Leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail and let me know!
Let me start this post by telling you a few stories. I think stories are powerful and can serve as good illustrations. I also think that they have the power to change people and to change circumstances. At Northside Bible Church, where I serve as Communications Director, we're really big on testimonies and personal stories of grace, redemption, and hope. In fact, we have a monthly worship event called Testimonies On The Lawn. The name is a bit misleading because it's held indoors, but if you know the history behind the event — and the fact that it all started in a small backyard in southern Alabama — then it makes a little more sense. This event highlights stories of redemption and never fails to encourage and bless everyone in attendance.
But the stories I want to share with you right now are from my Church Communications Facebook Group, a group that was started in 2015 by a girl named Katie Allred. Katie is a graduate of The University of Mobile and went off to work as the Web Content Manager for Brentwood Baptist Church in Tennessee for a while. She later returned here to Mobile in 2018 and is now an assistant professor at UM, teaching digital media and software development to the students there. Our group is comprised of over 29,000 church tech directors, media directors, graphic designers, pastors, volunteers, audio engineers, lighting and video experts, all spread out across the continental United States. And we're all in this one group where we can bounce ideas and questions off of one another, ask for feedback on designs, and other related topics.
Before I gave my speech at our recent Shepherd's Summit pastoral conference here in Mobile, I polled my group and asked them to share a personal story about a time when the digital or social media ministry of their church had a positive impact or led to a victory. I was overwhelmed by the amount of feedback that I received. Here are the four that I chose to share with the pastors at the conference:
From Rie Collett: "I had posted a prayer request asking that our congregants pray for The Marriage Course that we were launching that evening and a person asked in the comments whether it was too late to join. I said no problem, but was curious because I thought he was divorced already. Turns out he and his wife had been separated for 4.5 years, heartbreaking because they had three young kids. But they did the course together and decided to reconcile and get re-married!"
From Brandon Rodgers: "Guy was invited to church, but was afraid to come and watched 6-8 weeks online before giving his life to Christ. Came the very next week and was baptized soon after."
From Marcy Carico: "A few years ago I was posting our church's Sunday set list every Friday to our church page. I didn't see too much reach, or engagement, but our people liked it and I didn't have to put too much thought into content on my day off... I got a DM [direct message] from a guy at a small church plant in another state. They were so small and so new that they didn't have the people/budget for a real worship ministry. He said he was using our set list to load YouTube lyric videos for his congregation every week. I realized we were having an impact on a whole other body of believers without even knowing it."
From Justin Nava: "A student who was having suicidal thoughts saw our Instagram post of a Bible verse [Ecclesiastes 3:1-2] and called the student pastor for counseling that night."
Whether you're a Church Comms Director, a pastor, an elder, or just a volunteer, I want to challenge you to see how church communications and everything it entails — print, digital, social media, website, audio/video/lighting — is not so much a function of your church, it is a ministry of your church. It has eternal, lasting impacts on people for the Kingdom of God. It's as much of a ministry wing or arm as your youth group, men's group, ladies ministry, small groups, etc.
I think oftentimes — at least what I find — is that many pastors (though not all) are hesitant to think of digital and social media and technology in this way. It could be for any number of reasons, but usually it's for reasons like this:
Captain James T. Kirk once famously said, "You know, the greatest danger facing us is ourselves, an irrational fear of the unknown. But there's no such thing as the unknown — only things temporarily hidden; temporarily not understood."
With all of that in mind, let me give you some quick statistics. Right now there are about 2.8 billion active monthly users on Facebook and over one billion monthly active users on Instagram. I'm not even going to bother mentioning Twitter because I might be the only nerd still using Twitter. I don't know. Is anyone still on Twitter? Comment below if you are. Anyway, there's also over 500 million monthly active users on Snapchat and over 100 million monthly active users on TikTok. So obviously the amount of time that people are spending online and on social media platforms has increased significantly within the last decade or two. This was all true pre-COVID, but the quarantine just amplified those numbers all the more because everyone was stuck indoors and glued to their gadgets, right? We all remember getting bored with the games on our cell phones. I mean, how many times can you really fling those birds into little green pigs? We were all texting a lot, e-mailing, working from home on our computers and our laptops.
