Why the Church Needs Virtual Ministry
Because of the global pandemic, Amazon is hiring 100,000 workers to cope with a massive surge in e-commerce. As many industries see painful losses over the next few months, online shopping providers and online providers of whatever improves people's lives will be in high demand. This is as true for the church as it is for any service provider.
The Need is the Call.
Even before the coronavirus hit, our Christian presence on YouTube, social media, and podcasting was lagging far behind. Now that most people are stuck in their homes, the need for thoughtful, encouraging, evangelistic digital content is even greater. The barriers to entry are low (it costs nothing to post a clip of yourself to Tik Tok or YouTube, and nearly everyone has access to a camera + Internet), yet many pastors and priests are largely motionless when it comes to digital content creation.
This makes sense.
Many Christian leaders are under-resourced, and the coming recession isn't going to help. But with many services and public events cancelled for the next few weeks, maybe even months, Christian leaders have an unprecedented opportunity to invest in the power of digital technology to minister to their flock. The time is now, as people face isolation, economic hardship, and discouragement.
To those who want to begin digital evangelism or digital discipling, "Do not be afraid! From now on, you will be catching men"(Luke 5:10). That's the encouragement that Jesus gave to Simon Peter, and it's a good word for those newly embarking on spiritual outreach through the Internet. I hope and pray that many of us will step up to this challenge.
Let's get specific. Here are some suggestions for Christian leaders.
Evaluate your communication channels and decide if you want to focus on a couple of existing channels, or open up a new one. Do you have a younger audience or congregation, but a limited social media presence? Consider creating and sharing more spiritual enrichment and pastoral guidance through Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube. Take time to respond to people's comments.
Let your face be visible and your voice audible, whenever possible. More and more, people are responding to (and engaging with) video and podcasts. Limited equipment isn't an issue. There are low-cost ways to record and upload these things.
Send step-by-step instructions for video conference calls, and set up dedicated office hours for virtual meetings with the people you are responsible for. Ask them about their needs, and make special effort to determine the needs of vulnerable, less connected people. Free survey tools are a good way to collect information and learn who in your network may be available to volunteer for needs that arise.
You're Not Alone.
Maybe the above suggestions are outside your wheelhouse, or you feel overwhelmed by the idea of going virtual with your ministry. Maybe you just don't have the time. That's okay. But please don't give it up altogether. At the very least, spend ten minutes brainstorming about how you can move one or more of your services to a digital medium.
And if you'd like help from a committed Catholic Christian and full-time creative
Kathryn Elliott is the founder and owner of E-Pulpit, providing creative services to faith leaders, churches, and businesses for the digital age.