Making connections is paramount in life. From faster, more effective communication to deeper, more engaged community, the promise of connecting online in the 21st century can seem fantastic.
And while it’s true that technology itself isn’t the answer, churches around the world are leveraging the power of social technologies to better connect, engage, equip and mobilize their congregations for the work of the Gospel.
But in this day and age, we need to be focused on using the virtual to deliver real life impact.
“(In this guide,) we’re talking about people moving from isolation into the embrace of Christian community and from the sidelines to the heart of ministry activity,” according to the authors of the ministry guide, Building Disciples Through Engagement.
“We’re talking about technology being used to build relationships, equip disciples of Jesus and help them to move together in one direction, living as the light of Christ in a darkened world.”
There a several key things to address when discussing building disciples through engagement, but there are a few which are essential.
Structurally within the church, communication is about partnership, not control. However, some methods and tools for communication can be very impersonal. Even when one’s heart is in the right place, ineffective communication can make people feel as though they’re unimportant, or even worse, as if they’re just a means to an end.
Good Communication is Relational
“Outlets such as church websites or Facebook pages can be great information tools for people interested in getting to know a little about your church prior to visiting. But, they have finite effectiveness in connecting people into the real, dynamic life of your community,” continued the authors.
“As a result, many churches are seeing the necessity of a more private, community-oriented social network to enable truly effective, high value communication.”
According to the Building Disciples Through Engagement guide, this “relational communication,” as it has been deemed, does four important things:
- Builds real life relationships
- Enables people to know and be known
- Provides opportunities to take action
- Moves people from the margins to the center
Best Practices for Digital Communication
“Good communication is good communication, no matter how you slice it. So, don’t be intimidated by that one little word, digital. The things that make you an effective communicator elsewhere are still of value. There are, however, some unique challenges and opportunities in the digital world,” according to the authors of the ministry guide, Building Disciples Through Engagement.
So, follow these few best practices to help you avoid common pitfalls and enable you to make the most of your communication efforts.
1. Focus on the mission.
Don’t put the focus on methods, because methods are disposable. Get to the heart of the matter.
Jesus has given your church an eternally meaningful mission. Be sure to explain why your church needs a private social network and keep the focus on how it will help your church accomplish the mission.
2. Never think your communication is done.
If you’ve been a leader for long, you probably understand this point far too well. You can’t say something once and expect it to stick with everyone. You’ve got to continually remind people of what’s important. Thankfully, digital tools make effective communication very inexpensive and also make it easy to mobilize other people to distribute your communications for you. There’s no need to do all the work yourself. Usually you just need to ask people to help you accomplish the set goals.
3. Invite people to interact.
Interaction is no longer an option, it’s a necessity. The digital tools available today give you an amazing opportunity to invite people to join a conversation. While it might initially seem like more work, the return is far greater than the investment. Your interaction and sincere listening will help create an engaged community. You’ll probably discover gifts and abilities you didn’t realize people had, and you might just learn from others along the way too.
4. Cultivate meaningful relationships.
The speed and simplicity of digital communication can sometimes lead to overuse and misuse.
As a leader, it’s your job to show the way and help people understand the methods being used to reach the destination. By asking good questions, intently listening and steering conversations toward real relationships, you’ll be leading by example. Ask other leaders to do the same. Together, you’ll build a community of well-connected and meaningful relationships.
5. Provide opportunities for meaningful action.
A church social network makes it easier for you to delegate responsibility, without sacrificing accountability. So, rather than feed the impulse of consumerism, give people opportunities to get involved. It can be as simple as sharing stories of the everyday, informal ministry happening within your church and inviting people to get involved in the opportunities around them. Remember, you’re building a culture and cultures celebrate what they value. If you value the active engagement of your whole church in ministry work, celebrate it!
One way you can do this is through ACS Technologies’ service, The City.
Relational Communication in Action
Westover Hills Assembly of God has been using The City for 10 months and more than half of their congregation of 4,500 people are using it. However, it only took their “City” four months to come alive. A serious car accident threatened the life of a young adult, and one of the pastors posted a need for prayers and meals. God’s people love to serve when given the chance. Before the staff were fully mobilized, the congregation took action, praying for the young man and serving his family. It was a moment when many of the ministry leaders said to themselves, “Hey, this works!” When a seven year old needed a heart transplant, members used The City to share the need and care for the family. The ease of communication allowed them to coordinate themselves and serve the family. The church began taking care of the older siblings and feeding the family while they were busy tending to their sick child. Westover Hills is called to share life and encourage each other in faith 24/7. The City helps them do that.
Let Us Help You Better Communicate
ACS Technologies can help you engage new members while going deeper with those already in your congregation.
Whether they’ve just walked through your front door or they’ve been quietly warming a seat for years without engaging, the key to a healthier, thriving body is getting people connected and properly assimilated. When you do, ultimately you’ll spread the Gospel more effectively.
To learn more about building disciples through engagement and put best practices to use, including stories of how other churches have succeeded, download Building Disciples Through Engagement today.
You can also learn more by visiting http://bit.ly/1vfH5Ct.