Exploring digital ministry for your church
"Digital ministry, meet people where they are and they’ll come to where we are." A reflection by Tim Hobbs, filmmaker and consultant
The last 20 months have shown us there are now two “C” words that we as the church dislike the look of: “Covid” and “Change”. The first has led us to see we must embrace the second for our doors to remain open.
In the United States around 90 per cent of people will explore faith online for a year before walking through the doors of a church, and the UK percentage is not too dissimilar from that.
As we spiralled into the pandemic, the wider church for the most part was caught lacking. Many had not invested much, if any, time or resources into any form of online church service, or other digital presence. Sadly, as a result, many either could not reach their members and/or closed their doors. Sadly, some individuals may too have walked away from the church and their faith all together. So how do we adapt moving forward?
One way to achieve this is through making the most of digital ministry. Whichever form that takes is subjective to each organisation and church, as it relies on who your demographic is and how they interact online. Either way we can’t afford to stay in the analogue culture we have grown accustomed to.
Our God is a creative God and He gives us creative means to share the Gospel, in person and online, so why don’t we embrace creative and digital culture to do just that?
My name is Tim Hobbs, based in Leeds. I am the founder of a faith-led video production company and film ministry, Whittle Films. I’ve been honing my craft for many years and will continue to do so for many to come. I know this is my calling, to reach lives for Jesus through well-crafted films. Whittle Films was birthed during April 2020 after years of nudges from God to take more risks. Admittedly in some ways, April last year was not the best of times to launch a business, but in many other ways it was also ideal.
I was blessed to be commissioned to produce the weekly online service for my church, Cornerstone Baptist Church Leeds. I’d dreamt for years of working for my church; to serve in that way using the gifts God gave me still humbles me.
Besides that, I’ve produced video content for Christ-led organisations like UCCF, TLG and Transformations Leeds, helping to create content that disciples other Christians and bringing the good news to the lost. UCCF, for example, have invested significant funds across various digital outlets, employing various professional creatives to produce three years’ worth of video content for university and college Christian Unions. Not only does that serve weekly CU meetings, but it also meets needs for the likes of “commuter students” living at home unable to get to meetings, during the pandemic their attendance rose by around 65 per cent.
Our creator God provides all kinds of means by which we can meet people where they are, so they can know Him as we do. Many people have a smartphone, tablet or laptop, we’re glued to them, so why not utilise them as a vehicle for us to share Jesus?
For me, I seek to see well-crafted films move through, and from, the Church. I seek to see lives changed and re-envision the way we communicate the Gospel, without changing the Gospel itself. But for you, that could be fundraising to improve your website, it could be resourcing and discipling a creative or young visionary within your gatherings with a platform to engage with believers and non-believers online, in a way nobody else does…their time is not free though, so please invest back in them somehow.
Digital ministry, in any format, is an extension of our physical ministries, not a replacement for them. So, ask yourself how what you are already doing can be enhanced with digital tools before you start new initiatives. Use these tools to invite people to in-person gatherings, but also as a direct means to reach the lost and share the Gospel between Sundays. Put in the effort to make it good, after all we live in a visual and digital age where quality matters. So, whatever you do, do less but do it really well, be active not passive, continually ask yourself the purpose behind it and be consistent.
Questions to ask yourself, your church and/or your organisation:
With a theological focus for our church/organisation, how would an improved digital ministry help us meet people where they are?
Who is our demographic? How do they engage with digital content?
How are we engaging with our members/supporters already beyond Sundays or events?
How can we enhance our digital engagement with members/supporters, and them with us, as an extension of what we’re already doing?
Lastly, part of my ministry and business is to walk alongside organisations to help them figure out what the answers to these questions could be for them, and I love to do that. The good news is that finance doesn’t have to be a barrier. A service I provide is a subscription-based video consultancy and production service. Instead of paying large one-off lump sums, a church or charity would invest in a much smaller monthly retainer to have a set amount of my time every month, to prayerfully explore and create resources that fit their needs, from small group material to a video newsletter and anything in between. It takes away extra jobs for your staff at an affordable rate in a service that can be scaled up or down. To find out more go to whittlefilms.com/churches or email me via firstname.lastname@example.org
Links to resources you may find helpful:
Whittle Films - www.whittlefilms.com
Digital Church Toolkit - www.digitalchurchtoolkit.com
GoChatter - gochattervideos.com
Moving Works - movingworks.org/films
Christian Creative Directory - christiancreativedirectory.com
Stronger Network - strongernetwork.com
Christian Publishing Outreach - cpo.org.uk
Tim Hobbs is a filmmaker who the founded a faith-led video production company and film ministry Whittle Films. Tim is a Baptist church member
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