2.19 billion. That’s the number of monthly active Facebook users worldwide. As the amount of time people spend online continues to increase, the Church has to leverage this space to make disciples. The very thing Jesus told His Church to do was to make disciples, and if people are spending their time online, the Church should be there making them into disciples.
What is Digital Discipleship?
Digital discipleship is just that — discipleship that happens digitally. It’s where the Church leverages technology for the sake of spreading the Gospel and helping followers of Jesus grow in their faith and knowledge of God’s word.
Most churches are, at the very least, recording audio of their sermons and posting them online and on podcasting platforms like iTunes. If you aren’t doing that and want to find out how, give Nate Smoyer’s article on how to do so a read. But that’s only one small part of digital discipleship. In fact, that’s just scratching the surface of the possibilities.
While I will be giving you a number of ideas on how to do digital discipleship, the key is having a strategy. Because without one, you’ll end up with a jumbled mess.
3 Questions to Shape Your Strategy
We often shape the purpose around a sermon series and even an individual sermon by asking ourselves some variation of these questions:
What do I want them to know?
What do I want them to do?
What can we do to create the next steps?
These same questions can be used to frame your digital discipleship strategy. As you create content, what is the theological truth or truths that you want people to walk away from their device knowing? What is it that you want them to go and do? What could be their next step once they go through this specific experience?
At our church, The Crossing, we have a cyclical discipleship model (which translates well to our digital discipleship strategy) that is focused on connecting everyone to a relationship with Jesus. We do this by focusing on three things:
Bringing people in
Growing people up
Sending people out
So as people go through the discipleship journey, they will be brought, grown, and sent. As this happens, they will begin bringing others, growing others, and sending others.
When you are thinking through your digital discipleship strategy you should ask yourself, what are we trying to accomplish as a church and how can that be leveraged digitally?
11 Ideas to Utilize in Your Strategy
Once you have your strategy locked down and you know what your goals are, you can begin creating content or repurposing existing content to be utilized in your digital discipleship ministry.
1. Put Your Sermon Audio Online
If you use WordPress for your church website, a free tool to make sermon audio into a podcast that can be submitted to iTunes, Stitcher, and other platforms is Blubrry. It’s a plugin that is easy to use and easy to set up.
2. Put Your Sermon Video Online
This is going to cost some money, but it’s worth it. You’ll want to choose the right video camera, edit the video, and publish it online. If you’re not familiar with how to edit video, check out this behind the scenes video on editing.
3. Put Class Audio Online
If your church already has a form of classes, then utilize that content online in addition to in person. You’ll want to edit the audio appropriately and get a good audio recorder. Here’s a great one that connects to your iPhone.
4. Start a Blog for Your Church
Do you have someone on staff that can write? Have a volunteer in your church that can write? I’m sure you do. Employ a team of people to produce encouraging blog posts that further your strategy.
5. Encourage Staff to Start Their Own Blogs
People connect more to people than they do brands. Whether you like it or not, your church can be perceived as a brand even though there are people behind its content. If you are in a multi-staff environment, encourage other staff members to start their own blogs.
6. Start a Monday Morning Vlog Connected to the Sermon
If you’re not a preacher, allow me to let you in on a little secret: most times what was said in the sermon wasn’t everything that could have been said. What I mean is that there was probably a story, illustration, or angle that your pastor could have taken in his message, but didn’t due to time. Utilize that unused content in vlog form to give people encouragement on Monday morning.
7. Start a 30-day Challenge Through Automated Email
Email is powerful. People pay attention to what comes into their inbox. So why not leverage that to help grow people’s faith? Create 30 short and to the point emails devoted to challenging your congregation in some specific way and then tell people what is happening. Give them the chance to opt-in (online and in-person) and utilize automated email marketing through Mailchimp (it’s free for up to 2,000 subscribers) to deliver the 30 emails over a 30-day period. Email automation does cost $10/month. Here’s how one church is doing it well!
8. Create Video Shorts from Sunday’s Sermon
Instead of only posting the entire sermon video online and on social media, edit down a short clip that addresses a single idea. Life.Church (formerly LifeChurch.tv) does a great job at this on their Facebook page. We’ve recently begun doing this as well on our YouTube page and Facebook page.
9. Create Encouraging Visual Graphics for Social Media
Never underestimate the power of a picture. Never underestimate the power of a short statement. It just may be the encouragement someone needs to approach God anew in the midst of a tough situation. I love Canva for this. It’s one of the 20 great tools and apps for pastors.
10. Record Video of Someone Telling Their Story
People resonate with hearing other people’s story of how God is working in their life. Story is powerful so use it. You’ll have to be on the lookout for opportunities to do this, but it’s worth it. Record the video, upload it to YouTube or Vimeo and then share it on your social media channels and in your church blog.
11. Write and Publish Original Worship Songs
I know. Easier said than done. But if you have the people to do it, why not?
Digital Discipleship Should Only Be a Part of Your Overall Strategy
Digital discipleship is only a thing because people spend time in the digital world. The great thing is, though, people are real and we can still have in-person discipleship as our normal vehicle for growing people’s faith. The key is creating a strategy that works alongside your overall discipleship strategy and then creating content that will help move people forward in their walk with God.