One of my Luther Seminary class assignments this Spring entailed interviewing ministry leaders on their use of digital tools both for personal and ministry purposes. I have compiled these interviews below, derived from three different pastors and one worship director. They all offer their take on what tools work for them and for what purposes.
For this pastor, Facebook serves as their main source for digital outreach. YouTube is their means for posting the weekly messages as well as any midweek teaching such as a small group study. Snapchat is a tool to offer others those quick updates on the things they are doing, where they are, news or ministry insights.
PlanningCenterOnline functions as the behind the scenes, administrative worship planning and organization tool. Their church has a web site which offers resources intended for both current church members and speculators or visitors. They also have a personal website too meant for requesting weddings and/or consultations.
They definitely understand digital tools are very helpful for communication. They have a church web site, a church Facebook page, weekly emails for constant contact, a PDF of their church directory, they use online signup for events at Eventbrite.com or Evite.com.
They know having a laptop with an internet connection is a great teaching tool to show pictures during bible studies, such as mikveh when teaching about baptism, maps when referring to sites in the Holy Land, etc. They can also use video clips or show other pictures for illustrations. A laptop can even substitute words for prayer or songs, things that used to require physical prints.
The internet is very helpful as a research tool. They are able to find content from distant libraries they would not otherwise have easy access to. They can find ideas they might never think of otherwise – whether for worship, outreach or more.
Within their church, they setup monitors to be an information center. They set it up to run slides on a loop that give people information on events or other areas of ministry.
With so many digital tools available and so many more still coming, they are always looking for more ways to take advantage of technology and how it can benefit ministry operations. They know that traditionally, churches lag behind technological changes, and in this case it is a bad thing. Their aim is to be current with technology.
This pastor believes their church is pretty creative in their use of digital tools. They have a Facebook page. It is the tool they use primarily as a reminder of things coming at their church, to share pictures of things that have happened at their church, and to periodically post music, poems or quotes that they find thoughtful and engaging. They use the events option on Facebook to invite people to specific events that they think need more exposure than their usual weekly email in Mail Chimp.
With Mail Chimp, they send out one email a week, offering details of upcoming meetings, sermons series, events, announcements, etc. This communication is for anyone who subscribes with their email for updates. The email itself is an interface to get the end user to their website.
Their website is hosted and created with Square Space. It is designed for visitors. Events, services, the church, mission, vision and values are detailed on the website. This tells the user the need to know stuff about the church. Outside of the Google Calendar embedded in their website, not much is designed for the person who attends the church already. It is designed to offer a sleek, professional and engaging first impression with others.
They are also on Twitter, although they say it is difficult to amass enough followers to make an impact. They use it mostly to promote events they are hosting with partners like Magers and Quinn Booksellers. Magers and Quinn has a chance to tag them in their tweet, giving them both exposure and free advertising.
They host their sermon audio on SoundCloud. This tool works for sharing their sermons on the website.
Finally, the technology they use for each service in the sanctuary is 100% digital. They have no physical soundboard. They use Logic to automate every transition between lights, microphones, instruments, projectors, sound, and video. It is all built before the service, and then with a click of a button, an entire “scene” can change. It is high speed and works well for them.
This worship director feels the digital tools they use are invaluable and quite numerous.
They also use PlanningCenterOnline, an online web-based program for scheduling people and communicating with them regarding changes to services or events. This tool works with email to let others know of things to be aware of. For example, this is used to update them on music choices or changes.
ProPresenter is a software application that is used for setting up weekly playlists that include songs, videos, slides for scripture and other items for services. It projects words for the congregation on the front wall, and it projects the music charts and words onto a back wall for the band members.
Facebook is used primarily for posting anything to promote the church, its events or services coming up or happening currently. It is also a way to add personal notes to how a service was received or touched them or others.
These pastors and worship directory have all found value in making use of digital tools for personal and ministry purposes. Some of the tools they use overlap and some are unique to them. All of them seek to make technology work well for them in their particular context.
Fitting the tools for the context is the key to making any digital tool usage worthwhile.