On Tuesday, May 11, the Greater Toronto Area Ministerial Association (GTAMA) got the 411 on digital seed-planting from Dr. Rohann Wellington—English Ministers Coordinator, Greater New York Conference, Managing Director, Atlantic Union Adventist Media. In a presentation titled “Equipping Pastors for Effective Ministry in the Digital Age,” Wellington shared a virtual evangelism success strategy using agricultural terms—plan, tools, plant, grow, reap. He emphasized that we can’t go back to the way we were pre-COVID. Instead, we should embrace new media as a way of enhancing our ministry.
Here are some key takeaways from his presentation:
Begin with the end in mind. Prayerfully craft a plan to capture online viewers’ attention, retain these viewers and lead them to make a decision for Christ. Remember that technology doesn’t replace personal ministry; rather, it complements it. Used wisely, it’s a tool enabling communication, community and discipleship.
Before choosing your tools, ask yourself, what are we trying to achieve? For instance, Zoom is the best platform for building a community. Live streaming onto YouTube and Facebook is better for reaching a broader audience. However, live streaming isn’t for every church; don’t stream if you’re not ready. If you desire to go online but don’t have the right setup, first prepare by getting equipment and building a team. Likewise, with social media, consider, what are our goals, and who is our target audience? [Click here for a social media evangelism guide - PowerPoint Presentation (centerforonlineevangelism.org)].
In a saturated online space, you only have one chance to make an excellent first impression. First, invest your time and resources—both financial and human—wisely. To build a robust digital team, choose for commitment over competence. As Dr. Wellington experienced at Atlantic Union Media, you can train people with no technical skills to a high level of proficiency if they have the right attitude.
Next, remember that content is king. Outside of non-streamed Zoom sessions, your primary audience is not your congregation; it’s the general public. Note that people will check out your church’s online presence before they decide to connect. Make sure you have a well-organized worship service, good music, biblically engaging and relevant messages. Make the most of your context; i.e., if you don’t have a choir, use a soloist. If you can’t do a two-hour service, do a meaningful one-hour service. Keeping the broader audience in mind, be careful what you say about lifestyle choices. Also, avoid Adventist jargon or exclusively Adventist terms. Finally, be intentional about connecting, and build on multiple platforms.
“The key to success in online ministry comes in two things—consistency and authenticity,” said Dr. Wellington. He also shared that quality control is vital, with pastors as the gatekeepers. Some quality control measures include not streaming if you’re not ready; carefully vetting people sharing testimonies; and choosing the best musicians. Also, stick to 30-minute sermons online.
Other technical tips include:
- The #1 mistake in production is not lighting individuals properly on camera
- Basics for every pastor include proper lighting and a 60-frame camera
- For streaming from home, it’s best to use an Ethernet cord and ensure that no one in the home is using programs that would reduce internet bandwidth (e.g., Netflix)
- Always ensure that you have good audio
- A church’s essential personnel needs are trained camera operators, a competent audio engineer, a floor director for staging and a technical director. A video engineer and character operator generator are a bonus
- Zoom is generally not recommended for live stream. Some good output tools are OBS, Streamyard, Ecamm and Vmix · Consider the Mevo starter pack of cameras for streaming (click here - Mevo Start 3-Pack – Mevo Store) and GVM products for lighting (click here - GVM 800D-RGB LED Studio 3-Video Light Kit 800D-RGB-3L B&H Photo (bhphotovideo.com)
- Avoid being shut down by YouTube by being mindful of copyright issues. Rule of thumb: If you don’t own it or have permission for it, don’t play it or show it
The final step is reaping the harvest. Don’t let online visitors go. Maintain two-way communication. Consider some of the following engagement tips:
- Consider creating an app that visitors can download to keep abreast of upcoming events and keep in touch (Click here for info on the new Toronto West app as an example - Introducing the Toronto West SDA Church App - YouTube)
- Create a virtual connection card using Google docs. During the pastor’s appeal, he or she can refer people to this document to stay connected with the church
- Appoint a digital interest coordinator, someone with good people skills and a positive attitude. Like an interest coordinator in church, this individual will collect names/interests online, make follow-up phone calls and redirect people searching online to the appropriate parties
- Connect with people coming in, give them afterglow link and then they can connect with the speaker after the Zoom. You have both genuine seekers and crazy folk. Don’t want to endanger team by having them talk to people with ulterior motives. There’s a risk. But they have to be trained. No personal info going out. He would do the connection piece after rather than during, so they’d leave the stream during the service
Then, determine how you’ll measure success, whether qualitative or quantitative, by the number of baptisms and disciples making more disciples. Finally, keep the following counsel from Ellen White when venturing into the exciting world of digital discipleship:
Let every worker in the Master’s vineyard, study, plan, devise methods, to reach the people where they are. We must do something out of the common course of things. We must arrest the attention. From Christ’s methods of labor, we may learn many valuable lessons. He did not follow merely one method; in various ways He sought to gain the attention of the multitude; and then He proclaimed to them the truths of the gospel. Ellen White, Evangelism, Pages 122-123