Discipleship
01.04.16

What is Digital Discipleship?



Before we answer the question, what is Digital Disc­­ipleship, we must ask, are we on the answering end of the searches taking place online? Are we providing hope in the comment section? Do our videos and websites answer questions? And are our social media accounts making people feel like they’ve found a digital church home?

On average, Google processes over 40,000 search queries every second.  2.5 billion people use either Whatsapp, Instagram, Facebook Messenger or the Facebook app. And Youtube processes more than 3 billion searches a month. Digital Discipleship allows us to have a strategic and influential voice in online conversations.

It’s clear we have something to say, but are we putting ourselves out there? And when we do venture to say something, is it being heard?

Disciples in the Age of Gifs and Memes

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Digital Discipleship is a movement to make disciples and inspire people to grow in discipleship.

This mission remains the same as the call to discipleship over 2,000 years ago.  The objectives haven’t changed, but the environment is noisy.

The audience we are trying to reach is inundated with a fire-hose-sized flow of information. Everyone online is an “expert” with something to say.  And all of this is before we factor in on-demand TV like Netflix, Hulu and Stan providing endless entertainment at our fingertips.

We’re playing with the big boys, and we need to come prepared.

We know that the compelling story of Jesus is necessary and more relevant now than ever before. And while Digital Discipleship allows us to talk to large, targeted groups in unprecedented ways, it’s imperative that we become more savvy in our methods in the online space.

“Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people.  The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good.  He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence.  Then He bade them, “Follow Me. (block quote)

Christ’s method is still applicable in the age of memes, gifs, FaceTime and Whatsapp chats, but now we must cut through the noise.  We must win the hearts of people in a new environment.

Just as John the Baptist was “a voice of one calling in the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord”, we too are calling out preparing the way for Christ’s return.

In order to avoid having our voices drowned out we need to pump up the volume, be more strategic in our call and engage the right people.  And we are uniquely positioned to do this through Digital Discipleship.

Digital Discipleship 101

I want you to think of this as your Digital Discipleship primer.

From here, you’ll be able to dig deeper into other subjects and learn how you can get involved, support and even set-up your own Digital Discipleship ministry.

We’ll give you an overview of Digital Discipleship, how it works and lay out a vision of what it can become.

Most importantly, we hope you’ll feel compelled to join the conversation and add your voice to the collective loud cry about the never-ending love of Jesus Christ and His soon return.

How to Join the Conversation

The internet is a huge place.

Imagine it as a large, crowded room with everyone jumping in to have their say. With this picture in mind it’s almost inevitable that our voice could get lost in the noise.

The message of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and more broadly Christianity, has spread around the world – taught in marketplaces, shared from friend to friend, preached in churches, whispered about in catacombs and witnessed secretly in homes.

It has been communicated most effectively when spoken to people in their own language.

The Language of the Internet

The internet is like a country with its own language and culture.  It may not occupy a geographic space, but it has its own social norms and mores. There are ways to jump into a conversation and be heard and understood.

To start off, there are four levels at which Digital Discipleship can be executed:

🖥️   Digital Discipleship at the Corporate Level

🖥️   Digital Discipleship at the Church Level

🖥️   Digital Discipleship at the Ministry Level

🖥️   Digital Discipleship at the Individual Level

We’re going to start by breaking down each area because each one requires a different way of communicating.

Digital Discipleship at Different Levels

The beauty of Digital Discipleship is that it leverages both the size and the intimacy of our church.  It’s powerful both when executed at the entity level and when it engages the individual member.

