Creating Space for Meaningful Conversations with Children in the Digital Age

“I dunno,” is an answer you’re probably familiar with if you’re a parent, youth leader, church organiser or teacher.

Sometimes you can’t get kids to be quiet and other times, it’s impossible to get a word from them.  But research shows that conversation is important in helping our children explore their faith (Dollahite & Thatcher, 2008) & (Lee, Rice & Gillespie, 1997).

For this reason, in this article, we’ll explore the importance of creating space for meaningful conversations with kids in a technology-saturated world, and we’ll present you with a few ways to do it.

First of all, we should establish that the value of conversation isn’t measured by how well-spoken our children are, their ability to charm or their social graces. 

We see conversation as having the ability to pass on stories of faith, share our relationship with God, create space for questions and give us opportunities to listen and encourage our children as they navigate the challenges of developing their own relationship with God.

And on the surface, this seems like a simple problem with a simple solution – just have more conversations – however, never has this been more challenging than in the digital age, especially in the face of COVID and the countless restrictions it’s brought with it.

With many of these restrictions, a technology solution has been presented so on top of the screen-time debate that was previously underway, we’ve now added education, family interactions, entertainment and religious gatherings to the entities utilising digital media.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

Our children are being bombarded with the lure of technology everywhere they turn.  Their brains function in a stimuli-saturated environment; then, we ask them to focus, engage, relate, emote and believe in an unseen God.   

We have delivered our children into this world, dotted with the lights of mobile phones, televisions, computer screens, smart watches, smart bathroom scales and smart clothing so now the responsibility rests on us.

We must ask and wrestle with the question:

How can we create space for meaningful conversations with children in the digital age?

Why is conversation important?

From the moment we bring a child into the world, we begin a journey to know them and engage with them.  From our efforts to tickle them and see them giggle with delight to our slow speech designed to help them understand the sounds and rhythms of their mother tongue, our human inclination is toward conversation – talking and listening, giving an answer and getting a response, hearing and reacting.

Even in Jesus’ interactions on earth, we see many examples of conversation (Mark 4:7-42, Matthew 19:16-30).  We see the disciples asking Jesus questions and getting responses from Him. We see Him engaging with people in meaningful conversation. 

It’s through conversation that we explore and expose some of our core values and beliefs.  It is through conversation that parents, mentors and leaders can listen, provide a safe space and when necessary, challenge our thinking.

In their paper Talking about Religion How Highly Religious Youth and Parents Discuss Their Faith, David C. Dollahite, Ph.D & Jennifer Y. Thatcher interviewed 57 highly religious married couples with children in Northern California and North Carolina to understand the impact parent-adolescent conversation has on faith development.  They also looked at different types of conversation patterns and how the parent-adolescent relationship fared from the interaction.  We will explore some of their findings in this article.

One Seventh-day Adventist family, cited by Dollahite, had previously been studied in the paper Family Worship Patterns and Their Correlation with Adolescent Behavior and Beliefs. The initial study found that parents who have worship in which children don’t participate and simply sit and listen had less active faith than those children whose parents had no worship at all.

Making space for our kids to have meaningful conversations is critical.

Photo by Alex Green from Pexels

So, when we’re asking what we can do in a technology-driven world that an algorithm can’t and what we can provide when so much is at their fingertips, one simple answer is conversation.

Conversation not only transmits values from one side, it allows others to evaluate those values and confirm, ponder or reject them.  Conversation provides a platform for relationship building. Conversation is the place for storytelling and self-disclosure.  It is through conversation that we can assure a person in their vulnerabilities and provide the acceptance that someone is longing for.

So, in the midst of busy family life, live-streamed church services and online classrooms, how can we create space for meaningful conversation?

What does it mean to create space?

Creating space is about blocking out the time, choosing the location, creating the silence and developing the intentionality for conversations to happen.  It’s less about limiting screen time for the sake of staying within the Paediatrician Association’s guidelines and more about the intentionality to leave space to spark conversation, spawn a new idea or draw out a question.  It’s about creating the mystery of “what will happen next?” if we were to avoid filling every moment with something.

Creating Space in Time

For churches, creating space in time can be an exercise in evaluating where you’ve created space for your children and adolescents both in your online programming and in unscripted, unrestricted ways about things that are relevant to them.

For Churches

Here are a couple of examples of some ways churches are creating space in time for their children.

Lego Videos

Ben and Herlin Fehlberg of Kellyville Church in Australia were asked to create an Easter video for their son’s Sabbath School class. Knowing the story was going to be told over Zoom, the couple looked around their house to see what they could use to communicate creatively.  

Herlin noted to Ben that they had a lot of Legos that weren’t being using and suggested they use them to tell the Easter story.  From there, they wrote a script, created a set and began recording, later overlaying the recording with a voiceover.

Not only was Ben and Herlin’s video shown during children’s Sabbath School, it was also shown at the main online church service, creating waves among older and younger members.  One young school-aged girl who watched their video joined the conversation by creating her own video based on the biblical story of “The Woman at the Well”.

By intentionally creating space for children in the way they like to communicate, the church created space for engagement and conversation, some of which resulted in kids creating their own lego videos in response to what the Fehlbergs created.

Cell Groups for Kids

Tafa and Maranatha Fidow in New Zealand are part of the leadership team for two cell groups that have been formed between New Lynn Seventh-day Adventist Church and Calvary Community Seventh-day Adventist Church. These groups, aimed at kids aged 5-10 and the other at kids aged 11-14, have found ways to engage and interact with the children in meaningful ways by using the principles of creating fellowship in cell groups in the online space.

One feature Tafa Fidow has been able to use online has been filters, which have let him transform himself into various biblical characters that the children are studying. Using this bit of tech has managed to bring the Bible to life and capture the attention of children in the online space. Additionally, the concept of cell groups for kids, creates an opportunity for children to take part in meaningful conversations in a space that’s been created for them.

Take a look below to see an example of one of the characters he’s appeared as during some of the cell group meetings.

For Parents

As parents, we should note when kids are most likely to engage in conversation.  In this way, we can make a routine so there is a safe place set aside for them to feel comfortable to talk to us.

We should note for ourselves that this may be about limiting not just our children’s screen time but also our own screen time.  This may help our children know we’re open and available to talk when they’re ready.

Creating Space with Silence

Related to Creating Space in Time is the principle of Creating Space with Silence.

Recently, I’ve been training as an organisational coach, and one of the tools we’re equipped with to help people reach their potential is silence.  When it comes to conversation, creating silence is a great way to encourage conversation and leave space for others to speak.

In an article published in the Harvard Business Review titled, If You Want People to Listen, Stop Talking, businessman Peter Bergman advises, “Let other people speak into the silence and listen quietly for the truth behind their words. Then acknowledge what you’ve heard (which is, most likely, more than has been said) and, once the others feel seen and heard, offer your view.”

In Dollahite & Thatcher’s study, they noted that the most effective type of conversation between a parent and child is conversation that is initiated and ended by the adolescent (versus conversation that is initiated and ended by the parent) and is centred on the needs of the adolescent. 

Photo by Tatiana Syrikova from Pexels

On the contrary, Dollahite & Thatcher found when the conversation was initiated by the parent, the adolescents were less engaged in the conversation.  Also, the adolescents tended to check out before the parents were done talking leaving the adolescent feeling the conversation had dragged on after they were interested. This had the effect of causing a negative impact on the parent-adolescent relationship.

Creating Physical Space

In Dollahite & Thatcher’s study, they noted that amongst the 57 families studied, there were a couple of common areas where religious conversations took place.  One place was at home, often at the dinner table.  The second place was in the car, sometimes on the way to religious events, worship services and other events.

Julie Weslake, former Children’s Ministry Director of the South Pacific Division, suggests that parents can create a worship space in their home that designates to kids that special activities happen in that space.

Setting aside a physical space can spark questions around the need for the space and the meaning it has.

Do you as a parent have a special place where you connect and have conversations with your children? Does your church?

Creating Space with Intentionality

As parents, youth leaders and religious institutions look to engage children in a world that is increasingly digital, the question becomes how can we create space for meaningful conversations for children, even if the discussion is initiated online?

Intentionality means planning spaces for children to join in the worship service online or in person, asking for their input and placing intentional pauses in our day.

As churches, when we’re creating content, it’s asking ourselves, “Are we creating space for conversation?” (this could be conversation with adults and with children).  It’s asking ourselves, “Are we giving room for people to chat and engage with one another so the experience isn’t one of someone consuming without processing and engaging?” It’s understanding that people take greater ownership of information if they’re involved in the process of creating it.

This conversation of intentionality naturally leads us into a foundational debate:

Does technology prevent or stimulate conversation?

This is an important discussion for churches, parents and leaders to have, especially as we deal with lockdowns, online church, online small group discussions and ever-present mobile phones.

The answer is “both…and”. Technology can both decrease and stimulate conversation, depending on what we do with it.

However, because building relationships with God and one another are at the core of what we do, we have to find ways to make technology stimulate conversation as churches, parents and leaders.

One example of how this can work can be seen in the Tuis TV Show created by the South Pacific Division’s Children’s Ministry and Adventist Media.

Litiana Turner, creator of the show, describes the purpose of the Tuis as providing a space to make parents the heroes of their children’s spiritual lives by providing a platform for children to engage with their parents as they watch the show.

At the end of each episode, there’s a workbook parents can download with questions they can ask and use to engage with their children.

Access workbook here:
Access workbook here:

The model presented with the Tuis TV Show encourages parents to co-view programming with children and allow the content to be a springboard for conversation. This methodology can be useful with other forms of media as well.

What if we don’t have the right answer?

So, if technology has the ability to stimulate conversation, could it be that something else might stand in the way of meaningful interactions?

Could it be that we avoid conversation because of the fear of what it might uncover — our own vulnerabilities, our questions, our fears and the possibility that we don’t know the right answer.

This may be the biggest elephant in the room when it comes to religious conversations with kids: What if we don’t know the right answer? Or what if they ask a question we can’t answer? Then what do we do?

Pr Daron Pratt of the Australian Union’s North New South Wales Conference says, we as parents often wonder what to do if our child asks us a question we can’t answer.  He advises parents to be authentic and real, directing and seeking.  He encourages us as parents to take a position as a co-learner and explorer with our children.

Another resource commissioned and created by Hope Channel and the Children’s Ministry of the South Pacific Division provides a way for parents to be co-learners with children as they leverage available technology. The show, entitled, The King’s Kids, uses puppets, songs and crafts to present the stories of the Bible in a fun and meaningful way.

Doing the show, the Discovery Bible Reading Method is presented and it encourages parents to ask five questions alongside their children when watching Bible stories or reading them:

1. What is something new you find in this story?

2. What surprises you?

3. What don’t you understand?

4. What will you obey or apply?

5. What will you share with another this week?

These questions teach our kids (and us) to pause and analyse the content they’re consuming and to move it from head knowledge to heart knowledge.

This type of media consumption can be contrasted with sitting down and binge watching one show after the next by themselves on the television, phone or iPad. 

Pausing, co-viewing with our children and creating space in time and with silence allows conversation to be sparked, questions to asked and life principles to be explored. 

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels

Whether you’re a screen-free family or a three-screen family, the objective is to engage with our children and pass the stories of Jesus on to them. So, the idea is to make the technology as interactive as possible by using the technology and not letting the technology use us. 

6 Ways to Stimulate Conversation

  1. Read the Bible intentionally by using a method, like the Discovery Bible Reading Method presented in the King’s Kids to help stimulate conversation.
  2. Use conversation starters from shows like the Tuis and some of the suggestions given on Common Sense Media and the King’s Kids when watching shows and engaging with other technology
  3. Create space in time by creating conversation patterns and rhythms with you children. Find moments to intentionally be available for you children to ask you questions
  4. Use the arts. Pastor Daron Pratt, Children’s Ministry Director for the North New South Wales Conference uses balloon art to connect with kids both online and in-person. He believes there is power in the creative arts as a means to connect with children
  5. Be authentic and real, directing and seeking is the advice Pastor Daron Pratt gives to parents. COVID has placed many parents squarely in the driver’s seat when it comes to spiritually guiding their children and while this is a position many feel parents should be in, it can feel intimidating. 
  6. Find practical ways to connect with children and their parents. Create a cell group for kids, like the Fidow family in New Zealand or use a Whatsapp group to create community and have special places on your website for kids content like Kellyville Kids in Australia.

