Saturday, February 1, 2014

Tapping Tech for Jesus in Smaller Churches

Guys love tech. It's kind of built into our DNA. Women use tech because it helps them connect with others. That's built into their DNA. It's time the tech heads in our churches get together with the communications experts who know what to do with this gift of technology to the work of winning souls for Christ.

Only a few churches have experimented with podcasting sermons. Most thanks to the General Conference at least have a template website. Not a lot of smaller churches do this sort of thing, however. A "media" department is assumed to be something only for large churches with large budgets. What can a small church do?

It turns out - quite a lot. But most of the time we go about it the wrong way. Too often, we build a media-based ministry in the same way a rolling snowball picks up rocks and sticks and leaves. It's not a good way to start anything, be it business, ministry or military operation.  The first step to any endeavor is to first figure out what you want to do. The first thing you should do, then, is to sit down with interested people including your pastor and the communication director, youth leader and anyone who needs to connect with people.

First:  Create goals for the media ministry.  These goals are NOT lists of equipment you need to buy. These goals are long term goals regarding who we want to share the Good News with through this ministry, what we want to tell them, when we want to do all this, where we want to reach with our tech-based ministry and how will the ministry help the local church accomplish it's own goals. Think in terms of five to ten year goals. These are target for which you reach, even though right now your reach may fall very short of what you are reaching for.  Here's a sample goal:

Goal 1:  To make Townville SDA Church's Sabbath Services available to everyone in our city and the surrounding county.

Goal 2:  To reach our non-attending members, shut-ins and ex-members and draw them back into the life of the church.

Goal 3:  To expand the TSDA Church's communication resources so that more people know what is going on at the church and can be included in the life of the church.

Goal 4:  To develop the tech-resources of the TSDA Church in a strategic way that most effectively utilizes existing technologies, low-cost resources and innovative strategies to accomplish the church's goals for communication with and inclusion of all church members and members of our local community.

Goal 5:  To develop human resources with tech skills in the TSDA Church through recruiting, training and empowering church members with an interest in and aptitude for technical work.

Second: Create objectives for those goals.  Once you know who your target is, what you want to tell them, when, where you'll aim and how you'll work with the church as a whole, it's time to break down each goal into three or more objectives that will help you reach your goals.  These objectives should be clear, measurable and achievable. There will be milestones included as you map out the strategies for each objective that establish a timeline for completion of the objective.  For instance, here are sample objectives for one of our goals:

Goal 1:  To make Townville SDA Church's Sabbath Services available to everyone in our city and the surrounding county.
  • Objective 1: The Media Ministry team will make weekly church services available to all members and interested people in the parish served by TSDA (Smith County). 
  • Objective 2: The Media Ministry team  will upgrade the TSDA website so that it acts as an information clearing house for and link to all church communications, activities, ministries and services. 
  • Objective 3: The Media Ministry team will work with the music ministry team to produce and make available high quality recordings of musical performances by member artists and visiting artists as permitted by copyright laws and regulations.
  • Objective 4: The Media Ministry team will develop technology to support an interactive online ministry such as live streaming Bible Studies, Sabbath School Classes and peer-to-peer counseling.
Third: Create strategies for accomplishing each objective.  This part is where the rubber meets the road, but once you work through the process of creating goals and objectives, this is a lot easier.  You'll have to work out the timing - which comes first, second and so forth. You'll also have to deal with identifying what is doable and what is, for now, out of reach and come up with strategies for working around it with other technologies.  For instance, you may have to start with podcasts and work your way up to live-streaming over time.  The technology is out there. You may have to use anything you can find at first, but over time, you'll be able to make things work more smoothly and to develop more of your own resources.  You may have to use rented resources for a while until you can afford a heavy broadband connection and your own server farm. You may never get there if you have a small budget. Remember, it's not the tech that's most important.  That's out there. It's growing the people who know how to use it and making them a key part of your ministry team. Treat them with respect and work with them and they'll do amazing things for you.

