Brian Houston (pastor of Hillsong Church) is know for occasionally saying
“I’m not preaching to your Sunday, I’m preaching to your Monday”
Translation: I’m trying to give you helpful advice that you can use not just in church on Sunday but all throughout the week.
But what if we modified that statement?
I’m not preaching to your Sunday, I’m preaching to you on Monday
By changing the “your” to “you on” we have opened up a radical new opportunity for discipleship.
What if I could preach to you Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday again?
If we use the online content distribution tools where people are already putting their attention then we might be able to get some form of the message of Jesus through to them every day per week.
It won’t be a church service everyday, in fact it might look like this
Sunday – 1 hour church service
Monday – 5 minute YouTube video
Tuesday – 10 second SnapChat photo
Wednesday – 6 second Vine video
Thursday – a 2 minute read Medium post
Friday – An inspiring quote on Instagram
Saturday – A personalized tweet
Sunday – Church again
Is that better than?
Sunday – 1 hour church service
Sunday – Church again
My ideas are controversial to some people…I get that. I believe that the Sunday service isn’t quite hitting the spot with today’s generation and that there is a world of opportunity to reach people with the gospel online.
When I discuss this with people is it not happily accepted. Standard preaching as we know it has been around for thousands of years, why should it change now?
The biggest response I get back from people is that “X Social Media platform isn’t the best way to communicate with people, I can communicate my message much better through a sermon, or through social media platform Y”
I get that, and I completely agree.
Sometimes a 6 second vine video doesn’t cut it when you are trying to explain the message of the gospel or some doctrinal principle.
But I think by answering with this response we cut our minds off from so much opportunity. We are so busy fighting to justify why we do what we do that we fail to even question other ways of accomplishing the same goal.
Are You Communicating With Me On Facebook?
Without a doubt Facebook is a powerful platform. Billions of users and so many ways to communicate.
I can make a status update, post pictures, make a video, like to YouTube, write a long blog post, send a direct message. Of all the social media platforms Facebook presents the best opportunity to communicate with people effectively.
However, if you are trying to get through to me then Facebook is a bad strategy.
See I only go on Facebook once every couple of weeks. You can Snapchat me and get a response in 30 seconds but if you are trying to communicate with me through Facebook then you will fail.
Communication is more about attention than it is about presentation
If a pastor preaches a sermon in the woods and there is no one there to hear it is he really preaching at all?
I don’t care about Vine, or Snapchat, or YouTube or The Sunday Service. I am not passionate about one over the other.
What I am passionate about is effective communication and that only occurs when the recipient of what you have to say is paying attention to you.
Instead of just settling for 1 hour of our congregations attention of a Sunday why don’t we aim to capture more of their attention?
What if you could get the message of Jesus into their earbuds every single day? Isn’t that an opportunity you would want to take?
I think that our attempts to perfect the Sunday service experience has taken our attention away from an even bigger opportunity.
Your local church and the mob might have more in common than you think.
A “wiki-leaks for the Italian Mafia” was launched a couple of weeks ago in an attempt to expose the widespread issue of organized crime. It hopes that providing whistle blowers with anonymity will help people share the truth about the dark underworld.
When I think of local churches I see them as a dark hole of the internet.
Want a review of a local business, or even a mothers group and you can find them online, but want to find out about a local church and there is almost nothing out there.
Sure there is the nice church web page with the polished video of the pastors talking about “the church they see” but beyond that there is little information.
Any pastor moves on and it is proclaimed to the congregation as “the will of God for their next season”.
Any talk of burnout, adultery or mismanagement is silenced.
Just as the Italian Mafia is extremely secretive the local church tends to be extremely secretive about its inner workings and operations.
I don’t think the church has that many similarities to the mob (it is more the story of how a recent website launch got me thinking about transparency.)
Generation Y and the Millennial Generation have extremely high BS radars and have an intense demand for transparency in anything they want to be involved in.
Shortly (it may take 5-10 years) I believe we will begin to see a movement of church goers demanding more transparency from the churches they attend.