Adventist Church Online Network Broadcast

To dig deeper in this conversation, click the image below to watch the Adventist Church Online Network broadcast on this same topic… ⬇️⬇️⬇️

Reference List

Bergman, P. (2015). If You Want People to Listen, Stop Talking. Harvard Business Review.

Bowles, N. (2020). Coronavirus Ended the Screen-Time Debate. Screens Won. The New York Times.

Dollahite, D., & Thatcher, J. (2008). Talking about religion how highly religious youth and parents discuss their faith. Journal of Adolescent Research 23(5).

Lee, J. W., Rice, G. T., & Gillespie, V. B. (1997). Family worship patterns and their correlation with adolescent behavior and beliefs. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 36(3), 372–381.

26 Ways to Adapt Your Time-Tested Ideas to the Digital Space

Understanding how to exist in the online space as a church is challenging. Should you post your same church service online? Should you try to follow all the trends and forget everything your church has been doing?

Realistically, sometimes, it’s about creating something new and other times, it’s about revamping what you already have.

Adapting time-tested ideas to the digital space is something we like to think of it as “digital op-shopping”.

If you’re not familiar with op-shopping, think of it like going to a thrift store or going vintage shopping. It’s when something old is given new life, remixed, revamped, revived and renewed.

In this article, we’ll share several ways your church can take some of its time-tested ideas and adapt them to the digital space.

We’d love to hear from you too! Share your ideas in the comment section.


1. Praying live on social media

Each Sabbath morning, at about 7:00 AM New Zealand time, NZPUC Union President Pr Eddie Tupa’i goes live on the Union’s Facebook page and chooses a scripture to pray through.

During this time, he engages with people who are watching online and prays throughout his live stream.

Engaging in prayer is at the heart of our Christian faith. Finding ways to do this regularly, consistently and in a live format can be impactful for the people you minister to online.

How Your Church Can Use This Idea: You can take prayer requests and go live on your church’s Facebook page, Youtube channel and Instagram accounts. Let your church members know you’ll be going live at the specified day and time; make it a regular practice so people expect you there.

The North American Division’s show Let’s Pray offers us an example of how this might work.

Screenshot from Let’s Pray’s Facebook Page

Let’s Pray shares a phone number on the screen and talks with the people on-air . Then, they follow up the conversation with a prayer.

You can do a simple version of this and take requests during the week that are e-mailed or messaged in. Show up each week and pray for the requests you receive live or the ones you’ve received throughout the week.

The most important part is the prayer.

What do you think? How might your church incorporate something like this online?

2. Online prayer meeting on social media

Another option for praying online can be to make the prayer session more like a prayer meeting that has multiple people on the screen. This can be done through a platform like Zoom or Streamyard streamed on to Facebook or Youtube.

How Your Church Can Use This Idea: Entering a Zoom room can seem like an overly intimate, intimidating experience for people, especially if they’re new to your church. Seeing you pray online on one of your social media platforms can make your church seem more accessible. Also, your prayer session may be the first step of awareness someone people may have about your church community and this may be an encouragement for them to get to know and engage further with your church.

Additionally, having a live prayer service may be a great, non-threatening event for your church members to share on their social media platforms.

3. Zoom rooms for prayer

In our previous examples we talked about the benefits of public prayer. When it comes to developing community and prayer consistency, private group prayers can be powerful and Zoom rooms create an ideal environment.

One example of this can be seen from the Sydney Adventist Women at their annual gathering.

During the event, they created specific Zoom rooms for prayer. Each room focused on a specific topic.

Similarly, the Iowa-Missouri Conference has a weekly prayer line each Monday, which provides a space for more intimate, group prayer within a specific community.

How Your Church Can Use This Idea: Your church can schedule a regular prayer session each week and advertise it on its social media accounts.

A good way to interest people would be to share some answers to prayer on your social media account. Also, you can share quotes and resources about what prayer is and the power of prayer. This will give you the opportunity to invite people to your Zoom session for prayer.

This idea gives you the chance to think of how prayer can be used as an opportunity to invite people into community with your church while also providing community to your church members.

4. Teaming up with a prayer partner

Matthew 18:20 tells us where two or three are gathered, God is there with them. When considering time-tested ideas, praying in groups is biblical and powerful.

How Your Church Can Use This Idea: Your church can offer ways for people to find a prayer partner, pray with a group of people or regularly pray for prayer requests that come in.

In doing this, you can create a sign-up box or a matching system. You can even make it a practice to regularly offer people the opportunity to pray with someone.

While it may seem easy on the surface to find a prayer partner, some people need a third party to help facilitate these relationships for them. Your church may be in the perfect position to play the role of connecting people or of regularly inviting people to participate in group prayer meetings.


5. Small groups in home

LifeSpring Adventist Church in Florida is using the time-tested idea of home groups to engage with the online space. (You can read more about them in the article about “How One Church is Doubling Their Engagement from Cell Groups.

LifeSpring calls these small groups cells, and they invite people to choose trusted people they want to be in a cell group with. These groups keep in touch with each other during the week and also are encouraged to watch the “screenings” or Sabbath morning church services together.

The screenings have moments where the service pauses and invites the participants to engage around a discussion or interact with one another on the topic being discussed.

LifeSpring Church is describing these groups as being places where mission will be recaptured. They say, “mission is both proclamation of the Gospel by inviting your neighbors, your co-workers, and your family into your disicpleship cell, and it is also the demonstration of the gospel.”

How Your Church Can Use This Idea: Your church can develop its own small groups where people can engage during the week as well as on Sabbath. If it fits your church, you can find moments to pause during the service for interaction among the people in attendance in a small group or at home.

You can also use the time after the church service or screening to engage in discussion with small groups about the sermon. This method is similar to the one used by the community at Kellyville Church.

6. Virtual visitations

One of the core parts of our faith is the encouragement of one another. Hebrews 10:25 says, “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”

Due to some of the social distancing requirements, visitations can be challenging and restricted. John Boston, Associate Director of Evangelism for the North American Division shared a simple idea of engaging in “digital pastoral visits.”

This could involve regularly reaching out to your online community and offering to chat, have prayer or just check-in.

How Your Church Can Use This Idea: Your church can encourage its members to reach out in this way on their social media pages. Similarly, churches can regularly post on their social media accounts that someone at the church is available for in-person and virtual visits.

7. Shop for people

Because of technology, shopping for others is something you can do from any location, and it is a great, time-tested ministry for your church.

How Your Church Can Use This Idea: Your church can have a place where people can state their needs privately and then find members who are able to help them.

If you find out someone needs groceries, you can go online, order the groceries and have them delivered to their home.

Alternatively, you can buy the things the person needs and drop them by their home. This idea is good because it allows you to live in community and care for those people around you.

Your church can engage its online community in this initiative by letting them know your church can help them. Also, you can let people know that they have the opportunity to help others.

8. Food pantries

Many churches are running food pantries to meet the needs of their local community. This ministry can be time, resource and volunteer demanding so, there are various ways your church can get involved.

How Your Church Can Use This Idea: If your church has a food pantry, find opportunities to communicate to your online community the needs the pantry has, like donations, time from volunteers and help with advertising.

If you’re looking to advertise the pantry to your online community, create regular posts to direct people to the pantry and its hours of operation.

If your church doesn’t have its own food pantry, your can take the opportunity to regular promote the local pantry to provide the resource to your community.

Bible Study

9. Discovery Centre

Studying the Bible and positioning ourselves to hear from God through His word is one of the most important functions of a church. Finding new ways to share Bible study, which is a time-tested idea, presents a new opportunity.

How Your Church Can Use This Idea: One way you can do this is to share specific Bible study courses from the Discovery Centre and other similar ministries.

Additionally, you can run a Bible study at your church and invite people to participate in it. The Bible study can be run directly on your social media page or in a more private setting like Zoom.

There’s even the opportunity to run a hybrid version that combines an in-person element along with an option to attend virtually through one of the online platforms.

Because a closed group may allow you to have deeper discussions, you maybe a a bite-sized Bible study on your public page and then invite people to go deeper with you in the regular small group study.


10. Singspiration

If you’re like many people, you have great memories of songs being sung at camporees, church services, Adventist Youth programs and summer camps.

What if your church took this time-tested idea and found an opportunity to share music online?

Sandra Entermann and Fox Valley Church show ways you can engage in the online space with music. Both Sandra, as an individual and Fox Valley, as a church, take song requests and sing them live on camera.

How Your Church Can Use This Idea: If your church is musically inclined, you can host your own Singspiration, however, if this would be a challenge for your church, then find a sing-a-long like Fox Valley’s or Sandra Entermann’s and share it on your social media platforms.

11. Concerts

One of the most challenging activities to carry out in the virtual space is concerts. Nonetheless, the Ontario Conference of Seventh-day Adventists shared a virtual Concert experience on their Youtube channel, which included almost two hours of singing, playing and harmonising.

How Your Church Can Use This Idea: Similar to the idea about online song services, if your church is musically inclined, you can host your own concert. However, if this would be a big feat, share someone else’s concert or find a place where you can participate in a concert that’s already taking place.


12. Virtual Communion

With the requirements of social distancing, many churches, like Manna Park Church, took to carrying out their communion services online. Recipes were shared with members on how to make the communion bread and and the service was carried out online.

How Your Church Can Use This Idea: Whether your church is meeting in person or a combination of in-person and virtual, you can use this idea to make sure all of your members are included in the communion service. The key is to notify members in advance so they’re aware of the various ways to participate in the communion service.


Seventh-day Adventist Churches have been long-known for helping communities with healthy lifestyle practices. In many churches this ministry is called Health Ministries.

This time-tested idea has an opportunity to make a big impact for your church in the online space.

13. CHIP

The Complete Health Improvement Program (CHIP) is typically run in-person at a church over a span of time.

The program guides participants through health principles and encourages them to make lifestyle shifts that will impact their overall health.

CHIP is developing the possibility that these programs can be run online.

How Your Church Can Use This Idea: To run a CHIP program at your local church, you need to be trained as a CHIP facilitator. If you’ve received training to be CHIP facilitator, additional training will be provided on how you might operate the program online or as a hybrid online/in-person program. To learn more, you can contact the CHIP Organisation.

14. Cooking Demonstrations and Health Seminars

Grace Community Seventh-day Adventist Church‘s Health Ministry refers to itself as Grace Fit. The ministry shares on the church’s Facebook page by demonstrating healthy principles, such as,



Healthy Eating

Your church can use some of these ideas as inspiration for energising your church’s online Health Ministry.

How Your Church Can Use This Idea: You can engage your church’s Health ministries to share tips around healthy living that can be shared on your church’s social media accounts. This can be an exercise program, gardening, healthy eating and even mental health tips. If your church doesn’t have a Health ministries department, you can share the content of other church’s health ministries or the tips from other online resources.

15. Depression & Anxiety Programs

Depression & Anxiety programs can provide mental and emotional freedom for people in your community.

And now, there’s the possibility to run this program online. You can learn more from our interview with Andrew Jasper from the Victorian Conference.

As you’re watching, you can note that one of the major highlights of the interview is that the results from the online Depression & Anxiety program were similar to those who have participated in the program in person.

How to Run an Anxiety & Depression Recovery Program Online

Andrew Jasper, Health Director for the Victorian Conference recently ran an online Depression & Anxiety Recovery Program due to the lockdowns in his area. In this session, he'll share his experience, the results and the challenges. He'll also give you some ideas how you and your church can do something similar.

Posted by Digital Discipleship in the Seventh-day Adventist Church on Tuesday, 29 September 2020

How Your Church Can Use This Idea: If your church is interested in running a Depression & Anxiety Program, you can start by looking up information on Dr. Neil Nedley’s website to learn more about his philosophy.

To run the program, you must take facilitator’s training, which is typically offered by the Health Director at your local Conference office.

If offering the full program is out of reach for your church, you can provide supporting posts on your social media account about how to deal with anxiety and depression and point your community in the direction of another Depression & Anxiety Program or another local service.

You can also direct individuals to the Dr. Neil Nedley online course that’s offered directly by the Neil Nedley organisation.

Children’s Ministries

One of the most challenging things to do online in an effective way is Children’s Ministry. Even still, many ministries have been adapting and finding way to engage their youth and children using time-tested ways in the online space.

16. Pathfinders & Adventurers

Greater Sydney Conference has been offering online options for the Pathfinders and Adventurers, from online honor classes to online camporees and gatherings.

