It is time for some old dogs to learn a few new tricks.
For the first time we are seriously evaluating how we use technology for ministry. Last week, churches all across America scrambled to learn how to stream their service on Facebook live. I have never seen so many webinars offered for pastors in a single week. Many pastors preached to an empty sanctuary, except for a single phone on a tripod that sent the whole sermon to Facebook Live.
Now that the scrambling has stopped, it is time for churches to think critically about how they will serve their congregations through technology in the coming weeks. People still crave community, personal connection, and relationships.
The simplest answer is to do your normal program, record it, and upload it to the internet. For the majority of churches, this will be the route and strategy taken.
While this may be the easiest option, I would argue it is not the best. Social platforms all have their own language, culture, and audience. Furthermore, how the public engages with digital content is much different than engaging in real life. Now is not the time to duplicate an in-person event on the internet, but now is the time to create meaningful worship and teaching content specifically for digital platforms.
The message of the gospel remains the same, but the medium has shifted.
Let’s go back in time. If you switched from using the telegraph to the telephone, I imagine the presentation of your message would drastically change. There is no way anybody would take their telegraph sermon and directly transfer it to a telephone sermon. The technology is too different, and the audience receives the message too drastically different.
The same concept applies when comparing in-person events to digital events. The audience reception is too different to keep the presentation the same.
Create a strategy that allows you to share the gospel, create community, build relationships, and teach the Bible within the digital culture. Learn the digital culture like a missionary would learn the culture of another country.
Instead of preaching from the pulpit to an empty room, record the sermon in pieces from different locations. Look into the camera, just as you would if you were recording a video for YouTube. Instead of recording a Bible study lecture, use tele-conferencing software like Zoom to have remote Bible studies. Use group chat applications to discuss Bible reading plans.
Create resources that others can download to save for later. Provide families with ways to worship as a family in their homes in conjunction with the pastor’s teaching. Now is the time to experiment and try new things because that is what every industry is having to do.
I believe there are two great positives for churches that will come from this semi-quarantine. First, people are realizing how much they crave community. Even introverts are hoping for a little quality time with others. You never realize how much you need something until you do not have it.
Second, churches will have to learn a few new tricks in the digital world. This new strategy that churches must develop over the next few weeks will pay great dividends when it can be rightfully reunited with in-person gatherings. The coronavirus may be hurting churches right now, but I pray and believe we will come out stronger on the other side.