Two Major Things The Church Is Missing When It Comes To Digital Discipleship And Church Online

Dan Bracken

So here’s a neat thing that happened.

We have a ministry at Ginghamsburg called Clubhouse. It’s a unique after-school program that’s (nearly) entirely teen-led. Teens experience leadership training and do after-school tutoring for at-risk kids in the process.

Learn more about Clubhouse

Waaaaay back in the day, like 20 years ago, there was a kid name Josh who volunteered as a Clubhouse Teen. Josh was also on the media team at Ginghamsburg, where he had opportunities to explore his early giftedness in communication and design.

Fast forward, and Josh is now a critical member of The Power Agency, which is a marketing agency in Louisville, KY. If you’ve ever seen a GE appliance commercial, it’s likely you’ve seen a commercial produced by The Power Agency (Check their demo reel!).

At The Power Agency, Josh specializes in web development and sales. Fondly remembering his time at Clubhouse, and how impactful it was for him as a teen, he followed a God-nudge to ask us if he could build a new Clubhouse website. For free.

“Uhh… duh, thanks man!”

So that’s happening.

And since I now have a new developer-savvy marketing professional friend, the Ginghamsburg Design Studio was able to pop down to The Power Agency’s headquarters in Louisville for a quick visit. We toured their production studio, ate some donuts and sampled an interactive VR rendering of a roof-top AC unit that was developed for GE.

Power Agency 1
Power Agency 2

It was an incredible opportunity to ask Josh and his colleagues about VR, but more basically their thoughts on the Church’s relationship with technology.

Four Surprises About My First Experience In VR

It was a welcome question, considering their proximity to and experience with the mega-ministry that is Southeast Christian Church. (Nothing to read in to here… just factual).

According to our friends at The Power Agency, there are two major things the church is missing when it comes to technology and digital discipleship.

1. Story

Marketers know this… every commercial ever produced tells some kind of story. Because purchases are made based on customer felt-need. Stories make you feel something. Even before practicality, purchases are made based on an emotional connection to a product. That’s why you can buy cars on the internet without ever driving them first. Marketing sells you a story first.

Most marketers have to manufacture stories around products. “Silence your whiney kid with a bowl of Kraft Mac n Cheese.” Who cares if it’s healthy or what it tastes like, Kraft is selling peace and quiet.

The Church is selling transformation.

…Right?

The old is gone the new has come.

The promise of Jesus is one of restoration and regeneration. Resurrection!

Where marketers have to fabricate story narratives to create emotional ties to their products, the church can simply tell the truth.

I’ve noticed, however, that the pandemic has made it much harder to tell stories of life transformation.

Stories emerge from the ground up. If you’re not in relationship with the people of your congregation, you’ll never be within earshot of the miracles. The pandemic has done well to isolate and separate us from one another. Ginghamsburg has over 300 online worship “viewers” every weekend, but we largely still have no idea who they are, no matter how hard we try. It’s become much harder to organically identify stories worth sharing because our relationships have become distant.

We have to work harder than ever before to identify and share stories. We’re amply supplied with platform, but grossly skim in emotional narrative.

2. Resources

If you want to be an early adapter, you need resources. Everything is more expensive on the front-end. The skills needed in early-movement leadership are in high demand but rare supply. The advanced tools of trade for any new iteration of technology come with high learning curve and higher price tag.

The VR conversation is now mainstream because the Quest 2 headset entered the realm of consumer affordability. It’s a pretty nifty personal device for $300. But, as digital and physical realities blend with prime haptic high fidelity finger tracking gloves for $5,000, emerging tech will remain only accessible to those with resources and a risk-taking attitude.

I love being at Ginghamsburg because we aren’t afraid to take risks, but I don’t see that attitude reflected in many other churches.

BUT, most of my best and biggest ideas wind up on the shelf because like every other non-profit in the world, we are under-resourced.

I can’t emphasize this enough.

Our friends at the Power Agency pointed directly at John Whirledge, our Online Campus Director, and said, “What churches don’t understand is that you can’t do online church alone.”

You need to staff your online campus the same as you would any physical campus. Paid or volunteer is moot… you just can’t assign it to a single person and expect it to succeed.

Church online needs a big team with lots of money.

…But so does everything. If you’re not giving anything, you probably should.

Dan Bracken 2

Dan Bracken
Communication Director | Ginghamsburg Church
dbracken@ginghamsburg.org