How Your Church Can Use This Idea: Your church can share tidbits from the Pathfinder and Adventurer program to engage and excite kids and their parents. Then you can use calls to action to invite them to join your Pathfinder and Adventurer clubs.

Another idea is you can also share photos from previous Pathfinder and Adventurer events to allow people to reminisce, and also invite the Pathfinder and Adventurer leaders to make guest appearance on the social media pages. And, if your Conference office or Union is sharing Pathfinder or Adventurer activity, you can share it on your church’s social media accounts.

17. Story time online

Some churches and schools have been taking the opportunity to share stories online.

Ben and Herlin Fehlberg from Kellyville Church in New South Wales have created elaborate lego sets and scenes with their son’s toys and have shared beautiful stories for the church’s Sabbath morning service. These stories have then been shared on their Youtube Channel.

How Your Church Can Use This Idea: Invite your church’s most engaging story teller to come on camera and share story with the kids. They can read the story from a book, use a set, like the Fehlbergs or even engage their stuffed animals or pets. The main idea is to create something parents can share with their kids.

If this idea is too far out of reach, you can find the church’s Sabbath School pages or the pages of other churches and share their kids’ content on your social media accounts.


Radio and podcasting are effective ways to create community and share meaningful messages. They require less bandwidth than video content, and radio is accessible even when there isn’t electricity.

There are many possibilities for your church with these time-tested ideas.

18. Podcasting

Podcasting is a new form of radio, and its on-demand listening content can be tailored to your audience’s needs.

The most common type of podcast for a church to release is the audio from their sermons. However, there are many opportunities in podcasting to tailor your content to meet the specific needs of the people you’re trying to engage.

For example, your church could develop content for mums or teenagers or those who want to follow a specific Bible study you’re engaging in.

Here’s a list of some Adventist podcasts for you to check out for inspiration.

How Your Church Can Use This Idea: Because the most common type of podcast content for a church is its sermons, you can use your weekly sermon as audio content. Alternatively, you can think about the needs of your online community and create content around that.

Look around your church and identify the expertise you have in the congregation and see how it aligns with the needs of your community. Outline a series of topics you can present on and sit down to develop the audio content.

If this is out of reach for your church, find a podcast that you think would be valuable to your online community and share it on your social media accounts. You can even take the opportunity to create discussion around specific podcast episodes you share.

19. Radio

Radio still has a strong place throughout the South Pacific Division in providing listening content for people. Here are a few stations you may consider sharing:

Faith FM

“Faith FM is a Christian radio network providing “positively different” lifestyle and spiritual radio programs to benefit, enhance and uplift Australian communities.

Faith FM was launched in 2008 and has grown to reach hundreds of communities around Australia with inspiring music, family insights, health advice, and uplifting spirituality to make a positive difference in the lives of many people.

Faith FM reaches approximately 6 million Australians through FM radio stations scattered around Australia and reaches across the Outback through the VAST service (a government-sponsored radio and TV service to remote communities and grey nomads).  Faith FM is available online through a variety of platforms. Our privacy policy is available here.”

– Source FaithFM

Hope Fiji

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Fiji, has been operating a radio station called HopeFM for the last 14 years. Both Radio and TV are now part of Hope Channel Fiji, and since its commissioning on the 3rd of May, 2015, the Hope Channel studio has been sharing positive Bible-based messages throughout Fiji.” – Source Hope Fiji

Hope PNG

Hope PNG, known as The Voice of Hope, is a Christian Community Radio Station in Papua New Guinea. The station broadcasts on FM 107.5 and broadcasts in Lae and Port Moresby. – Source

How Your Church Can Use This Idea: If you’re looking for ways to share radio, which is a time-tested idea, your church can share the radio frequency for its local Adventist radio stations to its online community through social media.

It might also work well to share specific programs, live broadcasts from the radio station’s social media accounts and stories of hope from the listeners of the station.

If you’re wondering how the radio station has impacted people in your community, reach out to the radio stations and ask; they will likely be very happy to share stories you can share with your online community.


20. Prophecy Seminar

Prophecy Seminars are time-tested ideas with the Seventh-day Adventist Church. There is an opportunity now to broadcast the seminars online and to incorporate interactive elements into the programming.

North New South Wales recently shared a prophecy-themed broadcast called The End that had lots of engagement and impacted many lives.

How Your Church Can Use This Idea: If you’re interested in this idea, your church can develop and share its own online prophecy seminar online. Alternatively, you can take part in a larger campaign that’s taking place in your area.

Another idea is to find content from a previous campaign that has been shared in the past, like The End, and share it with your social media community. Create discussion around the videos and have moments fo live discussion to answer people’s questions.

Content that’s already been created is still valuable and can continue to help people in their spiritual journeys.


21. Relationship Ideas/Seminar

Every couple, family and work colleague is susceptible to relationship stress and the pressure of COVID lockdowns is multiplying that effect. Some churches, like the University Church in Lebanon is taking this moment to provide relationship support to its members and the community by talking about strategies to manage the pressure of work, home and finances.

How Your Church Can Use This Idea: If your congregation has a professional who can help create content around this topic, find ways to get him or her involved by doing a special livestream, getting them to create quick tips and videos or having them write special articles on your website.

If you don’t have this skillset at your church, ask a professional to come and do a short workshop. Advertise the workshop around your neighbourhood and among your online friends.

Another idea is that you can share the content of other social media accounts that are providing sound, biblical guidance in this area of family and relationship counselling.

Text Messaging/Chat Bots

22. Text Messaging

Many churches are looking for new ways to communicate with their members and guests. PastorsLine lets churches use the time-tested method of SMS communication in a new way.

According their website,, “The PastorsLine platform is a church-driven, bulk texting platform developed and managed by church ‘insiders’. We know churches intimately. We’ve attended them, been part of their management teams and worked with them for many years.

Our goal is to serve you by helping you spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. We’ve positioned ourselves to be your in-house, IT team for solutions to your communication issues. In addition to everything our platform can do, our partners love our responsiveness to their needs and fast tech support.”

How Your Church Can Use This Idea: Your church can think of ways to incorporate text messaging into its communication. Although a word of caution should be noted that you must use SMS sparingly. If it’s overused, it can be seen by your members as intrusive.

Texting should be part of an online journey you’ve created for your church’s visitors or certain members in the church. Visit PastorsLine to learn more about how to employ the strategy.

23. Chatbots

Similarly, chatbots allow churches to interact with people on social media platforms as well as on websites. They allow you to create engagement with your visitors even while you’re sleeping.

How Your Church Can Use This Idea: If you’re looking to utilise the time-tested idea of engagement and incorporate it into your social media platforms and your website, then you should understand what you want people to do when they visit your online platforms.

Are you trying to invite them to a relationship seminar? Do you want them to come to your weekly Bible study? Are you trying to get them to watch a video and then join a small group. Having an understanding of the online journey you want people to take is the first step.

Then, you need to understand how to call people to action. This is important because the chatbot will be encouraging people to take specific actions.

Finally, you’ll want to understand a bit more about chat bots, which you can learn from this guide: Guide to Chatbots.

Letterbox/Literature Evangelism Ministry

24. Digital Pamphlet

The digital pamphlet is a modern take on a time-tested idea of sharing filers. The one shown below is a production of the Hope Channel’s Discovery Centre in the South Pacific Division.

To get them in the “hands” of the people you want to read them, you need to share them as links to friends, family and social media contacts — an activity you can think of as digital door knocking.

How Your Church Can Use This Idea: Your church can contact its local Conference office or Literature Evangelism ministry to see if there are any digital pamphlets available.

Alternatively, your church can create its own digital pamphlet by creating a specific page on your website that focuses on one topic. From there, you can work to have your church members distribute this digital pamphlet to people who could benefit from it.

25. Letterbox Bible study

When you’re going out letterboxing, you have the opportunity to invite people to take part in a Bible study. This can be a study that takes place online at your church, through one of the Bible schools or through a set of DVDs.

How Your Church Can Use This Idea: You can physically letterbox your neighbourhood, which has its own appeal and effectiveness. You can also digitally letterbox an area through using online advertising.

In letterboxing, you have the opportunity to connect people back to your church. In addition to inviting them to study the Bible you can use the opportunity of letterboxing to invite them to connect with your church’s online studies on your social media platform (as we discussed earlier) as well as the online prayer you may decide to offer or even the health information you’ll share.

26. Letterbox journey

Taking this idea of letterboxing one step further, your church can letterbox and invite the recipients of the flier to visit a special place on your website. From there, you can have an article, or some information that would be relevant to the peoople in your community and then you may call the person to action. Creating this pathway is called developing an online journey.

How Your Church Can Use This Idea: On this webpage, you can begin to take your visitors on an online journey. For example, Step 1, might be to letterbox your neighbours. Then, you might invite them to watch a bite-sized Bible study on your social media platforms and from there you might invite them to take a 6-week Bible study course. This is a small example of a journey.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to developing online journeys. To do it well, you should sit down with your ministry leaders and try to understand what you want people to do when they find you online.

To go deeper on a few ideas about how we can take time-tested ideas and revamp them for the online space, watch the Adventist Church Online Network broadcast that engages around this topic:

Click here to view the ACON Broadcast of how “Old Meets New”

We hope these ideas gave you a bit of inspiration of what you can do with your time-tested idea. Let us know in the comments section if we missed something or if there’s something your church is doing that we haven’t listed.

5 Ways to Use Your Physical Church Space for Outreach during COVID-19

For years, the hypothetical question has been thrown around, “Would anyone miss your church if it suddenly disappeared?” Eeek!  Now, we all get to find out the answer.

Disappear Stephen Colbert GIF by The Late Show With Stephen Colbert - Find & Share on GIPHY

While the church has been deployed to individual homes, the physical presence of the church — people gathering each week for in-person meetings — has almost magically disappeared.

But you know what still remains?  The church building!

While it’s a clever thing to put on social media posts that the church is not the building, we do still own the buildings, so what are we doing with them?

How Can We Use the Church Building?

Recently, in the South Pacific Division, a major project was undertaken to improve church branding and signage.  As a result, there are now beautifully coordinated signs — some even equipped with LED screens — standing in front of empty churches.

Parramatta Church Signage
Source: Parramatta Seventh-day Adventist Church Facebook Page

How can we leverage these signs and our church property for ministry?

An Increase in Exercise

If you’ve been outside exercising you may have noticed a lot of people out and about with the same idea.  To this point, RunRepeat, a site for shoe fanatics, recently surveyed 12,913 participants from 139 countries to assess the impact of COVID-19 on exercise participation.  Surprisingly (or not) they found that there has been an increase in exercise frequency in many parts of the world.

Specifically they said,

  • People who normally exercise up to 1-2 times/week have increased exercising by 88% on average
  • People who normally exercise up to 3 times/week have increased exercising by 38% on average
  • People who normally exercise 4+ times/week have decreased exercising by 14% on average

In many places throughout the world, people are consistently walking past the same buildings, railroad tracks and corner stores during their daily exercise.  While their scenery might stay the same, seeing something different on their route might bring a spark of joy. Because the church owns prime real estate throughout the world, we are well positioned to provide that spark while respecting social distancing rules.

Opportunity to Engage Outdoors

As people are passing your church building, there’s a huge opportunity to use your physical building and signage to share a message with your community.

1. Share Your Church’s Online Service

The most obvious way you can reach out to the community is to ensure people are able to quickly and easily see how they can connect with your online church service.

Here are some questions to ask yourself.

  • Is our website clear and easy to read on signage?
  • Is our URL short enough that they can capture it quickly and easily?
  • Are we sending them to the right page on our website?  Will they have to click 20 times to find the place we want them to go?
  • Do we have the day and the time clearly displayed on the signage or is it obvious when they come to our website?
  • Do we tell them why they should visit our website?

If you have LED signage, use it to display your church’s website.  Make sure to put the day and time of your church’s service so they can connect with you.

An even easier solution would be to display a QR code that someone could quickly capture and go to your website.  (If you’d like to create a QR code, you can use a service like QR Code Generator.)

When thinking about sharing your website, ensure there’s something engaging for people to see when they go to the site.  Put thought into what it would be like for a visitor to land on your page.

(Please note if you’re thinking of putting up new signage, check with your local council for regulations)

2. Share Other Online Resources

If you’ve always seen yourself as a bit of an overachiever and you want to take our first suggestion to the next level, think of other resources you can offer to your community on your website.

