The past two years accelerated the adoption of digital technology by churches and places of worship regardless of size. The pandemic interrupted in-person worship services and forced upwards of 90% of congregations to adopt some form of virtual worship.
The “Exploring the Pandemic Impact on Congregations” project, spearheaded by the Hartford Institute of Religion Research at Hartford International University for Religion and Peace, reports that 97% of congregations are back to in-person services.
Additionally, 80% are offering a hybrid of face-to-face and virtual services.
Virtual services, a Facebook page, and a website are just the beginning of how digital technology can help your ministry. The real power is the strategic integration of digital technology into all areas and processes of your organization.
This shift will offer more effective ways of reaching and touching your congregation and visitors beyond just millennials.
Transforming your organization and integrating a digital strategy for churches and places of worship can be a daunting and confusing task, particularly if you do not have access to internal or external experts.
Whether you are just starting or looking to strengthen your strategy, let’s focus on three high-level attributes of a good digital strategy for churches and places of worship.
View digital as a strategic tool
One of the most impactful attributes of a digital strategy for churches and places of worship is its ability to support the ministry’s overall strategy.
Digital technologies are tools, and not goals in themselves. In other words, I don’t know of any person who started a ministry to be on Facebook.
However, Facebook is a tool that can help your organization reach its community and beyond. The proper use of Facebook should be driven by the overall mission and strategy of the organization.
Digital transformation requires a culture that embraces technology. And this begins with ministry leaders. Have all ministry leaders propose ways to use technology to achieve set goals.
In every aspect of ministry, have your leaders answer two questions: “How can we use technology to be more effective?” and “What about those online?”
For example, how can those watching online or engaging over social media participate in the call to discipleship or join the organization?
Can the ministry offer new member or discipleship classes online and in-person? How does your offertory appeal include digital options to include those who prefer digital giving or are online?
The answer may be to exclude digital in some areas. However, the critical point is to examine every area of strategy consistently.
Set goals and measure
Adopting technology requires effort and some level of investment of time and money. Set goals to ensure the investment achieves the desired results key to your organization’s strategy.
For example, your organization’s strategy should influence why it is on Facebook. The “why” should result in a goal or a set of goals, making them as specific as possible.
Goals could include increasing followers, growing millennial engagement with posted content, increasing the number of people who accepted the call to discipleship online, and more.
Associate a goal or metric with each investment and decide how it will be measured and at what frequency. Regularly check progress towards goals. Also, adjust the digital strategy for your church or place of worship, as necessary.
There are many resources online that can provide best practices for various technologies. Additionally, there may be members of your organization with the expertise to help guide.
Make incremental progress
The amount of technology available is vast and grows every day. There are church management software, social media platforms, church engagement platforms, digital giving options, streaming services, and more.
These platforms have even more value when used seamlessly together. However, you do not need all of them to begin. Find the most impactful area for your strategy and focus on improving it.
Deciding on a focus area and then progressing is a key to success for Apple, many technology companies, and faith-based organizations.
Build success in one aspect and use that success to progress in another. The incremental approach allows the organization to learn, use sometimes scarce resources effectively, and gradually create an innovative culture.
As we move past the last two years, take the journey’s lessons with us. Technology is a tool that has sustained organizations through uncertainty. It can also expand the reach beyond the four walls and beyond the local community.
We still want to “reach out and touch somebody’s hand and make this world a better place,” even in a hybrid world.
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