Lots of ministers I know are overseeing big tech projects in their church - new wiring and wifi and cameras at different angles. Which is great ... if your budget allows it and you have people eager to run these new systems.
If not, you'll have to hire an AV person to work everything, and you'll have to worry about when the setup will become obsolete and need to be replaced.
In a way, this is like upgrading your house's interior.
You can hire a contractor to move some walls and add some windows, or you can do some home improvement projects yourself.
As we move back to in-person ministry, we naturally want to keep up our digital ministry, too, and keep expanding our hybrid ministry.
But we don't have to spend the money to make our churches totally high-tech, especially if we're concerned about affording it. We also don't have to learn a lot of tech skills if we want to be more hands on in our digital ministry.
We can think of our online/in-person hybrid ministry as an actual renovation project - because that's what it is!
Instead of hiring a contractor, take the time to consider what you want to do with the space, and learn to do some basic projects yourself. It's easier, cheaper, and a great way for everyone to learn - and lend a hand.
Here's 4 steps to make digital ministry DIY:
1. What's the project?
Don't remodel the whole house if you just want a new bathroom!
This works with digital ministry, too. What are you going to do in the online space? Worship, meetings, education, evangelism, faith formation, service, etc...
What you plan to do online will help you determine how. And just like with remodeling, you can start small and easy. Renovating the powder room seems easier than installing a pool. Digitally speaking, maybe start with one new camera for live streaming worship, and have several people learn all its features and how to use them.
2. Use what you have
Re-purposing materials is all the rage in home rehab. Taking down your tile backsplash? Make a mosaic for the patio with the leftover broken tiles. Make your old wooden boxes into planters.
When it comes to digital ministry, many people think expensive equipment and processes. But the truth is, you've probably already got equipment and processes that are ready for some re-thinking.
Do you send out a weekly e-newsletter? Consider sending out a more engaging email - one with questions, faith practice guidelines, links to prayer sites, videos from worship.
Lots of people who aren't 'techie' still know how to get their email.
Have a place on your church website and social media for people to sign up for weekly e-evangelism (I just made that up!) and share the Good News with everyone who wants to hear it.
There are so many creative ways you can reuse the kind of technology you've already got.
3. Get rid of things
The best part of home rehab is demolition!
We love to break things down, clear things out, and make some space. It's satisfying, it's free, and it takes no special skill.
This works in the digital space, too.
Clearing away what you don't need anymore helps give you the vision and energy for what is new.
Is your website outdated and not easily accessible for edits? Does it have a domain name that is not easily remembered (www.mychurch-somewhere-somewherelse.strangesetofrandomcharacters.org)? Consider getting rid of it and starting again!
Domain names (your web address) are $9-12 a year, and many website design sites are free.
Tear down those digital walls and make room for new ministry!
4. Put in some sweat equity
Nothing feels better than knowing you built something by hand, even if it's just a few nails in the doorframe, or a bit of paint in the kitchen. It saves time and money when you're renovating your physical space, and it makes it more meaningful.
In the digital space, it also helps everyone engage in digital ministry.
I often hear people say, 'my congregation is older and not interested in digital ministry.' They may not be eager and ready to start computer coding (though who knows?...), but making small tech-related inroads can be a very engaging way of creating community.
Have an outreach challenge that involves 'liking' and sharing on social media, have a text prayer chain, send out a request for great photos (of the church, of people in sacred spaces, of gorgeous shots of nature, etc) and highlight them on your website, social media, or during your worship (in-person or digital, or both).
Reimagining Digital and Hybrid Ministry can be fun! And can help transform the way you bring the Good News of God's love more fully into the world. It may be a bit of a challenge, but we can take it one step at a time.
And we can do it together.
the Rev. Cathie Caimano
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