Imagine questions they might have, like

  • How do I pray?
  • Who is God?
  • How do I start exercising?
  • What does the book of Revelation mean? or
  • What does the Bible say about how the world ends?

Pose some of these questions so they can see them, and give a QR code so they can find the answers.  You can have someone in your church write the answers in a blog post or video or you can use ready-made resources from sites like Hope Channel, which offers a variety of courses.

If you’re really wanting to generate interest, you can regularly ask different questions and create ongoing conversations with your community members.

3. Offer Community

This might seem too simple, but so many people are hurting for community.  You can offer community on your signage.  Schedule a time when people can simply connect, no religious strings attached, just the offer of human connection.

Display the offer somewhere on your church’s website or social media, or reach out to the people in your area, even by letterboxing them, and let them know you’re available for a call or a Zoom meeting.  Sometimes something as simple as the virtual human touch can be enough to let someone know they’re thought of and cared for.

4. Create a Community Library

Have you ever thought about setting up a community library for people who pass your church?  You can stock it with kids’ books, spiritual material and other items that will serve your community.  There may be regulations you need to follow with this suggestion so check with your local council, but this is another way you can serve your community while using your church’s physical property.

5. Improve Food Security

As we all know, many people are hurting from losing their jobs.  How can your church create a way to provide non-perishable items to those who might be in need while physically distancing as required by the government?

Your local ADRA may be able to provide you with some suggestions (please research any liability issues that may be created), but this is a real way we can reach our communities at this time, while using our physical properties.

And, if your church is not in a position to provide this particular service, can you be a resource to your community and create a handout or display on your signage listing places where people can find these resources?

This type of resource is also great for your website or local community Facebook pages and groups. Allow your church to be of service and let people know what resources are available to them in the community.

6. BONUS: Use Your Church as a Creative Centre

Are you ready to re-think how you see your church’s physical space.  Pastor Matthew Lucio suggests an interesting way to rethink the church space as a centre for creativity.

An Additional Way to Advertise Your Services

If it’s allowed by your local government, you can use this as an opportunity to letterbox your community to let them know how your church is serving them.  On the flier, share the day and time of your church service, useful articles from your website as well as resources your church is providing.

So now, we ask you, which of these ideas will your church implement or what are you already doing?  Visit our Facebook post and let us know!  And remember to respect your local areas rules of social distancing when deciding which ideas to implement!

How to Use Facebook Groups to Grow Your Ministry, Church or Business

When you’re looking to grow your audience, increase your reach or get more eyes on the content you’re creating, Facebook groups are a great way to give you some much needed exposure.  The problem is figuring out how to expand your reach while finding the right audience, adhering to the group’s rules and connecting the people in the group with your life-changing content.

In this article, we’ll explore a few tips on how to get started with using Facebook groups in the right way to help you meet your ministry goals.

1. Choose the Right Facebook Group

Choosing the right Facebook group is one of the most important steps in growing your ministry. You want to look for groups where there is activity and where you can find your target audience.  You may have to ask yourself, who did I create this content for?  Who do I want to engage with it?  

Look for a group to join who would be served by your content.

Some groups are purely sharing groups so they’ll be happy for you to come in the groups and drop links to your content.  Other groups frown upon unsolicited links.

Scan the types of posts that are in the group.  Try to get a lay of the land and the group culture and be a good digital neighbor.

2. Understand the Rules of the Group

When you join the group, read the group rules and make sure you understand them.  Figure out how you want to work within the rules of the group.  Many groups will ask you not to promote yourself or share your content unsolicited.  If you decide to be a member of the group, respect these rules and learn ways you can add value to the group, while finding opportunities to share what you have to offer.  You don’t want to get on the group admin’s naughty list.

3. Don’t Be a Drive by Link Dropper

If you want to grow your ministry, don’t drive by and drop links in groups.  Being a drive by link dropper means you go in a group just to leave your link and run.  You don’t participate in group discussions.  You’re not a useful member in the group.  You simply leave your content every week or so, and move on to the next group and the next group and the next, driving by and dropping content.  This is an example of being a poor digital neighbour.  

Jokingly, I refer to this as being a drive by link dropper because it’s the best way to describe what it feels like as a group member to experience it.  If you’re really committed to getting eyes on your content, enhancing the community you’ve joined and finding people who will genuinely engage and be transformed by your content, invest in the communities you join and avoid driving by and dropping your content.

4. Be Useful

There’s nothing a group admin loves more than a useful group member.  Find ways to add to discussions.  Ask questions that create conversation to get the group’s engagement going.  Answer questions, and be helpful.  Generally be a good digital neighbour.  People will remember you for this. They’ll want to know more about you and understand your experience.  

Being useful & knowledgeable has its own kind of appeal, and it can go a long way towards promoting your ministry, business or church.  Engaging online in this way is considering the long game and not the views you’ll get on the video you created yesterday.  Maintaining this type of group strategy will help you build a good long-term relationship that will benefit you and the people around you.

5. Participate in Conversations

Remember you’re not the only one with something useful to say so be a great conversationalist and join ongoing conversations.  Find conversations to join that are relevant to your ministry.  Jump in if there’s a topic related to a church program you’re hosting. 

If you’re wondering, participating in conversations is the opposite of driving by and dropping content.  Participating in conversations indicates you’re a part of the community and you’re there to stay.  As you do this, find ways to be useful and add value.  Your contribution will be long remembered and create opportunities for you to share what you’re offering. 

6. Start Conversations

Find ways to start conversations that are relevant to the group.  This will create content that’s useful to people and generate engagement in the group.  Members of the group as well as the group admin will appreciate your efforts and you might even get a little “conversation starter” badge from Facebook.

7. Be Helpful to the Group Admin

Find ways to make the life of the group’s administrators easier.  Perhaps you can be a peacemaker or answer a question or flag an inappropriate post.  Thinking about the health of the group and the community will make it more likely the administrators will allow you to share useful information about your ministry or business or even share a program when the times comes.

An online group is like a garden, if you take from it without nurturing and planting seeds, eventually it will wither and die.  How are you helping to create the community you’d like to experience?

8. Don’t Be Predictable

Don’t make everything about your ministry.  Find other things to chat about.  Don’t make the group member or the administrator roll their eyes every time they see your name pop up.  Keep them guessing.  Do things for others,  share great resources and sometimes, sparingly promote yourself.

9. Share Your Ministry, Church Program or Business When Prompted

There will likely be opportunities for you to share what you’re doing, and you should wholeheartedly jump on those chances.  Sometimes the group will have a Tech Tuesday or Business Night Thursday.  Remember this and share what you have to offer.  After being so useful in the group, people will associate your ministry, business or church with that level of helpfulness and want to engage in what you have to offer.

10. Treat Others the Way You Want to Be Treated

Do you want people to watch your Youtube video, listen to your podcast or read your blog post?  

Do you watch other people’s Youtube videos, listen to their podcasts or read their blog posts?  Treat other people the way you want to be treated, especially in the online space.

11. Make Great and Relevant Content

Most importantly, make content that’s relevant to your audience so they’re curious and want to keep coming back or dive deeper into your content.  As you develop a collection of great and relevant content, you can share it in the group when a question comes up related to your ministry. If the first piece of content is great, they’ll be more likely to look at the other things you have to offer.

Following these guidelines is a great way to start to expand your reach and make an impact on the people you’re trying to reach.

What ways are you using to help grow your ministry, business or church through online groups?

This blog post was originally published on 14 May 2020 on the Digital Discipleship website about Facebook groups and your church

How to Improve Your Church’s Social Media Presence

Do you wonder how to improve your church’s online presence? Do you spend a great deal of time creating and posting content online for your church but you’re still left wondering if anyone sees it or if it’s making a meaningful difference?

Do you find yourself in board meetings staring at blank faces that just don’t get it or being met with responses of “we don’t have enough resources for that” when you’re trying to convince key decision makers of the importance of having an online presence for your church?

If you’re the communications director of a church or conference office, or if you’re a pastor or a person who’s interested in online church communications, then you’re in the right place!

The biggest problem you’re wrestling with is if your church’s social media, website or livestream is having the biggest impact possible.  You wonder if your content is being found by the people you’re trying to reach or if it’s just being shared by your mum and a few faithfuls from your church.

The one thing that keeps you up at night is knowing that there are so many opportunities out there, but you want to make sure that what you invest your time and the church’s money in will really make a significant difference.

And sometimes you just don’t know how to get started or how to cut through the noise online.

You hate to admit it but every so often, you get really discouraged, wonder if it’s all worth it and are tempted to give up.

While you understand in your heart that building an online community will be effective in reaching the people you want to talk to, you need some way to measure success to show that all your effort is really working

Well, if you keep reading, you’ll discover a plan for how you can set-up an online presence that will make a difference to your church and to your online community.  We’ll outline how to transform your local church communication department into a ministry that’s a vital part of your church’s outreach efforts.

Though you may already understand it in theory, you’ll see in practice why the local church’s communication department serves more than a marketing function for the rest of the church.

And you’ll understand why your job extends beyond preparing the bulletin and sending out e-mails to the church members!

When executed well, the church communication department has the possibility to reach out to the community in a way we haven’t previously experienced as a church.  In fact, when your ministry is empowered and structured properly, it can act as a strategic partner for each of the other church ministries!

So let’s get started!

First things first, who cares about social media

Who cares about social media anyway? Isn’t that just something the kids are doing?

This has been the ongoing assumption from the church for the last decade and as a result, we’re missing out on one of the biggest opportunities!  In the past, our marketing has been the equivalent of throwing stuff at the wall and hoping it sticks.  Now, with social media, we have the best of both worlds – wide, yet targeted, reach.

So, when asking who cares about social media, your church should.

However, since you’re here with me reading this article, I know I’m preaching to the choir.  You get it already.  However, I want you to also move beyond the thinking that social media is just for “young people’.  If your members or the people you’re trying to reach have a phone or a computer and use the internet, this is relevant to them.

The main difference will be the platform we find them on, but if statistics are any indicator a lot of church members and the people you’re trying to reach can be found online. The trick is knowing and understanding whereto find them.

Why does your church have social media accounts?

The more important question is why does your church have social media accounts?  Why are you online?  Is it because everyone else is doing it? Are you suffering from a bit of FOMO? Is it just to post pretty scripture pictures?

I guess at the heart of my question is does your church have a plan for its social media accounts?

And answering this question actually begs a bigger question – why does your church exist?  What’s its unique calling as a church? And more specifically, what is your church’s plan this year to carry out that calling?

What is your church’s strategy?

Who are you trying to reach? Do you have any special campaigns happening?  Are there any special outreach initiatives?  What are the goals of your church’s ministries?

Understanding the answers to these questions can give you a bit of perspective.

So, the first step in your process of bringing life and significance to your church’s social media accounts is to understand your church holistically.  Understand what your church is trying to accomplish and who you’re trying to reach.  This is your first task.

Why are you still reading? Go find out…

Just kidding, just kidding! Stay here with me.  To make this process a bit easier for you, you can click here to download our checklist to keep track of the tasks we’ll be giving you along the way.

In fact, I’m going to split your work into phases to make it more digestible for you.  The first phase is Pre-Work so let’s get stuck into it!

Phase I: Pre-Work

  1. Talk to the other departments, the board and your pastor to understand the church’s goals and strategy.

I want you (and your team, if you’re blessed to have one) to get clear on your church’s mission statement.  This will inform the type of content you’ll post on your social media account.

The closer you can align your work to the church’s mission statement, the greater value the communications ministry will provide to the church.  As the pastor and the various departments see you as a vital, strategic partner, your ministry’s value will become more apparent to them.  Alignment to the mission will also help you feel like an important member of the team as you work cooperatively with the other departments in the church.

  1. Think of the different ways your church can minister to your community and how your community can engage with you.

In meeting with the various ministries in the church, the pastor and the board, what are the plans they have to reach the community? What outreach methods are they employing?  What services are they offering to the community?  Here are a few ideas to jumpstart your conversation with them.

  • Do you have a food bank?
  • Do you have a Bible study group?
  • Do you offer a vegetarian cooking class?
  • Do you have a Pathfinder club?
  • Do you offer a play group or kids art class?
  • How do you plan to grow these ministry outreach activities?

Make a list of everything your church offers as well as the dates of those offerings.  This will help you as you plan for your church’s communication and social media plan.