And with more people — real people — being online, The Church has to leverage this space to build relationships and prompt the beginnings of discipleship, spiritual growth, church attendance, church involvement, etc. The very thing that Jesus told the Church — His core remaining Apostles — to do when He was leaving the Earth — was to go and make disciples. The Great Commission, right?
And I believe with all my heart — in fact it's one of the core reasons that I do what I do — that if people are online...on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, browsing websites...then the Local Church doesn't just have an opportunity, it has a responsibility to be there too, reaching them, talking to them, engaging them, making them into Christ-followers, making them Christ-pursuant and local church pursuant.
THIS IS DIGITAL MINISTRY.
It's really nothing complex. It's simply "ministry that happens digitally." It occurs when The Local Church takes advantage of technology and leverages it in order to spread the Gospel, thereby helping people grow in their faith; their knowledge of the Word; get involved in a local church and later become disciple-makers themselves. It's all part of the cyclical process.
I would venture to say that most church comm directors or pastors who are reading this are at least working at churches that are recording the Sunday morning sermons and sharing them in some way. I mean, even if you're just recording to CDs or tapes and passing them out to people like we did back in the Stone Age, that's STILL a form of content distribution. (And if you ARE still using tapes or CDs, please see me or see us at 6.14 Ministries and we can help get you out of the Stone Age.) So if you're recording or live-streaming your messages to your Facebook Page or YouTube channel or your website or posting the audio to your podcast platform, this is all the beginnings of digital ministry. You're impacting people for the Kingdom digitally through your teachings and through the Word of God which has the power fo change lives, right?
But since all of this stuff is two-dimensional, we need to do some important things and implement some strategies in order to shape digital ministry. Here are a few questions you need to be asking yourself as you go about working through this process:
Questions To Ask In Your Strategizing
What Do I Want Them To Know?
This is where you're going to decide on exactly what it is that you're posting or sharing. Are you posting one of your sermons? Are you posting a graphic with a Charles Spurgeon quote? Are you posting a Bible verse quote graphic related to your recent sermon or small group study topic? Whatever it is, you're posting it for a reason and for a specific purpose.
What Action Do I Want Them [My Audience] To Take?
If you're posting a meaningful quote, you're probably hoping that it will elicit some feedback in the comment threads, not to mention some likes on Facebook or Instagram and things of that nature. But ultimately, the real action that you want them to take is to SHARE these things (sermons, quotes, Bible verses, etc.) and not just share them digitally, but share them in their daily life — share them IN THE REAL WORLD outside of social media.
You want your church (and other social media followers) talking about the Sunday sermon or the devotional or the Bible verse at their workplace, in their classroom, among their friends, etc. Then ministry is happening all over in places you didn't even know or think that it would happen all because of your faithful efforts in the digital sphere. And you never know where is can lead or how it can impact someone for eternity. A student's life or soul could literally be saved because of an Instagram or Facebook post. The more digitally and readily accessible that content is, the easier it will be for your church to share the content in real life with their friends, family, coworkers, etc.
What Are The Next Steps?
This is what it all comes down to — using your digital platforms to not only bring people into church and regular attendance, but to bring them into regular discipleship and small group opportunities for spiritual growth. Next Steps is Ok, I found your church online and I really like it and want to attend now. What else can I do or what can I get involved in?
So just to wrap this out, I encourage all of you — communicator, techie, pastor, elder, teacher, volunteer — to have an understanding that the Communications Ministry of your church is precisely that: It's a ministry. It can be and so often is used by God to move the hearts and minds of people into pursuing a relationship with Him; and also provides a platform for your church to engage with and connect with people in a realm where the Enemy would love to devour them.
But we have the hope of the Gospel. And that's why we can be and must be a light there, pointing people toward Jesus, guiding them into church attendance and discipleship.