Digital Discipleship at a Corporate Level

When we speak about the Corporate Level of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, we’re talking about the General Conference, Divisions, Unions and Conferences.  There are things they are uniquely positioned to do, such as:

  • Communicating organisational strategies, goal and objectives so that they can determine the appropriate digital path forward,
  • Developing digital approaches that include content strategies, digital marketing strategies and keyword strategies, including identifying key terms the church should rank for in digital searches,
  • Providing events designed to train and inspire digital disciples,
  • Supporting and encouraging digital ministries,
  • Funding and empowering ministries that are uniquely positioned to reach specific groups of people,
  • Expertly creating content, such as TV programming, videos, articles, social media posts, etc,
  • Providing the space and funding for the development of effective, innovative ideas,
  • Distributing content through available platforms and developing new platforms and software as opportunities arise,
  • Funding ideas and ministries that are trailblazing in the digital space, in the same way missionaries to foreign countries are funded.

Not only do we believe that our communication will be amplified when we work within various contexts, we also believe it allows Digital Discipleship to continue functioning within the Digital Discipleship Ecosystem, which we will talk about in more detail as throughout this article.

Digital Discipleship at a Church Level

The church is the strongest building block of our organisation and through Digital Discipleship there are many opportunities to benefit the church, the members as well as those who are being reached.

The church is uniquely positioned to do many things, such as,

  • Empower members to share their relationship with Jesus on their social media platforms,
  • Use online platforms, such as websites and social media sites to distribute content the church has created as well as content created by other content creators,
  • Attract people to engage with the local church through the content on its website and social media platforms
  • Provide opportunities for spiritual growth through group networking on platforms like Whatsapp, Facebook and YouVersion,
  • Allow creatives and techies an opportunity to contribute to the mission of the church,
  • Meet the needs of the local community around a digital need, either in a physical space or online, like running an in-person or online presentation about how parents can keep their kids safe in the online space
  • Meet the needs of the local community around any need delivered in the online space, like a health seminar or cooking demonstration presented via a webinar

Digital Discipleship at a Ministry Level

Many individuals feel compelled to start ministries in service to the church to address specific community needs.  Because of the targeted focus of these ministries, they are uniquely positioned to participate in the Digital Discipleship ecosystem by,

  • Creating specialised content that can be delivered both in the digital space and in person to address general needs or needs related to creativity, technology or any related field,
  • Providing a larger platform to distribute content created by either individuals, the church or the corporate body,
  • Providing a personal ministry opportunity for church members to grow in discipleship and create more disciples

Digital Discipleship at a Personal Level

In traditional media, the big boys can make the most noise – whoever can outspend their competitors is most likely to win.

However, the digital space has become the great equaliser. Individuals within the Digital Discipleship Ecosystem are well positioned to have influential voices in a crowded space!

This has proven to be true time and again as videos go viral, people gain popularity by sharing their lives and personalities evolve into online “influencers”.

Individuals are uniquely positioned to:

  • Share their faith with their online friends
  • Fit within the Digital Discipleship Ecosystem as content creators, distributors or engagers
  • Have opportunities to view and engage with content online
  • Build relationships and share friendships through online groups and forums to grow in discipleship and make disciples
  • Use their talents, whether creative or technical, for ministry

The Digital Discipleship Ecosystem

Several times throughout this article, the term Digital Discipleship Ecosystem has been referenced.  One of the most exciting parts of Digital Discipleship is the way it works as a system.

As you saw in the section above, it can work at the corporate level, the church level, through ministries and even through individuals, but it’s when the system works cohesively that it’s truly powerful.

The Digital Discipleship Ecosystem consists of content creators, distributors, engagers and curators.  To explain the system in context, we’ll reference the parts in conjunction with their levels.

Content Creators

Content Creators are our creatives.  They are masterful storytellers, talented artists and skilled graphic designers.  They take biblical concepts and stories and provide interpretations and depictions that capture our attention and take us on a journey.

In addition to artistic talents being celebrated, we must also recognise those with technical abilities, such as our computer scientists, who build systems, design platforms and engineer genius. Their ability to communicate in a technical language through code along with their diligence makes our interaction with information smoother and easier. They are able to create reality out of our dreams.

Here are some examples of content creators at various levels within our church – we’ll be referencing the form of content instead of directly listing the people creating the content, but just bear in mind that the content is being produced by a “creator”.