  1. Based on your conversations, understand who your church is trying to reach and engage.

In talking to the various departments, try to understand who they are trying to reach with their ministries.  You can do this by prompting them with some of the following questions:

  • Who is this program for?
  • If you could hand pick the people who would attend this program, who would be there?
  • If this program worked out perfectly according to your plan, who would be sitting in the audience?

Now, let’s be perfectly realistic, you may find that the ministries you’re trying to support look at you with a blank stare, as though you’re an alien species who just stepped off of Mars when you try to engage them in these conversations.

It could be they’ve never thought about these things or had the questions asked of them.  Don’t be put off.  Ask them to think about it and offer to return in a week.  Or, if they’re completely at a loss and a week of additional thinking won’t spur any creative thinking, offer to sit and brain storm with them.  Get a small group together if it will prompt their thinking.

If you find you’re not getting much from the conversation and you’re having to brain storm alone don’t fret.  There are still ways we can gather the information we need alone.

If you receive tremendous feedback from your ministry leaders then perfect!  You’re beginning to develop a strategic partnership with your local church ministry leaders, which is a real step forward!

  1. Learn about your local community

In this step, you want to get a feel for who you’re trying to talk to, and those people should be located in your local community.

So consider the following questions.

  • What are the characteristics of your local community?

Do you live in the same town as your church?  If so, it should give you a good idea of your community’s demographics.  Think about your neighbours and friends in your local suburb.  This is who you’re trying to reach and talk to.

A good way to understand them a bit better is to check out social media accounts they’re frequenting.

For example, the Berowra Community Group — an area where I lived previously — has over 7,700 members in it.  People in the group are local to the area or are in some way affiliated with the area.

Berowra Community Group

Recently, a major catastrophic weather event happened in the area so much of the conversation in the group is around the community’s needs post-storm.

This gives you, as a church, an idea of what the concerns are of your local community.  As a result, the content on your social media accounts can reflect the needs of the community.

Although it may seem obvious to you, I feel like it must be said, I’m not suggesting that you go in the group and advertise the church.  The first way to annoy your local community is by using social media pages and groups for things other than their intended purposes.

I’m suggesting that you do a bit a research – understand the people you’re trying to talk to.  Get a feel for their concerns, their lives and the language they use.

The reason your social media accounts are failing to cut through the noise is because you’re not talking about things that matter to the people you’re trying to reach.

Your town might have a social media account.  Local restaurants, business associations, libraries and groups are great virtual town squares to help you understand what your potential audience is interested in.

  • Who are they?
  • What are they talking about?
  • What keeps them up at night?
  • What are they concerned about?

Being an active member of your local online community can answer many of these questions.

Most importantly, don’t be creepy.  Just be normal.  Be a part of the community and learn the language and the pain points – or the most annoying things – your people are facing.

Here are a few additional examples.  See if you can find similar online communities in your area.

Hills District Mums Community Group

Hills Shire Times 

Hills SES

The next step is Digital Marketing 101.

Make a few profiles of the people you’re trying to reach.

Talking to the church ministries should have already started giving you an idea of who you’re talking to.  You may group them like this:

  • Mums who need community
  • People who want to get healthy
  • Single dads who need support
  • Elderly people who are lonely

After you’ve identified the people you’re trying to reach by talking to the church ministries and doing your own research, make a few profiles of the people.  They’re usually called “avatars”.

Write everything you know or that you imagine about these avatars.

  • What do they like and dislike?
  • What worries them and keeps them up at night?
  • Where do they work?
  • Do they have kids?

Add as much detail and flavour to it as possible because it will help you know and reach the people you’re trying to talk to.

We don’t often think about creating profiles for the people we’re talking to in church because the gospel is for everyone, however, that doesn’t mean you need to talk to everyone at the same time.

In a city blessed with 50 or 100 Adventist churches, it becomes more evident that there is a variety of churches to meet the various geographic needs and affinities in the community.

People are making their church decisions based on proximity and affinity so it’s good to be equipped to speak in those terms on your social media accounts.

Phase II: Prepare a Strategy

Now that you’ve done a bit of preparation, you’re ready to start thinking about your strategy.

When you create your strategy, I just want you to answer the question where your church is going, how you’re going to get there and how your ministry – the communications department — is going to contribute to that.

This is an important piece. You won’t be able to accomplish the ministry’s goals, but you will be able to play a role in it.  Clearly define what your role will be in that process.

Here, you can also decide if you have any specific ministry goals of your own for your department or if you solely see your job as helping the other ministries carry out their goals.

You can paint this picture in big strokes.  We don’t need the detailed nitty gritty at this point.  We’ll get into that in a future step. For now, begin to cast a vision and pull together all of the things you’ve been learning so far.

As you’re writing out the strategy, which could be as simple as a few lines (think of it as your guiding light), don’t worry at this stage about how you’re going to get it all done, just decide where you want to go.  Paint a picture of what success will look like and an overview of what your ministry will do to achieve it.

Also, in this step, create a strategy about what you’ll share online and why.  This will clarify a lot for you down the road as you start to be presented with lots and lots of options.  It will help you filter out those things that are important from those things that are not important.  It will also help you understand when to say “yes” and when to say “no”.

Most of all, don’t feel too intimidated to put something down on paper; you can always hit the delete button and start all over again.

Phase III: Develop a Plan

From here, we’re going to start drilling down in more detail.  This is the point where you should decide how you’re going to carry out the goals the ministry leaders, the pastor and your team have established.

What platforms do you want to be on?  Will you be posting on your website and sending e-mails.  This is the point where you’re going to start gathering the building materials.

This is the phase where we start to understand what we need to carry out this plan.

If you’re reading this and feeling a bit overwhelmed and confused because you don’t know what the building blocks are or what to include, don’t worry.  Here are a few suggestions:

1. Who is your audience?

What social media platforms do they use?  If you’re confused about this, go back to the section where we developed a profile of your audience.

If you don’t know what platform they use, find someone who fits the bill for your “avatar” and ask them what social media platforms they use.  In fact, find two or three people and ask them.  Now you’ve done a bit of research.

2. Decide the social media platforms you need to be on, but move forward with caution.

Avoid the trap that tells you that you need to be everywhere.  It’s a big trap and so easy to fall into, so let me carefully pull you back from that gaping hole with this question.

How big is your team?  If you just meekly squeaked out the word, “Me…” and held up your hand sheepishly then be realistic and don’t jump on Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, Twitter, TikTok and Snapchat.

Ain’t nobody got time for all of that!  Certainly not you.  Like most church volunteers, you have a full-time gig and you want this to be a blessing not a curse on your life, otherwise, you’ll quit before the year is over.

Choose a platform or two that you can consistently and successfully use, and stick to it.  Everyone says that Facebook is dead or dying, but I think it’s a good primary platform to start with.  It allows for a variety of different types of posts, and you can form groups, which could be beneficial for your church.

3. Now, decide the type of content you’re going to post on your accounts.

This will be answered by reviewing your strategy. What is the purpose of being on social media?

Why do you exist as an organisation?  You should continuously come back to this question in your work.  You are going to be tempted to post so many different kinds of things, but always filter your decisions through this question of why you exist as an organisation.

Your church’s mission statement isn’t just good for taking up 12 weeks of a strategic planning committee’s time every five year, it should be lived out and now is your time to shine!

For example, at Digital Discipleship,

We exist to create, inspire, encourage and resource disciples of Jesus Christ to share His love through their creativity and innovation in the digital space.

Therefore, all that we do, through programming to our website to our social media accounts reflects those objectives.

Why do you exist?  The type of content you plan to post on all of your online properties should reflect those objectives and values.

4. Use this opportunity to make a list of things you can potentially post.

To get your creative juices flowing, here are a few suggestions:

  • Tell the story of your local church members
  • Share your church’s story of how it got started
  • Share special standout quotes from the sermon
  • Share small video clips from cooking classes
  • Share special traditions from the church, like a special meal you always share
  • Provide special encouragement
  • Provide opportunities for people to be prayed for

These are just a few suggestions.  There will be further opportunities to discuss more ideas, but this should get you started with the types of things you can post, and we’ll get into more detail in the next phase.

Fellow Communicator, I just want to give you a pat on the back and commend you for sticking it out!  You’re doing a great job and the work you put in now will make a huge difference in the online life of your church.

Phase IV: Create Content & Schedule

Now, we’re on to the fun part, creating content.  Most people start here, but as you can see, we’re on Phase IV, so that means there are three phases they’ve skipped.  Developing a strategy up front will make your work so much easier down the road.

As you create content, please keep this in mind.  One of the things that can get lost online, especially from corporations and churches is a touch of humanity.  We often become so sanitised in our communication that people lose touch with the fact that there’s a human behind it all!

So, in creating your content, be sure to provide a human touch – a heavenly human touch if that’s possible.

You want people to have an encounter with Christian people who’ve been in touch with Jesus.  When I say human, I don’t mean to allow your human anger to come through – because people will try you on the internet.  I mean allow your human compassion to come through.

Don’t be fooled by the web of apps, technology and algorithms. Behind each comment, mini-picture and profile, is a living, breathing human being (except when it’s a bot 😊) and we should never lose sight of that!  They are our reason for existing, so as premier marketer Mark Schaeffer says, “Be More Human”.

Creating & Curating Content

One of the beauties of the internet is that there’s so much content you can share.  Once you understand your strategy, it will inform what that content might be.

Have you decided that you exist to help your church members grow in discipleship? If so, you will want to regularly share spiritual encouragement with them.  This will inform the type of content you’ll want to curate and create.

This idea of curating and creating fits squarely within the Digital Discipleship ecosystem of Content Creation, Content Distribution and Content Engagement, but that’s a conversation for another time.

Scheduling Content

As much as possible, try to schedule content natively on its platform.  If the platform offers you a scheduler, try to use it.  This is especially true with Facebook, as it favours its own scheduler and supresses the reach of content not scheduled on its native scheduling platform.

There are many schools of thought on how many times you should post a day on various platforms and if you’re a super keen learner, you can Google more about this.

On Facebook, you can post between 2 or 4 times a day, spaced out throughout the day.  On Instagram, you can post 1 time a day and on Twitter, go for it mate!  Post as much as you want because no one will see it anyway.  😊 Just kidding.  Twitter offers a firehose of content so you can post continuously with a scheduler and when a person visits your feed they’ll see what you’ve posted.

Phase V: Foster Community

This is the step that’s among the most important and it is to foster community!

Many people – especially church social media pages – treat social media like a glorified bulletin board, where they’re posting tons of announcements, pretty pictures and events. However, social media is something more.  It’s an opportunity to talk and be heard.

Nowadays, success can be measured by the amount of conversation you’re creating and engaging in, and this is the part that requires a bit of savvy.

You might be naturally wondering how you can create conversations on social media.  Here are

6 ways to create and engage in conversations on social media

1. Create conversations by asking questions

Ask questions that are relevant to your audience to get them talking. You can also use these moments to learn more about your audience on your social media accounts.  If you’re worried about crickets in the early stages, get a few church members to spark the conversation by being the first to answer every time.  This will give you a bit of confidence and prompt others to crawl out of their shells and join in the conversation.

This is an example of a conversation that happened on the Digital Discipleship Facebook page.

2. Join ongoing conversations

Find conversations that are already happening on other Facebook pages and on church members’ pages. Find an opportunity to pop in the conversation and add value.  Remember to frequently review your church’s mission and the strategy you established.  This will help you remember to speak in the voice of your church and not yourself. Ensure all of your conversation, when using the church’s social media pages, are reflective of the church and aren’t just an echo of you, your voice and your opinion.  It should go without saying but be kind. Ask yourself, what would Jesus do on the internet. Go and do likewise.

You can even train some of your local church members to do this as well.  Have them join ongoing conversations in some of the local online town squares.  Not to fight or to argue a point, but to mingle and meet needs as Jesus did.

This is living out the oft’ quoted Ellen White paragraph in the digital space:

“Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, ‘Follow Me.’” – Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 143.

How is your church living this out in the online space?  Joining ongoing conversations and looking for needs is a way you can get started!

3. Respond to questions

Make sure to respond kindly to questions asked on your page. If your church or another Adventist website has a resource that can be useful, share it in response to the question.

This brings me back to the Digital Discipleship Ecosystem of Content Creation, Distribution and Engagement.  As you respond to questions, remember the various online properties the church has.  An article or video or magazine from The Record, Signs of the Time, Mums at the Table or your local Conference office could be just the ticket your person needs.  As you engage online, think holistically about the resources that are available to you.