Privacy is becoming less and less of an issue (the NSA is watching everything anyway) and transparency of organizations is becoming more and more valuable.
There is an opportunity for churches to be using what I call ‘real time social media’ during the Sunday service.
Just because we are all in one space together doesn’t mean we are automatically meeting the needs of each person in that space. Real time social media can help us do this.
This is best explained with a story:
Recently I moved to the Gold Coast with my family. We knew no one and wanted to find a new church.
We went to a church on the weekend and were waiting in our seats for the service to start.
The auditorium was dark, the pre-roll video was on and the music was loud. I had about 10 minutes to kill.
I found the church on Instagram, followed them and then uploaded a video with the caption “First time @generationchurch #excited”
There is an opportunity to connect with people on social media even though you are in the same room as them.
On this big screen before church starts encourage people to follow you on social media. Also encourage people to upload a photo or create a status update and tag you or @ you.
Have someone monitoring social media throughout the service. If someone follows you or mentions you then immediately engage in conversation with them over social media.
Find out who they are, whether it’s their first time and a little bit about them. Ask them where they are sitting and then get someone (in person this time) to go up to them and introduce themselves.
This is a way of breaking the gap in the awkwardness of meeting new people at church.
It also gives you a reference point to follow up with that person after church and find out more about them so you can introduce them to like minded people.
Our entire goal should be to:
A) Connect with this person in a real and authentic way
B) Try our hardest to find out enough about them to connect them with like minded Christians they will enjoy hanging out with
I was watching a keynote of Gary Vaynerchuk (aka ‘The Wine Guy’) where he spoke about his early days online and it got me thinking.
Gary used to spend his days searching twitter for terms such as “pinot grigio” and “Sauvignon blanc” and then chiming in with helpful advice about wine. He didn’t market his brand Wine Library or ask people to buy anything, he just helped them out.
It gave me the idea that as churches (and as Christians) we should be using the exact same strategy to help people feel God’s love.
I recently just spent 30 minutes encouraging people on Instagram who hash tagged the term #whyme. I didn’t tell them Jesus loved them, or that they should give their life to God, or come to my church…but in some cases I let them know I would pray for them.
Here are some hashtags we could leave encouraging words on
Hashtags Christians Should Chime In On
and thats just to name a few (a very few)
We may have just found a new way to serve God and BE the church online instead of just marketing the church online.
When we hear the phrase “serve the church” or “serve in church” 99% of the time it either has to do with the Sunday Service or the lead up to the Sunday Service.
It is sad to think that the only opportunity most people feel they have to ‘serve God’ is to move chairs on a Sunday or direct cars to park in the most efficient manner possible.
There is a wide pool of talent in the world’s churches, a wide pool that goes under utilised. What if we could tap into a small portion of that and direct our efforts online?
What could we do and what impact could we have.
Ideas On How To Serve The Church Online
- Encourage people in need by leaving positive comments on their social media. We can find these people by searching for certain hashtags. (Here’s some hashtags to get your started)…or just pray for them (God hears your prayers)
- Pray with people online in chat rooms or be available for chat through your church website (LifeChurch.tv do this)
- Create useable graphics of bible verses (or encouraging sayings) that people can buy as phone covers, or canvases or simple use as their wallpaper (Pocket Fuel does this amazingly)
- Share your worship music online for people to listen to even though you haven’t spent $30,000 on a professional recording yet
- Record an an encouraging YouTube video using your smartphone and sent it to your friend (it doesn’t have to be about God)
- Connect with a local charity online and offer your specialised services for free (website coder, finance guru, designer etc)
- Write a blog post (or make a video) answering a question people might have about God. Create an online searchable archive for your church or add to an existing one.
These are just a few ideas, and we are in the really early days of the internet still (the internet is still a teenager). I am sure we can come up with some awesome ways we can connect with people and reach them with God’s love online.
A lot of churches have interns. Generally young people (sometimes more mature) who want to serve God in a part time aspect.