Corporate Church

  • Publishing Houses
  • Magazines
  • TV Shows
  • Radio Programming
  • Websites and Other Online Platforms

Church

  • Livestreams
  • Newsletters
  • Social Media Platforms

Ministry

  • Television Programming
  • Websites
  • Radio Programming

Individual

  • Blogs and Websites
  • Video Ministries like Youtube and Vimeo Channels
  • Social Media Platforms

Now let’s move on to our content distributors.

Content Distributors

Have you ever heard of the 80/20 rule?

It says you should spend 20% of your time creating content and the other 80% of your time promoting that content to make sure it gets seen.

While we – and when I say “we” I mean the church – have been adept over the years at creating content, we haven’t been as intentional in distributing that content.

Now, if the term “Content Distribution” is throwing you off, it’s just another way of saying promoting content and making sure it gets seen. In some ways it’s like digital door-knocking except we’re being a lot more intentional in the doors we’re knocking on, and there are so many ways to do it.

Within the Digital Discipleship ecosystem, we understand that content has a better chance of getting seen if it’s circulated within the ecosystem, and we’ll explain how that can happen a bit later.

Content can be distributed or promoted through the following methods:

Corporate Church

  • Social Media sites
  • TV Channels
  • Websites
  • Digital Marketing principles (i.e. content marketing, search engine optimisation, paid advertising, e-mail marketing, etc.)
  • Livestreaming on various platforms
  • Online Groups and Forums, including Whatsapp Groups

Church

  • Social Media
  • Digital Marketing principles (i.e. content marketing, search engine optimisation, paid advertising, e-mail marketing, etc.)
  • Online Groups and Forums, including Whatsapp Groups

Ministry

  • Television Programming
  • Digital Marketing principles (i.e. content marketing, search engine optimisation, paid advertising, e-mail marketing, etc.)
  • Livestreaming on various platforms

Individual

  • Individual social media accounts
  • Livestreaming on various platforms
  • Participation in online groups and forums

Content Engagers

This stage of the Digital Discipleship Ecosystem is all about the conversations we have online. In fact, it’s the keystone in the Digital Discipleship process.  What you say online can have a huge impact on someone’s day, on their mood and on their perception of life around them.  Are we leveraging this to our advantage?

Content engagement is not just responding to the conversations that start on our social media platforms, it’s also proactively joining conversations on relevant social media accounts, engaging with texting platforms and being a good member of online groups.

How does content engagement fit into the Digital Discipleship ecosystem?

Corporate Church

  • As the official voice of the church, communication that comes from this level is expected to be reflective of the views of the church
  • The church has the opportunity to engage with the public, as well as other levels within the ecosystem, through its official departments and ministries
  • There is the opportunity to employ people who can minister with intentionality in the digital space, such as a digital pastor
  • The opportunity exists to engage in conversation with people on social media platforms, in forums, on websites and in the comment section.

Church

  • The local church has the opportunity to speak into the local community and answer questions through its engagement on its own social media
  • The local church has the chance to build relationships through interaction on the pages of local businesses and community pages

Ministry

  • Ministries have the opportunity to have conversations around the content they put out and to direct people to the next step in the process after they engage with them

Individual

  • Individuals have the biggest opportunity for the most authentic interactions after content has been distributed. They can share how it has affected them, reach out to friends and strangers who have expressed challenges.

Content Curators

You can almost think of content curators as museum curators.  They have a platform that they use to gather information from various content creators as a means to have people visit and share the content.

How the Digital Discipleship Ecosystem Works

Can I have a graphic created for this?

How to Get Started with the Digital Discipleship Ministry

Congratulations for getting this far in the article.  You’ve probably made it farther than 80% of the people who read this article.

After reading this article, you might feel inspired and wonder how you can get involved as a Digital Disciple.

Well, there are several things you can do to get involved, pick your journey to get started.

  1. Content Creator
  2. Content Distributor
  3. Content Engagement
  4. Content Curator
  5. Take our Intro to Digital Discipleship Course