4. Be part of the online community in your local area

Another unexpected way you can foster community is by going to accounts and pages in your area and finding lovely ways to participate in community and to be part of your local community in the online space.

The best way to do this in a way that is in keeping with your church’s expectations is to ensure it aligns with your church’s mission and that the ministry you’re speaking on behalf of is aware and on board with what you’re saying.

That being said, participating in the local community online is such an untapped opportunity, as we talked about in #2 of this section.

5. Provide encouragement

It’s very likely that this goal is aligned with your church’s mission. Very often we wonder why people are not engaging with our social media accounts as page admins, but are we engaging with them?  Do we care about them and are we taking every opportunity to show it?

Use this as an opportunity to encourage your members – if it’s their birthday, acknowledge it on their page from the Church’s account.  Celebrate an achievement, acknowledge something they’ve done at church that’s worthy of applauding.  Take this opportunity to encourage someone else.

6. Practice the Romans 12:15 Principles

This idea dovetails nicely with the final way you can create conversations, which is the Romans 12:15 principle – rejoice when others rejoice and mourn when other mourn. Find opportunities for empathy as you’re online and operating the churches social media accounts.

Phase VI: Evaluate Your Work

One of the most important things you can do from here is to constantly evaluate your work.  Measure what you’re doing and who you’re connecting with against your initial goals, against the strategies and the people you want to reach.  Are you reaching them?

One of the best ways to measure your success is by how people are responding to the information you’re putting in front of them and how they’re responding to your calls to action.

What’s a call to action, you may ask, well, it’s when you ask the people in the online world to do something.  This is why we established a strategy in the beginning.  As you talk to the people, call them to action.

The ministries you support should have given you specific events they want people to attend, resources they want them to use and places on the church’s website they want them to access.  These can be formed into calls to action and included with various posts.

Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to assess the success of your work online:

  1. What, if any, pieces of content is getting the most engagement on your social media accounts? This might answer a question for you about what your audience needs.  Listen to this
  2. Are you generating any conversation? What are people talking about?  Are they bringing up needs and if so, is your church meeting those needs?
  3. Are people taking you up on your calls to action? Are they accessing the resources you want them to access?  If so, your work is spot on.  If not, no sweat.  Let’s go back to the drawing board and ask why and make a few adjustments.

Cutting through the noise in the online space and making an impact with your social media presence is an act of research, action, evaluation and iteration.  It’s a continuous cycle of listening to your community and adjusting.

Bravo for getting this far and for your commitment and dedication to growing your church’s online ministry for the cause of Christ!

If you want a quick reference guide to remind you of what we’ve learned together, download our Checklist on How Improve Your Church’s Social Media Presence!

Written by Rachel Lemons Aitken. At the time of publication, Rachel was digital transformation strategist & founder of Digital Discipleship Ministry of the Australian Union Conference.

This article was originally published on the Digital Discipleship website 5 April 2019 about improving your social media for your church

What Does Digital Discipleship Mean for the Local Church?

As a local church member, pastor, elder or youth leader, you may be wondering how relevant Digital Discipleship is to your church.  The Digital Discipleship ministry exists to create, inspire, encourage and resource disciples of Jesus Christ to share His love through their creativity and innovation in the digital space.  What does this look like in action?  After reading this article, you will be equipped with actionable ideas for integrating Digital Discipleship principles into the fabric of your church.

14-16 July of this year, over 200 people from various conferences in Australia and New Zealand gathered on the University of New South Wales’ campus for the second Digital Discipleship Conference.  While the most public function of the Digital Discipleship ministry of the Greater Sydney Conference is the Digital Discipleship Conference, its relevance is in the attendees and the impact the ministry can have on the local church.

Digital Discipleship and the Local Church

A church’s strength – its unique quality – is in its community and its ability to be a place of life-changing teaching, learning and launching.

In the Bible, we see the church doing every day, ordinary things together – eating, sharing problems and burdens, sharing dreams and discouragements and sharing financial obligations.  Community was natural – almost inevitable.

When the biblical model of church is so reliant on in-person interaction, what does Digital Discipleship have to offer?  In many ways, this question lies at the heart of the discussion of the relevance and efficacy of Digital Discipleship at the local church level.

In the minds of some, community musthappen exclusively in person while in the minds of others, community happens online.  However, Digital Discipleship offers a “both, and” approach instead of an “either, or” approach.

The local church can now adddigital tools to its available resources to reach, disciple and provide community.  The local church has the opportunity to recognise the giftedness of its members in the areas of creativity and technology and to acknowledge the abilities of these people to move the work of the church forward.  The local church is positioned to amplify its message while becoming more targeted in its approach through available technology.

Local church leaders and members can implement any of these principles as they work to integrate Digital Discipleship into their church’s ministry plans keeping in mind that this ministry encourages churches to equip its members to make disciples and grow in discipleship by meeting a need in the digital space, addressing a digital need or utilising digital tools.

Think like a seeker

The first thing a church needs when implementing Digital Discipleship principles is empathy.  Yes, empathy!  We need to begin to think like a person looking for a church community when setting up our websites and social media accounts.

Arm yourself with empathy for a seeker or a person looking to find God.  What questions would you have about church? What would encourage you to attend a church or to reach out to a Christian to understand Jesus better? What might you see that would give you a boost of encouragement to push through a hard time?

Show your online visitors what life might look like if they were a part of your community.  Give them a glimpse of the events, the spiritual life and the friends they might make.  Show them how they can have their questions answered.

While it’s very important to put thoughtful consideration into your website and social media design, remember social media isn’t a science and effective website design can require iterations.  Knowing that you can test, change and update can relieve a bit of the pressure of always getting it right the first time.

Understand why you are posting in the first place.  Periodically assess whether you’re getting the results you need from your social media and web presence.  Find ways to adjust or adapt to the needs of your church and to the people you are trying to reach through your site and social media accounts.

Value the talents of the creatives and tech savvy among you

Since the Digital Discipleship Conference, people have said their spiritual lives has been renewed because the church is acknowledging and affirming their areas of giftedness and showing them how they can make a contribution to the mission of the church based on the skills God has developed within them.

There isn’t always space in the church for creatives and the tech savvy to place their talents on the altar in service to God.  Weaving Digital Discipleship principles into the fabric of your church’s Discipleship Plan can provide space for more people to feel engaged around the idea that the church values their time and talents.

Providing a space of recognition for the giftedness of creatives and the tech savvy is an essential part of Digital Discipleship.

Identify the specific needs of the people you’re trying to reach

Never before have marketing messages been able to be so targeted as they are today.  In the digital space, ads can be aimed at specific groups based on demographics and behaviours.  For this reason, it’s best to decide whoyou are trying to reach.  Review some of the ministries your church is running.  See if there’s an opportunity to bolster their efforts by implementing a digital strategy.

Find a way to meet the needs of your community in the digital space, around a digital need or by utilising a digital tool

There is discussion, even within the Digital Discipleship ministry, about how “Digital Discipleship” fits within “Discipleship”.  Many models have been created and put forward for church members and leaders to study and understand.  One in particular is based on Jesus’ story of the Sower and the Seeds from Mark 4.  These models are helpful in explaining the process of discipleship so some may wonder if Digital Discipleship is similarly proposing a new model of discipleship that exists exclusively in the digital space.

Digital Discipleship’s aim is to provide a gentle nudge (or a strong nudge if necessary) to the church to meet the needs of people within our community in the digital space, around a digital need or by utilising a digital tool.

This is what that process may look like at the local church:

  • Have we met the needs of people within a digital space? Have we engaged in “digital door knocking”? In other words, have we digitally reached the people in our geographic community?
  • Have we addressed a digital need, i.e. screen time for children, using technology for seniors or online safety for kids?
  • Have we utilised a digital tool to address the needs? For example, have we utilized CRM tools (customer relationship management), websites, social media accounts or other pieces of technology to address the need?

Providing discipleship opportunities in the online space

Local churches have a variety of opportunities to help their members grow in discipleship in the digital space.  Ironically, while leading with spiritual events and worship services is not the natural progression of discipleship — even in the traditional discipleship models — it’s often the starting point of our interactions with people in the digital space.  We often begin our online interactions by “sowing the seeds” through livestreams of church services and advertising evangelistic programs, which isn’t necessarily the first natural step to introduce someone to Jesus.

Even though it’s not the recommended starting point, it is crucial.  There are many people who are in need of Jesus who spend significant amounts of time in the digital space.  As expressed at the Digital Discipleship Conference by Pr Sam Neves, Associate Director of Communications from the General Conference, online relationships are not virtual relationships they are real relationships.  There are real people behind the computer screens.

There are many people who are unwilling or unable to enter a church building.  Many members of our local churches have stopped attending church but may be willing to anonymously watch a service online.  Many parents, previously involved in the church, are distracted on Sabbath morning by attending to the needs of their children.  Others have hearts that are ready to listen to spiritual messages but are intimidated by entering a church building.  By fostering relationships online, some who were unwilling to attend may return, others who were disengaged may be encouraged to return to the church and some may find spiritual renewal.

Keeping this in mind, there are opportunities to share spiritual content online outside of the traditional church hour.  These might include online small groups and online prayer sessions.  There are also opportunities for webinars and online evangelistic series.

Not all online relationships must remain in the digital space.  There may be opportunity for building relationships with people online that encourage and attract them to attend your church.  There are many things that need to happen for a person to trust you with their Saturday morning in a church building.  Digital Discipleship can play a role in familiarising people with your church and encouraging them to attend.

Providing members with personal ministry opportunities

There is an additional opportunity for local churches within Digital Discipleship.  Recognising that not all members are gifted in the areas of creativity or technology, there is room for the non-technie, semi-creative to be involved in Digital Discipleship.

Pastors are often laden with the responsibility of maintaining the functioning of their local churches while also evangelising their communities.  This skewed view reduces the responsibility for church members to grow in discipleship.

Creators, Distributors and Engagers

Employing Digital Discipleship strategies in the digital space, as a church, can provide church members with the tools and know-how to share and disciple within their online communities.

There is a model in Digital Discipleship of content creators, content distributors and content engagers.  Collectively, they create content to share a message, distribute the content to their networks and position themselves to have conversations around that content.

Local churches are well positioned to adopt this model among a group of its members who wish to use their social media platforms to intentionally share Jesus online.

If your interest has been piqued and you’re curious about introducing Digital Discipleship principles in your local church, consider the following:

  1. Exercise empathy for the people who will be engaging with your social media accounts and your website. What questions might they have that you can answer?  Have you given them a glimpse at what life might be like if they were to join your community?
  2. Value the creatives and those gifted with the ability to understand technology. Regard their contribution to the mission of the church as highly as you would the musicians, Sabbath School teachers or youth leaders.  This will affirm the area of giftedness God has given them and will engage them in the church’s mission.
  3. Identify the specific needs of the people you’re trying to reach. Today’s digital landscape is highly segmented, and it’s much easier to target the people you’re trying to reach in the geographic locations where you want to connect with them.  Having a clear picture of who you’re talking to can be very effective.
  4. Find a way to meet the needs of people within your community in the digital space, around a digital need or by utilising a digital tool. Digital Discipleship does not limit you to the digital space.  It provides you with another avenue to reach people, with additional tools and with additional needs to meet.  How can these increased opportunities be useful in allowing you to reach the people you’re trying to reach?
  5. Provide discipleship opportunities in the online space. After you’ve met people’s needs, be prepared to feed them spiritually.  This may mean a series of articles or videos or a livestream of your church service or Bible study.  Whatever it may be, be prepared to talk about the life-changing effect of Jesus in the lives of your online visitors.  Have a plan for how you can best progress to that point in the conversation.
  6. Provide personal ministry opportunities. Digital Discipleship provides a natural personal ministry opportunity for the creatives and tech savvy.  However, it also creates a space for church members who are less digitally inclined.  If they operate in the digital space, they may be able to participate in the model of content creators, engagers and distributors.

With this sense of understanding, I want to present an example of how this might play out at a local church.  In this instance, I’ve chosen young parents as the group Grace & Love Church is trying to engage.  As you read through the example, slot in the group or groups your church wants to have conversations with.  Think of ideas that would fit with what your church is trying to achieve.

Example: Grace & Love Church

Being empathetic

Grace & Love Church is looking to reach out to young parents.  By placing ourselves in the shoes of our social media and website visitors, we have been intentional in including information – prominently displayed – that talks about how we meet the needs of young parents.  We may have a section about it on our website as well.

