By Michael Jordan
Making connections is an important part of life. From faster, more effective communication to building a more engaged community through deeper relationships, the promise of connecting through the use of technology in the 21st century seems awesome.
While technology itself is not the answer, it can be utilized by churches to better connect, engage, equip and mobilize their congregations for doing the work outlined through the Gospel.
But in this day and age, churches need to be focused on using virtual means to deliver real-life impact.
Technology can be used to build relationships, equip disciples and help them to move together in the direction of serving. With this, there are several key things to address when discussing building disciples through engagement, a few of which are mandatory.
Structurally within the church, communication is about partnership, not control. However, some methods and tools for communication can be cold and impersonal. Even when one has the best of intentions, ineffective communication can make people feel as though they’re not important — or even worse, they’re just taking up space.
Strong communication is relational
Outlets such as church websites or Facebook pages can be used as informational tools for people interested in getting to know a little about churches prior to visiting. But, they have a finite scope of effectiveness in connecting people into the real, dynamic entity that is your church.
This normally results in churches looking for a more private, community-oriented social network to enable truly effective and meaningful communication.
This “relational communication” does four important things:
1) Builds real-life relationships
2) Enables people to know and be known
3) Provides opportunities to take action
4) Moves people from the margins to the center
Best practices for digital communication
No matter how you slice it, good communication is good communication. There is no need to be intimidated by the digital aspect of it. If you’re a good communicator in the real world, chances are you can be so virtually as well, even though there are some unique challenges and opportunities in the digital world.
By following the best practices listed, you can avoid common pitfalls and be empowered to make the most of your communication efforts.
#1: Focus on the mission. Don’t put the focus on methods, because methods are disposable. Get to the heart of the matter.
Jesus has given your church an eternally meaningful mission. Be sure to explain why your church needs a private social network and keep the focus on how it will help your church accomplish the mission.
#2: Never think your communication is done. If you’ve been a leader for long, you probably understand this point far too well. You can’t say something once and expect it to stick with everyone. You’ve got to continually remind people of what’s important.
Thankfully, digital tools make effective communication very inexpensive and also make it easy to mobilize other people to distribute your communications for you. There’s no need to do all the work yourself; usually, you just need to ask people to help you accomplish the set goals.
#3: Invite people to interact. Interaction is no longer an option — it’s a necessity. The digital tools available today give you an amazing opportunity to invite people to join a conversation. While it might initially seem like more work, the return is far greater than the investment. Your interaction and sincere listening will help create an engaged community. You’ll probably discover gifts and abilities you didn’t realize people had, and you might just learn from others along the way, too.
#4: Cultivate meaningful relationships. The speed and simplicity of digital communication can sometimes lead to overuse and misuse.
As a leader, it’s your job to show the way and help people understand the methods being used to reach the destination. By asking good questions, intently listening and steering conversations toward real relationships, you’ll be leading by example. Ask other leaders to do the same. Together, you’ll build a community of well-connected and meaningful relationships.
#5: Provide opportunities for meaningful action. A church social network makes it easier for you to delegate responsibility, without sacrificing accountability. So, rather than feed the impulse of consumerism, give people opportunities to get involved. It can be as simple as sharing stories of the everyday, informal ministry happening within your church and inviting people to get involved in the opportunities around them.
Remember, you’re building a culture — and cultures celebrate what they value. If you value the active engagement of your whole church in ministry work, celebrate it!
Whether they’ve just walked through your front door or they’ve been quietly warming a seat for years without engaging, the key to a healthier, thriving body is getting people connected and properly assimilated. When you do, ultimately you’ll spread the Gospel more effectively.
Michael Jordan is a marketing strategist for ACS Technologies headquartered in Florence, SC, with offices in Phoenix and Seattle.