Let’s Talk Tech: How Churches are Using Technology in Ministry

4/19/2018

By Rachel Quartarone
 
In today’s hectic world, it’s difficult to get a large group of people into one place and one time. With almost everyone carrying a cell phone in their pocket, technology can help to bring people together when they are literally hundreds of miles apart. As bastions of tradition, churches can sometimes be slow to embrace technological advancements. There is still a power to one-on-one conversations and actual “face time” that nothing will replace, but as technology has become much more affordable and assessable, churches are looking at new ways to meet the congregation where they are. Here are a few examples of congregations in our conference that are using technology to minister and reach their community and members:
 
There’s an App for That
Peachtree Road UMC launched a new app last October that is helping to keep the congregation informed and connected to worship and other ministries of the church. Through the app, users can tune into live-stream worship, give, submit prayer requests, register for events and view photos from prior events.
 
Ruthie Smith, Associate Director of Communications, was part of the team who helped to develop the app with Tithe.ly, also a giving platform. The church communications staff can send out reminders about events through the notification feature. They can even tailor notifications to particular users and groups. The church has found that targeted notifications have helped to increase attendance for events that perhaps people would have otherwise forgotten.

“It’s just another way we can help people in a really busy world,” she adds.
 
Since the launch, they have 1,339 engaged users. They have made some adjustments to the content based on user metrics and are looking at adding new functions in the future. Smith sites staff buy-in as essential to the success of the project.

Rev. Bill Britt, Senior Pastor, has actively encouraged the congregation to take advantage of the new resource.

According to Britt: "The PRUMC app has given our congregation a simple, interactive way to stay up-to-date with this ministries and events of our church. In such a busy world, we felt it important to offer a meaningful way to interact with our church family while on the go.”
 
Facebook Live Worship
Norcross Korean Church has embraced Facebook as a way to live broadcast daily devotionals to their Facebook group. For them, social media is a way of engaging the congregation in ministry. Morning devotionals are an important tradition in the Korean church. In the past, the church held devotional services at the church on weekday mornings. However, few people were able to attend due to work and school commitments. More than 60 percent of the congregation is college students and most members are 35 or younger. The church adapted by hosting “virtual” services so that people can still participate in this important tradition but from home, work or on their daily commute.
 
Senior Pastor Joeng Yung leads a morning devotional on Facebook Live each weekday morning at 7 a.m. There are usually about 7-10 people who participate live but many others view it throughout the day. She typically wakes up at 3 a.m. to prepare for each broadcast which she leads from her home. When Yung can’t lead the devotional, she’ll recruit others to help out.

The devotions, conducted in Korean, include songs, prayer and a short message.
 
Having such a young, technology-centered congregation has caused them to have to rethink how they “do church.” Yung notes that her congregation has their phones out during services to look up scripture in lieu of flipping through the Bible. While it might be tempting to tell them to put the phones away, she has learned that it’s simply the way they take in information. “We have to allow them to use their phones,” she says.
 
Podcasting
Decatur First UMC and North Decatur UMC are joined together in a missional partnership known as the Greater Decatur Churches. The two churches share staff and resources but hold separate (though sometimes joint) services and activities. This past spring, the Greater Decatur Churches produced a Lenten podcast series focused on the Lectionary scripture for each of the 8 weeks. The churches’ three pastors came together to record a discussion. Each episode lasts around 20-30 minutes and were made available each Monday on iTunes and Stitcher.
 
Alina Crews, Director of Missional Partnership, was the producer and handled the logistics.

“We learned that producing podcasts is a lot of fun. We had a great time recording,” she says.

Having the right equipment, she notes, is the hardest part. Thankfully, a church member had a home recording studio and editing skills to produce so that wasn’t too much of a challenge this go-round. The church wanted the podcast to be a practice run for a larger podcast series in the fall. Ultimately, they’d like to even build their own studio. Producing podcasts is yet another way of reaching people and providing spiritual enrichment outside the church walls.

Tell us how your church is using tech to reach the congregation and community by posting in the comments or emailing communications@ngumc.org! 

Rachel Quarterone is a freelance writer (and United Methodist) in Atlanta.
 


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