Here's an example of a couple of strategies for one of the objectives above:

Objective 1: The Media Ministry team will make weekly church services available to all members and interested people in the parish served by TSDA (Smith County).

  • Strategy 1: Create a weekly audio podcast. Raise money to purchase sound recording software and required recording and computer equipment. Obtain cost estimates. Approach members for donations. Set up equipment. Train 4 media ministry team members to make podcasts. Set up website link on church website from which weekly Mp3 podcasts can be downloaded. Begin uploading weekly sermon/services podcasts by January 15 2014.
  • Strategy 2: Create weekly video podcast. Raise money for good two camera video recording system with editing board. Obtain cost estimates. Approach members for donations. Set up equipment. Train four media ministry team members on the video equipment. Set up church website links to weekly video podcast. Begin uploading weekly video podcasts of sermons and services by January 15, 2015.
  • Strategy 3:  Create weekly live-streaming video broadcast via the web.  Obtain cost estimates of streaming services and equipment/software needed to produce the broadcast. Raise money to cover any equipment costs. Get live-streaming fees included in church budget. Set up link to live-streamed broadcasts on website. Train four media ministry team members to operate the live-streaming feeds. Begin weekly live-streaming by January 15 2016.
Notice I gave the team 3 years to go from nothing to live-streaming. You can beat that easily with off-the-shelf resources, but training and fund-raising will take some time. Notice also that the point of the strategies is to progressively provide more and more inclusive media formats, audio, recorded video and finally live video and to do it as quickly as possible. The podcasts will still be available in audio and video (some people like to listen while walking, so don't dump the audiocasts). With the live-streaming and video podcasts, if someone misses the live-stream, they can still see the services.

For people who are shut-ins, the elderly, people with health problems, their absence from church services is not always by choice. - who would like to look in on the church every week as well. Step 1 in outreach is to reach out beyond the walls of the church. Who knows, we might even get some members back if we let them peek in the windows every week to see what is going on. Otherwise, the imagination concocts all sorts of unpleasant scenes from the memories of why they left us in the first place. Let our displaced brothers and sisters see the Graham Church grow in front of their eyes. Let them see the children taking part, the youth taking their place in church leadership alongside the members. Let them see that new faces are being welcomed into fellowship.

The technology is not that difficult, even for streaming of church services, pod casts and downloadable videos. When you think of the area that Yelm and Graham serve, the Internet is a really effective way to serve them. Building a TV tower to broadcast 3ABN and Hope channel is really expensive and operation costs are pretty high too.  There are satellite resources for that.

BUT, a link on the church website to saved podcasts or videos or even a video stream on Sabbath mornings would do as much, if not more, especially if isolated church members knew that for the price of a tablet computer they could sit in their chairs at home and attend church virtually. (add the link to the SDA offering site and they could even pay their tithe and offerings while they are at it).

A simple link next to the video button would allow our lost members to request a pastoral visit, to submit a prayer request or even to have a sabbath chat with fellow church members. Why aren't we doing that?  I do six or seven chats with Adventists every Sabbath. Some have drifted away. Some are in trouble with mental health issues, family issues and such. Some just feel disconnected from the church. What a witness we could be if we sought out the lost via the Internet.  It would also give you more jobs to engage church members who are just riding the bench because they don't know what to do or are too shy to press forward to volunteer.

As this world winds down, we have to stop thinking of our church in terms of who shows up on Sabbath morning. We lose more members that way. If we think of our church as a base for the work of reaching souls for Christ, for doing good for those in our communities and for our church members who may not be able to get themselves there for services, then we might find our grasp could have exceeded our reach all along.

We could even do video-conferenced Sabbath School lessons in small groups. All it would take would be a few Skype accounts people could check in to. We'd even be able to see each others' faces.  God has given us a tool that may become ever more important as the enemy bears down on God's people in the last days. As Martin Luther once said when he was criticized for setting the words of a hymn he'd written to a German drinking song, "Why should the devil have all the good tunes."

My thought is, "Why should the devil have all the good tools?"

© 2014 by Tom King

No comments:

Post a Comment