However, interns are one of the most under-utilised and abused resource a church has at its disposal. I know because I was an intern for approximately 3 years while I attended Bible College (I have tried to block it from my memory).
Most churches give interns meaningless jobs rather than giving them something powerful to do:
- Meaningless data entry
- General cleaning
- Cold calling congregation members
- Folding papers and putting them into envelopes for the mass church mailout
- Cleaning the mouldy flooded church basement (yup I had to do that, it was gross)
- Mowing the senior pastor’s lawn (this was actually the Senior Pastor’s Intern’s job at Shirelive)
The whole idea of an intern is church is to give them meaningless tasks to do to free up someone who is more important’s time.
I am sorry but I do not believe anyone is so important that they get volunteers (who are trying to serve God) to mow their lawns for them. Pay a gardener.
But what if we flipped that on its head?
What would happen if we gave our interns seriously meaningful work to do?
What Could You Give Interns The Power To Do?
Here are a couple of random ideas:
- Get them to comment on behalf on the church on people social media profile through searching relevant hashtags
- Film them preaching for 2-5 minutes, or sharing a testimony about something powerful that God has taught them or done in their life and put it up on your church YouTube channel (or your church website)
- Get them to write a blog post/article about a certain topic and add it to a searchable online database for people asking questions about God (create the database yourself or add to an existing database)
- Get them to comment on Church follower’s social media profile updates encouraging them and thanking them for being a part of the church
- Empower them with the task of finding two like-minded people in the church who have never met and orchestrate an introduction (use social media to find out what people are like)
- Give them a budget for gifts and get them to use the information on social media to find out what people like and then buy them personal meaningful gifts
That is just off the top of my head.
The mind shift that needs to happen is for us to believe that an intern’s time is actually more important than our time and to focus our energy on helping them be effective.
At the moment it seems the other way around.
If you follow a church, any church, on social media your feed will soon become cluttered with graphics and pictures announcing what is happening on Sunday and which preacher will be ‘bringing the word’.
If the church is really proactive they might even put up a Bible verse graphic once a week and also post about youth on Friday, Women’s on Thursday or some other ‘important event’ that you must know about.
99% of churches (who are even using social media) are using social media to market their church.
The way we communicate on social media is FUNDAMENTALLY different to the way a standard church service is run.
Church is long (1-2 hours) and the majority of the event is spent with most people listening or watching one person speak.
Social media is short (140 characters in some cases) and involves a lot of back and forth. Sure there is ‘me to the masses’ talk where celebrities have 1 million followers on twitter or Instagram, but I would argue that the social media we enjoy the most is when we talk and communicate with our closest friends.
There is an opportunity for churches to use social media to BE the church.
As a church, let’s say someone follows you on Instagram. Why not follow them back and comment on one of their pictures asking them who they are and how they found your church and if you can help them with anything.
Better yet go through their feed and find out a need they might have and let them know you are praying for them, or if possible do something about it.
As a church you could use Twitter search to find people asking questions about “why God did this to me” and you could create a sincere reply.
As a church you can use your knowledge of people’s social media profile to introduce Lonely Person A to Lonely Person B because you noticed they both love watching old Star Trek re-runs and drinking really strong coffee.
The shift is that we are using church as a PUSH marketing tactic, rather than utilising it for what it can do best. Improving our relationships with people.
A NOTE: This can’t be automated, and shouldn’t be.
Social media should be treated as important as the Sunday service, if not more important.
My name is Ryan McLean and I truly believe that the modern church is about to undergo a dramatic shift.
A shift brought about by the fact that the way we communicate with each other has changed so dramatically in the last few years.
With the growing use of multiple social media platforms and the prevalence of smart phones we are now connected to our social graph 24 hours per day.
I now longer call you to see how you are doing or what you have been up to, I can see it on your Facebook wall or you Instagram feed.
The way we communicate with each other AND the way we communicate with large groups of people have fundamentally shifted, and I highly doubt things will go back to the way they were.
With this new form or communication there is new opportunity to meet people with the message of Jesus. It is my goal to help churches work out how to do that effectively.