Church Revitalization: Digital Ministry
Church Revitalization: Digital Ministry
A few years ago, I was making phone calls to invite people to an event that my church was putting together, but none of the college students and young professionals answered my phone calls. A few days later, I discovered that they were communicating with each other almost instantly via SMS (text messaging) and via social media such as FaceBook. Once I started inviting them via their communication channels, the events were full of young people. I was again struck by how our ways of communicating have radically changed in the past few years.
Technology has transformed every corner of our modern life; people chat online, work online, shop online and make friends online. Yet, our church has been lagging behind. Technology is often viewed with fear and disapproval - as something that should not have a place in the church. This unwillingness to change has made the church incapable of understanding and connecting with today's culture. The rigid mindset that “we were just fine without new technology” has isolated the church. One of my colleagues, invited to speak at my church’s anniversary celebration, said beautifully, “We’re repeatedly putting the same input into the equation and expecting a different result!”
Digital Ministry extends:
Digital ministry starts from the recognition of this cultural disconnect between the church and the world. On the surface, digital ministry may be setting up church websites, creating pastors' blogs, holding online committee meetings, using video clips in worship service, and diligently keeping the church's Facebook and Twitter accounts updated. However, digital ministry is much more than just dressing up the church windows with modern technology. The essence of digital ministry is bringing people together in the way that really makes sense to them. It is about connecting and building meaningful relationships among those who are living their lives immersed in a culture that revolves around innovation. It is about revitalizing and reconnecting the church to the world in a culturally competent manner.
Digital ministry extends preaching, worship, spiritual care, spiritual formation, prayer, evangelism, and other manifestations of grace and takes our congregants to another level, enabling the people to overcome limitations in traditional ministry in gathering, nurturing, exploring, and sharing their faith. Digital ministry also creates online and offline ministry practices that have their basis in traditional ministry but are newly shaped by the relational characteristic of digital culture. At the end of the day, the purpose of digital ministry is to cultivate organic belongingness that fosters naked experience of acceptance, which in turn will build up a healthy body of Jesus Christ and grow His disciples.
It is crucial to understand digital ministry not merely as another option, but as an essential process of cultural interaction that is deeply relational and collaborative as we integrate digital technologies into our faith communities. Conversations between ministers and parishioners over Facebook are instantaneously seen by their friends, and the number of those Facebook friends can be in the thousands and even tens of thousands. The ripple effect is immeasurable and incomparable with any other means of communication and networking that has existed before. Of course, there will be unexpected side effects with which we will have to deal, and starting a new paradigm of ministry will be challenging. However that should not prevent us from utilizing these invaluable opportunities for ministry. Once we overcome the first hurdles and our own fear, I believe we will meet endless possibilities for healthy relationships and many doors to the future for our church and our mission will be opened.
Contributed by Rev. Paul Moon, Pastor of Broken Builders