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How to Convince Your Pastor to Pursue Digital Ministry

By Jeff Reed

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Believe it or not, even with 90% of churches streaming their church services online, some Pastors and church leaders negatively perceive digital ministry. To be honest, this is not uncommon. 

During session one of The Digitally Resilient Church Webinar, we asked if “leadership was 1) very supportive of digital ministry, 2) somewhat supportive of digital ministry, or 3) not supportive of digital ministry at all.” For this unscientific poll, 30% replied that their Pastors were “somewhat supportive.” Fortunately, no one at the moment replied that their leadership was “not supportive at all,” but there are stories and examples of this even in 2024.

Through my own experience, I have met plenty of pastors with negativity around digital ministry. Historically, I’ve been called the “Pastor of Photoshop” and “Pastor Emoji” by pastors, and those were my friends! (To be honest, I liked the Pastor Emoji nickname. I kind of wanted that one to stick.) Another pastor asked me how many “ones and zeroes” I brought to Christ. 🤦 

On a personal level, I didn’t start my digital ministry career as a digital pastor. I wasn’t even a pastor, per se. Instead, I was a techie nerd who would read those MacZone catalogs and drool over all the hardware and software. I was called to ministry, even digital ministry, in the ‘90s. But, being ahead of the curve is common in my life, and it took me several decades to find leadership that would buy into a digital vision.

The delay wasn’t from a lack of trying. I would cast a vision for digital with virtually every pastor I met. But it didn’t land. Things changed, though, when an executive pastor in the South Florida area gave me advice. “Jeff, I don’t get what you’re talking about. You’re using a language I don’t understand. If you want to convince me, you need to sound like me.”

Decades later, that may be the best advice I’ve been given.

To connect with Pastors, you have to use their language.

Even as I write this, on first read, that sounds egotistical. Do I have to use their language? But does that mean I’m not authentically me?!? 

In 2024, I can understand the issue. Hopefully, your leaders are patient and will take the time to understand you and your nuances better. Prayerfully, they will invest time and energy into understanding the benefits of digital ministry. But, if you would check off “somewhat supportive” or “not supportive at all” to the poll mentioned earlier, maybe the onus is on you to take that first step.

Whether your leadership is older or younger, oftentimes, they are locked into their terminology, which is grounded by their mindset. It doesn’t matter whether they are using the right or wrong terms now. If they’re calling a 4K Cinema Camera a “thingy” and a Resi Mini Encoder a “doohickey,” ask yourself, is correcting them worth it? Pick your battles. Get the doohickey bought first, then educate on proper language and terminology.

More than thingies and doohickies, though, “use their language” is more about understanding what’s important to the pastor. Think about the advice given to me (“…you have to sound like me”). What excites your pastor? What motivates your leadership? What are the priorities of your church?

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So stay away from technical jargon. You may think it makes you sound smart, but it might be making you sound arrogant. Use simple terms. And figure out how to sound like your pastor.

To connect with Pastors, you have to align with their vision.

More than just sounding like your pastor, though, how do you improve their job?  Why should the church spend its money to buy that cinema thingy or an encoder doohickey? Not only should you use their language, but also tie what you want into their vision.

For example (and I made this mistake personally), if your church’s vision is to reach your physical city for Christ, and your major selling point to digital ministry is you can take the Gospel to the world—well, neither idea is wrong, but you can see how these diverging goals can cause friction. However, the thingy and doohickey can also have a major impact locally. According to Lifeway, most first-time guests watch online church services at least four times before visiting the building. This is a great start to share with pastors hyper-focused on local ministry. Digital can still be an incredible asset.

(By the way, session three of The Digitally Resilient Church will focus on hyper-local and digital ministry in June, so if your pastor is hyper-focused on local, stay tuned!)

Rather than communicating why you are so excited about digital ministry, you need to communicate to the Pastor, in their language, while aligning to their vision, why they will be excited about digital ministry.

In session one of The Digitally Resilient Church, Tyler Sansom shares a great story about having to cast a vision for “Church Anywhere” (First Capital Christian’s Digital Ministry) to his older Lead Pastor. Listen in.

To connect with Pastors, you have to involve them in the conversation.

“Jeff, I don’t know what you do, but I love how we put all this work into doing the physical church service, and you just do your magic and poof! Numbers go up!” I had an executive pastor, my boss, tell me this once. 

“Magic” is not good. Conversations like budget increase or staffing became problematic because of the lack of understanding of the concepts at a high level. The opportunities for growth and expansion were limited because, ultimately, leadership didn’t understand the “magic.”

It’s not likely that your leadership will understand the intricacies of digital ministry, but they need to know enough about what’s going on to support you and hold you accountable. 

To integrate a digital mindset into your church, you need to be thinking more than just senior leadership. Start talking with other staff members, even volunteers. Cast vision throughout the church. Celebrate wins in a big way. Be very public about digital evangelism or discipleship wins. You will need these wins to grow digital ministry beyond just streaming.

Getting leadership to understand, integrate, and support digital ministry is not guaranteed. But using these three steps is a surefire way to improve your chances. While you’re at it, invite your leadership to The Digitally Resilient Church Online webinar series, and maybe we can help them catch a vision for what digital can do for your church.

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Jeff Reed

In 2018, Jeff stepped out of a 15-year church staffing career in production, creative, and communication to start THECHURCH.DIGITAL, a non-profit designed to help churches find their purpose through digital discipleship, mobilizing people on digital mission, and planting multiplying digital churches. He lives in Miami with his wife and two kids.

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