Engaging the creatives and tech savvy

Every few days on our social media accounts, we may talk about the upcoming lesson study, emphasise the parents’ online Bible study and provide encouragement for parents.

As we set-up our social media, website and online campaigns, we have identified a few people in our church who are skilled in graphic design and are creative.  We’ve engaged them to share their ideas and we are working with them to regularly create social media posters.

We are also creating some small videos with parents for social media about how they’ve seen God present in their lives.

Identifying the needs

We’ve been talking with Children’s Ministry and we know that parents in the area probably have questions about how to engage with their kids around technology.  Some of the questions they may have are:

  • As a parent, I am wondering how much tech is too much?
  • How can I keep my kids safe online?
  • Are my kids getting enough play time since they’re so attached to their devices?
  • What is a good age to give my kids a mobile phone?

Identifying a digital need, addressing a need in the digital space, addressing a need that can be solved with a digital tool

In this instance, we’re able to engage all three areas of Digital Discipleship.  We are addressing a digital need: parents wonder how to engage their kids with technology while keeping them safe and not over exposing them to it.

As a church, we can bring in an expert and record a video and promote it (paid Facebook or Google ads) or we can bring together parents to share their opinions on video and share the video with the community online.  Using this method of targeting is like digital door knocking.

Similarly, we can bring in an expert to talk at an in-person seminar.  We can invite our neighbours through letterboxing or through online targeting.  We can also record the session and make it available online.

In this process, we will use the skills of digital disciples and we will be utilising digital tools.  This last area may not seem very important in comparison to the others mentioned but remember that engagement with the content will soar when audiences see that effort went in to the creation of the content.

Providing online discipleship opportunities

In this particular example, you may not make “sowing the seed” or sharing a spiritual message the next step, as a church you should have some online broadcast or content where people can engage with you on spiritual topics.  This could be a livestream or online articles that answer questions.

In the example of online articles, you can continue in the vein of parenting and address some of your parenting philosophies as they relate to your Christian faith.

Providing Personal Ministry Opportunities

Within Grace & Love Church, there is a group that are “creators”.  They are creating the video or the social media ads and materials around the parenting seminars/webinars.  From there, a group in the church, should begin sharing content online about the upcoming event.  They can also share the links online of articles you’ve created around the topic of the event.  They should then be prepared to talk about the event, explain it to anyone who is asking and engage with people around this content.

This is a simple walkthrough of what Digital Discipleship might look like in one scenario.  As you can imagine the needs assessments, options and opportunities can be endless.

Hopefully, you have found this article to be actionable.  It would be great to know that after reading the last sentence you felt inspired to get your church to explore the idea of Digital Discipleship.

Here are a few programs and ideas you may consider for your church.

Additional Ideas

Community Programming Addressing Digital Needs

  • Help Me Deal with My Pornography Addiction
  • I Need Help Setting Online Boundaries for My Children
  • I Need Help Navigating the Digital World, I Have Teenagers
  • I Need Help Navigating the Digital World, I’m a Senior

Digital Discipleship Ideas

  • Join and start a meet-up that address a specific need in your community
  • Run a webinar in response to a need

Has this article inspired you to integrate Digital Discipleship principles into your church’s plan?  I’d love to help your church explore the possibilities for meeting the needs in your community and helping to encourage creatives and the tech savvy to dedicate their time and talents to ministry.

Please contact the Digital Discipleship Ministry at digitaldisciples {at}

-Written by Rachel Lemons Aitken. At the time of publication, Rachel was Communications Executive of the Greater Sydney Conference and Founder of the Digital Discipleship Ministry of the Greater Sydney Conference

This article was originally published on the Digital Discipleship website 30 August 2017 about digital discipleship and the local church

Having a “Call to Action” Can Revolutionise Your Church’s Digital Presence

What is a call to action?

You’ve probably come across them all the time.

A call to action is asking someone to do something online.

It’s the pop-up on a website asking you to subscribe or the message telling you to re-tweet or the bot popping up in the lower right-hand corner looking to interact with you and get you to chat with a business.

On social media, it could be getting you to click through to a blog post on a website, watching a video ad, tagging a friend in a post, liking your Facebook page or sending a message to the owner of the Facebook page.

Each business has a different action in mind that they want you to take.  And as they interact with you online, they call you to action to nudge you in the direction they want you to go.

What is your church’s call to action?

What do you want people to do when they find you online?  Especially when they find your social media accounts.

Are you explicitly calling them to action to do what it is you want them to do?

And how do you know what your calls to action should be?

Identifying the best call to action for your church or ministry

The easiest way to answer that should be by asking and answering two questions:

  • What are the needs of the people you’re serving?
  • What does your church offer?

There are a variety of people you’re trying to serve and they all have a different needs so the ways you’d like to interact with them will vary, therefore the calls to action will also vary.

Also, the outreach ministries your church offers vary.  So you want to find a way to match up the needs of the people you’re serving with the services and ministries your church offers.  This will determine your calls to action.

If you’ve read our article, The Most Actionable Plan on How to Improve Your Church’s Social Media Presence, you’ll know that we talked about developing profiles for the people your church wants to reach online.  We called them avatars.

Each of the groups of people you serve will have different needs.  Each ministry will have different ways it can serve the community.

The key question is:

How can we create calls to action that align the needs of the people we’re trying to serve with the services our ministries offer?

Here are some examples of people you’re trying to reach:

  • People who need prayer
  • People who want to study the Bible
  • People who are looking for a loving place to send their kids for school
  • People who want to get healthy

Here are some examples of the services your ministries are trying to offer.

  • Playgroup or Happy Hands meets at the church
  • Bible study
  • Prayer

Here are some natural calls to action.

  • Would you like prayer? Send us a message and we’ll pray for you
  • Would you like to study the Bible? Join our online group and start studying the Bible.
  • Send us a message and we can arrange Bible studies for you.
  • Start an online Bible study.
  • Are you looking for a place to send your kids to school, click here to visit our website
  • Schedule a visit to our local school
  • Are you looking to get healthy, check out this article on 5 ways to get healthy

There are so many ways you can call people to action on your social media account!  Now that you’ve read this article, your brain will be bursting with ideas!

I want you to go to your church’s social media accounts and see how many calls to action you’ve made in the last six months.  Exclude those that are for people to attend an event.  What did you come up with?

I challenge you to think about some calls to action you can include in your social media account’s online process and  schedule them over the next month.  At the end of the month, evaluate how they’ve done.

Look at each call to action and see if you’ve gotten any response.  If not, how can you adjust the way you’re offering it?  Can you present it in a video, using picture or through an article.  See what your audience responds to best.  It’s all about researching, presenting and adjusting.

What calls to action will you incorporate into your next month’s social media plan?

This post was originally posted on the Digital Discipleship website around calls to action on 9 April 2019

17 Types of Content to Share on Your Church’s Social Media Account and Why

If you’re the communication director or the media ministry leader at your church, you may rack your brain each week wondering what to post on your church’s social media accounts.

Or you may be the church pastor wondering how to encourage your communication ministry leaders.

You know you want to get more engagement and you want your ministry to be more than just a bulletin, but how do you know what to post?

AND the bigger question is whyshould you be posting it.

Here are a few ideas to get your started…but first, I want you to do a little exercise. (There’s always a catch, right?) This is pretty painless, and it will make knowing what to post so much easier.

Answer this question: why does your organisation exist?

What’s your mission statement — 

your raison d’être?  

If you’re not sure how to answer, we dealt with this question and how it relates to your church’s social media account in the article, “The Most Actionable Plan on How to Improve Your Church’s Social Media Presence”.

So, two things can happen here.

  1. You can figure out your church’s mission statement or
  2. You may find that you don’t get much cooperation from the church.

Either way, the next step is to make sure your communication ministry has a mission statement.

If you get a response from the church, make sure your mission statement aligns with theirs.  If you don’t get a response from them, make sure your mission statement aligns with Jesus’ reason for the existence of the church.

Personally, the first thing I do when I start a new job is try to understand:

  • why the organisation exists and
  • why my department or role exists.

Then, I filter all my work through those two ideas.

For example, when I worked in the Communication Department at Greater Sydney Conference, in the top left corner of my white board, I wrote the reason for my department to exist was to: “Inform, Inspire, Engage and Resource our local church members”.

So I filtered all my work through that.

In setting up the Digital Discipleship ministry, I established that our reason for existing was to

“Create, inspire, encourage and resource disciples of Jesus Christ to share His love through their creativity and innovation in the digital space.”

Just by writing that out and reviewing it regularly, your head will fill with even more things you can share.

So let’s jump into the ideas on what you can share.

1. Pretty Pictures – Shareable Content

The most common go-to for church social media accounts is to create and post scripture posts.  You know the kind with a nature photo or a person looking thoughtfully into the sunset with a scripture overlay?  Yup! You know the one!

These are a great go-to piece of content because they are shareable.  Especially when they’re well done.  So, don’t shy away from this type of content just because it’s commonly used.  It’s popular for a reason.

Inspirational photos are good for sharing for churches

Using the mission statements from my role in the communication department at Greater Sydney Conference and in the Digital Discipleship ministry at the Australian Union, pretty scripture pictures would fulfil both missions.

Greater Sydney Conference Communication: Inform, Inspire, Engage and Resource our local church members

Digital Discipleship Ministry: Create, inspireencourageand resource disciples of Jesus Christ to share His love through their creativity and innovation in the digital space.

2. Content that Engages – Asks questions and gets people to engage

You want to share content that gets engagement and gets people to talk.  Ask them questions that are short and simple to answer.  They don’t always need to be serious, life-changing questions, but they can be enough to get your audience talking and engaging.

Don’t feel bad if the question doesn’t get answered, just chalk it up as a lesson.  That topic doesn’t get your audience talking.

Here’s an example of how we’ve done it on the Digital Discipleship Facebook page:

3. Shared Content

Look for content that has gotten good engagement on someone else’s page and fits with the reason why your church and communication ministry exist.  Share it on your account.

The reason for putting this type of content on your social media is because it has already done well somewhere else and it has a reasonable chance of doing well on your account also.

We encourage you to schedule your content, using a platform native to the social media site you’re on so as you see content you want to share, save it and schedule it to post at times you determine are best for your audience.

4. Calls to Action Content

In our article, Having a Call to Action Can Revolutionise Your Church’s Digital Presence, we shared the reason for including calls to action and we even shared several examples of how to align your calls to action with your church’s strategy.  If you’d like more detail on this aspect of digital ministry dive deep into that article.  This is a very effective piece of content you can include in your content strategy.

5. Live Content 

Many churches are already engaging in this strategy, but including live content online can be a good way to engage your audience, especially if you think about what the people you’re trying to reach want or need.

However, if you think your church service is the only time you can go live, guess what, there are other times you can go live, for example,

  • Do a cooking demo
  • Show what’s happening at a church event
  • Greet people online in the lobby of the church before church starts to invite people to come in
  • Share what it’s like to do outreach by going live during an outreach event
  • Go live with a mid-week prayer or Bible study during lunch time

You might come up with even more creative ideas if you go do a bit of brainstorming with your team.

6. Featuring Your Congregation 

Your church is really just a collection of people.  Try telling their stories and the testimonies of your congregation. Tell the story of how your church started.  Share the outcome of events, not just the photos but the stories that happened during the event.  Let people live vicariously through your story telling on your page.

7. Show what life looks like at your church

People often use social media as a window to peer in.  They want a community to belong to.

Show what life looks like at your church. Share photos of potluck, Pathfinders and other events.  You can also do this effectively with videos as well.  Give people a taste of what life would be like if there were to be a member of your church.

8. Share Events 

This is something churches naturally share – upcoming events.  Talk about what’s happening at your church. Share the events that are going to take place.

One way to get more attention when you share events is to talk to your community even when you don’t have an event coming up.  This way, you have their attention all year long, not just when you want them to do something.

A groundbreaking idea in this area is to be cooperative with other churches in your Conference who are located nearby.  Why not form an alliance with them to share some of their events that might be useful to your community and you can share some of their events.

9. Share useful content from the ministries you support 

Stay in touch with the ministries you support like Pathfinders, Women’s Ministry and Family Ministry. Meet with them or send them an e-mail every few weeks or months to see if they have any resources you could share or upcoming events.

