What Every Leader Needs to Know About Tech in the Age of Online Church

There’s an old and overused pastor’s joke that goes something like this:

Church Member: “Hey Pastor, what’s one thing they didn’t teach you in seminary that you wish they had?”

Pastor: “How to set up folding chairs.”

In my years as a pastor, I’ve set up thousands of folding chairs. We all knew it was part of the gig. Musicians have to set up amps. And Pastors have to put out folding chairs. It’s just part of the job.

In recent years and certainly in recent days, an adequate understanding of technology has become part of the job as well. You don’t have to be a computer scientist. You just need to know enough to communicate well. Which is why I find it so hard to believe when I hear many of my colleagues say that it’s just not their job as pastors to keep up with technology.

I know these pastors well enough to know they don’t express these sentiments because they arrogantly feel they are above such a task. These same men and women have set up tens of thousands of folding chairs and, on occasion, even fixed the church toilets. So I’m guessing this sentiment must come out of fear. Sometimes when you get slightly behind the tech curve catching up seems so overwhelming that you have no idea where to start.

Today, every church leader’s technical abilities will have a direct affect on the effectiveness of their ministry and the health of their church. They don’t have to be great at it, just good enough.

Currently, I serve with a large staff. We have many people, including dedicated tech staff, who know far more than I will ever know about using technology. Still, last week, I found myself researching and testing software for us to find a solution to a problem that was preventing us from moving some of our ministries online. Why did I spend my time doing that rather than preparing a message or making a pastoral phone call? Same reason I used to set up folding chairs. It had to be done. And everyone else was working 24/7 getting all the rest of our ministries online.

Thankfully, it has never been easier or cheaper to learn what you need to know. With as little as an hour or two of training and less than $100, any leader can learn how to engage their people online. Now, with that kind of time and budget you won’t have a world class graphical interface in your videos or Hollywood quality graphics, but you will know enough to reach your people and maybe even your community.

Truth is, right now, your community isn’t looking for Hollywood level production. They are looking for personal connection to someone who can help them navigate the new reality of COVID-19, social distancing, and the economic crisis. And anyone with any budget can learn enough to do that.

This is why I’m so excited to join with Skip White, Glenna Manning, and Daniel Shifflet to offer a webinar at noon on Wednesday (March 25) designed to help leaders of small and mid-sized churches navigate the new world of digital ministry. You can sign up for the webinar by clicking here. It’s hosted by clergyeducation.com and titled Online Church for Local Congregations. (BTW, you can use the coupon code “online” for a discount and you’ll get a certificate for 1 hour of continuing education for attending.)

Here’s why I’m thrilled you’ll get to hear from Skip, Glenna, and Daniel. Skip is pastor of a small town church with many elderly members as well as a campus minister who spends a lot of time with young digital natives. He’s discovered how to use technology to relate to the young and reach the elderly – and he’s got some great insights to share. Glenna is a Pastor of Discipleship at a large church who has spent the last two weeks of her life helping Sunday School classes and small groups become online communities. And Daniel is a church technical director and professional musician who will be answering your questions to help troubleshoot the technical issues you may be facing.

We hope this webinar will be a place to help some of you enter the new world of online ministry and to help others troubleshoot the issues that have arisen after being suddenly pushed into the deep end of online ministry two weeks ago by COVID-19.

Only a very small percentage of Jesus’ ministry took place in a synagogue or the Temple. Most of it happened in the streets and houses where people gathered. Today, the people are gathering online. It’s time to go meet them.