You may have to push them to get resources to you.  It’s likely their go-to idea for social media will be promoting their latest event.  Encourage them to provide resources, like an article, short video or set of tips to the online community that can engage with the audience and get them to feel more welcome

10. Share offers from your Conference Office, Union or Division.

It’s likely that your Conference Office, Union and Division have offers that can be useful to your audience.  There are offers for online Bible studies, free magazines, books, videos and events.  Check with them periodically to see what they have to offer and offer them periodically to your community.  Who knows, you might end up offering just the thing your audience is seeking.

For example, Hope Channel offers a variety of online courses on its website.  Perhaps you can choose one to share once a month.  It could be that your audience has no idea these resources exist and your social media account can shine light on them.

11. Share resources your church offers, like articles you’ve written or information you have

What offers does your church have?  Do you have any articles on your website that are useful to your audience?  Do you have any ministry offers you can make?

Regularly share the resources your church offers on your social media accounts.  Remind people about your church library, tell them about play group, remind them of your regularly held potlucks, tell them about mid-week small groups.  How are you sharing your church’s resources on your social media accounts?

12. Ask people if they need prayer

Get in the practice of regularly asking people if they need prayer.  Give them the option to send your page a private message or to comment and ask you for prayer.  Work with your prayer ministry to gather those prayers and pray for them regularly.  If people give you permission, you can share some of the answers to prayer or have people be able to share their prayer requests

13. Make regular offers for Bible studies

Are you making regular offers for Bible studies on your social media accounts?  This is something you can incorporate into your ministry outreach online.  Make sure you’ve spoken with your pastor or elders to ensure there’s a follow-up process for people who do wish to study the Bible.

14. Feature your ministry leaders

Share information or the testimony and even the vision of your ministry leaders.  Not only does it give you content for your social media accounts, but it also gives you an opportunity to acknowledge the hard work of your church ministry leaders.  In sharing their vision for their ministry, you can also share some of the things their ministry offers.

15. Share opportunities to volunteer

Are you sharing volunteer opportunities online?  Are you telling your members specific areas where you need help?

Let people know how they can get involved.  This also lets visitors or those thinking about joining know that your church is active and there is space for them to get involved

16. Feature the various ministries in the church

It might surprise you to know that not every knows that your church has a prison ministry, a children’s ministry, a cooking ministry, a singles ministry and an outdoors ministry.  Have the ministries featured regularly on the church’s social media accounts.  This can raise awareness and engagement for the church.

17. Share local events that are happening

Ask yourself within your local church, how can we be good members of our local community in the digital space?  How can you share local things that might be relevant to your community, like healthy cooking classes, children’s resources and exercise?  This one might be the most challenging but can give you an opportunity to be part of your local community.

This blog post was published on the Digital Discipleship website on 30 April 2019 around the topic of church and social media

How to Make Your Church Stand Out in the Digital Age

The secret to standing out online is found in John 13:35, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

As a pastor or ministry leader, the digital age may seem daunting.  There are already so many voices out there, how can your church cut through the noise?

The answer is simple. Do something unusual:

Build Relationships and Engagement.

One of the best ways to distinguish yourself online these days is to be a real person and build engagement and community.  Love radically in the same way Jesus would love others.

You will be tempted to simply chase the dream of acquiring and accumulating followers, fans and subscribers, but don’t fall for the trap!

Care for the people in your community.  Learn about them.  Understand their needs and serve them!

Love your community radically

The best way you can love your community online (and in person) is to live out the Romans 12:15principle.  Rejoice when they rejoice and mourn when they mourn.  Wish your community happy birthday!  Be sad with them when they are sad.

Beyond this, you can gauge the needs of your community and find ways to meet them.  This is an exercise you can do with your church or with the members of your communication team.  Figure out what love would look like for the people you serve.

If you want to dive deeper into understanding your community and meeting their needs, check out our article, “The Most Actionable Plan on How to Improve Your Church’s Social Media Presence.

Start a Facebook Group

As we stated in an article about Facebook pages, groups and profiles, at the time of publication of this article, Facebook has adjusted its algorithm to favour groups as opposed to pages.

So, if you church doesn’t have a Facebook group, this could be a good time to consider it.

However, the type of Facebook group we’re talking about isn’t a online club for your church members.  We’re talking about starting a Facebook group that’s meeting a need in your community. It could be focused on local mums, dads, young professionals or whatever group you want to focus on. Or, you could have a local group that focuses on prayer or Bible study.

The type of group is best determined by the mission and strategy of your church’s outreach team.

Engage people who are good at this stuff

There is probably someone in your church who is skilled in this area and is looking for a way to use their talents for church. Engage them. Show them God can use this area of their life for His purposes.

Or, if you can’t find the right person, but you have a willing person, why not invest in them with a course in social media or digital marketing so they’re skilled in a way that can help the church?

Create an online presence that’s friendly and welcoming

Try looking at your online presence from the perspective of an outsider.

Would you feel welcome? Are you able to quickly see what the church is inviting you to do?  Do you see clear calls to action?  Are there lots of friendly smiling faces to welcome you in?

Try to create a friendly online presence.

Don’t focus on the numbers, focus on engagement and community

It’s so easy to get caught up in accumulating followers, but instead, try gauging how much you’re building relationships with the people you are already talking to.

As you grow deep relationships with your community you’ll be able to share the vision for community building with them as well and they will be able to love and engage with the community as well.

Instead of focusing on how many followers you have, ask yourself how you are serving the community you’ve already been trusted with?

Show up regularly

Another way to break through the noise is through consistency.  Decide when you’re going to post and schedule your posts so you show up consistently.  Just by showing up regularly, you are laying the groundwork to build relationships.

Share love online, have conversations

Ask, what would Jesus do online, and then go do it.

We believe that much of what Jesus would do is build relationships.

Jesus would love.

Go and do likewise.

Ask your church or your team, what it would look like if we showed love in the online space.

You can even have a hybrid approach that can combine the online community with the community in real life.  Just ask yourself what that would look like and answer freely.

Standing out online

You stand out online by building community.

So now, as you get ready to love the world radically in the online space, build relationships with the people you are already talking to, love them deeply and inspire them to do the same.

-Written by Rachel Lemons Aitken, digital discipleship strategist & founder of Digital Discipleship Ministry

This article was originally published on the Digital Discipleship website on 4 June 2019 about how to make your church stand out online

How One Church Doubled Its Engagement Using Cell Groups

One of the biggest questions hanging over churches post COVID-19 is how to stay connected while intentionally remaining socially distanced from one another.

When this topic came up recently in the Digital Discipleship Facebook group, Pr. Alexander Voigt of LifeSpring Adventist Church in Florida shared how his church is re-imagining community.  Most excitingly, some of the ideas LifeSpring is using calls upon our heritage as Christians while also leveraging technology.

We were able to ask Pr. Alexander a few questions to learn more about the two-pronged model his church is using that involves 

  • Cell Groups and
  • Screenings or what we typically call live streams
Lifespring Church Website

For us, the experience begins when someone visits the LifeSpring website because it starts a conversation about our present situation.

In explaining the reasoning behind the shift towards this new model, their website says,

“We’re living in a new world. COVID-19 has confronted us with a challenge we haven’t met in our lifetimes. 

How do we, as a church, “not forsake the gathering” (Heb 10:25) without physically gathering as a church? How do we “preach the gospel to all creation” (Mar 16:15) without gathering to listen to a sermon? 

How do we “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thes 5:11) without our typical “Hi, how are you?” we ask once a week at church? 

How do we “make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19) without being surrounded by disciples? How was it that, historically, the church thrived when banned from even existing? Let’s try returning to the essentials of the movement.”

Join us for our conversation with Pr. Alexander Voigt of LifeSpring Adventist Church

What is a cell?

Digital Discipleship: Can you help us understand what a cell is within LifeSpring Church?

Pr. Alexander: A cell is a missional community.  Each cell will recapture mission. Mission is more than conveying doctrinal truth. Mission is both proclamation of the Gospel by inviting your neighbors, your co-workers, and your family into your discipleship cell, and it is also the demonstration of the gospel. 

In the coming days (and as we’re already witnessing), people will lose jobs, quarantined families will be unable to visit the grocery store, and some will be without basic needs such as food and toilet paper. We’ll soon see these stressors break up families and cause people to turn to destructive addictions. Each cell will demonstrate the gospel by serving the very real needs both inside, and outside, of the cell

Each cell will express love in ways we haven’t experienced before. We’ll pray together, text each other, and encourage an openness and vulnerability rarely experienced in church. Cells will share in one group call per week.

Each cell will be infected with the gospel. Church manuals, traditions, and former ideas aren’t our driving motivation. An apostolic recapturing of “the church,” is. Cells will share together in a shared study, Letters to the Church

Rethinking the structure of church during COVID-19

Digital Discipleship:What drove your church to re-structure in this way after social distancing was put into place?

Pr. Alexander:I am working on my DMin in Discipleship and our church has been on a path of trying to deconstruct our attractional attitudes and prioritizing qualitative growth instead of quantitative. 

We’ve done things like change our worship and small groups times from the normal Sabbath School-then-worship model, knowing we’d lose some attendance in corporate worship, but we still did it because we want to see our numbers grow in discipleship groups. 

Prior to COVID, we were praying through how to continue to get more people meeting in small groups, and how to get those groups out of the church and into homes, and this provided the perfect opportunity.

We jumped on it quickly so we wouldn’t waste any precious minute to do so.

Process for Assigning People to Cells

Digital Discipleship: How do you assign people to cells?

Pr. Alexander:To assign people to cells, myself and a my pastoral assistant went through our church family in a Google Sheet and divided people up based on a number of factors (age, language, common interests, etc.). 

We weren’t locking anyone to any particular group, but wanted to ensure that everyone is at least contacted and invited. 

Results of the Cell Groups + Screenings Model

Digital Discipleship: What have you seen as a result?

Pr. Alexander: Recently, we checked in and got numbers from all our cells of how many are actively engaged (joining the group calls, texts) and with one response remaining, we’re at 98 active participants. 

Prior to COVID, we had about 45 who attended Saturday morning small groups. So, for us, doubling those engaged in meaningful community is a great success.

But numbers don’t tell the story. I know more about my members now than I did before. People actually know what’s going on in people’s lives. I get long texts with everyone’s prayer requests and updates to major prayers. 

Church Member Engagement

Digital Discipleship:How have you created engagement with your live streamed church service or “screenings” as you call them?

Pr. Alexander: We canceled church before most because we’re viewed as a hospital church (AdventHealth), and our leadership team was counseled to do so. 

Knowing that everyone would be suddenly doing live-streams and knowing that you’re missing the real community of church on a livestream, we wanted to have high engagement. 

We use + Zoom and gear our service towards engagement. On FB Live, we have an average view time of 44 seconds, but around 30 minutes on

Cells & Screenings

Digital Discipleship: How do the cells and screenings work together?  And do church members get the opportunity to engage with people outside of their cells?

Pr. Alexander:On Saturday during our screenings, we invite the cells to share what’s going on or do contests (like, share the best meal nominated from your cell), but we’re starting Zoom lifegroups this week after worship so there should be cross-cell interactions.

Digital Discipleship:Are the Zoom life groups different from the cells?

Pr. Alexander:Yeah. LifeGroups were our former study small groups, but cells are a new name we used so the old baggage of LifeGroups wouldn’t make people think they’re just study groups. 

Cells are intentional missional communities.

While LifeGroups range from about 6-20 people, cells are viable with 4 people, and cap around 12. I’d say that 7 is the average. We didn’t want to make cells very large so people could really keep up with each other

The Future of the Church after COVID-19

Digital Discipleship:What do you think the future of the church is after COVID-19?

Pr. Alexander:I know many think when this is over that we’re going to have some semblance of normal. 

I believe that there will be a new normal where we’ll have to maintain an online presence alongside our smaller in-person presence. Until a vaccine is available (1-2 years), we’ll be having more outbreaks and might even go on localized lockdowns, so for anyone thinking that they just need to get through this, please adjust now because you’re missing precious time to adapt.

Here are some photos from the cells. People like sending in screenshots of the fun they’re having and we give them ideas to engage in their cells, such as this food contest.

Digital Discipleship: Thank you for chatting with us!  We believe there are many things we can learn from the cell + screening model, especially as it relates to helping our members grow in discipleship and creating connection in this time of social isolation and distancing.

How are you creating connections during this time?

This blog post about small groups at churches was originally published on the Digital Discipleship Website on 28 April 2020.