The time to become a digital disciple is now. This article explores why the time is right and how you can get started in a few simple steps.
The world is changing, and so is the way we consume and spread the gospel. Everything around us is fast, simple, instant, and personalized.
When you have a question and need an answer, you no longer have to wait until the next church service. All you do is take out your mobile device, type in your search query, and get the answer instantly.
We live in the digital age
We are in the middle of the digital age, and every communication between family members, friends, work, and church all have some digital aspects. In fact, there are more digital relationships than face-to-face.
The church has always been slow to adopt new technologies. I know a few people who had issues with people using digital Bibles and Hymnbooks just a few months ago.
But that has changed. Early this year, we witnessed the COVID-19 pandemic change the way we do church. We no longer have to go to the sanctuary; instead, the gospel is delivered to us anywhere, anytime.
Internet to the rescue
The internet has presented an opportunity for every Christian to spread the gospel without relying on the church. People are using social media tools to evangelize, and they see a lot of engagement. Hence, the high interest in digital discipleship and evangelism.
Even though digital discipleship seems to be the best way to evangelize, it is by no means easy to start. It requires us to think differently from traditional evangelism strategies. In fact, taking everything you know about evangelism in the physical space into cyberspace will not work.
This article is for you if you want to become an effective digital disciple. But before we get into the steps, here is a verse that might validate your courage and help push you to take action now.
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen. - 1 Peter 4:10-11 NIV
Who is a Digital Disciple?
A digital disciple is a person who teaches or spreads the gospel through digital channels such as blogs, video, social media, or podcasts.
Note: To fully understand these strategies, you have to put aside many ways we do evangelism in the physical space. In fact, some steps I talk about will go against what you know, but I want to assure you that it’ll all make sense.
Table of contents
- Identify the problem you want to solve
- Define your ideal audience
- Validate your ministry idea
- Take stock of your skills and tools.
- Build your distribution platforms
- Create and distribute your content
- Monitor, engage, and grow.
Step # 1. Identify the problem you want to solve
Before starting your online ministry, the first thing to do is to identify a problem/s you want to solve.
I know that identifying a problem goes against what we know about evangelism. The fact is that effective evangelism doesn’t discriminate; everyone and every problem is game, so why should you identify a problem to solve?
Well, the answer is a simple one. First, I would like to remind you about a statement I made above - that for you to succeed online, you have to forget everything you know about traditional evangelism. I am not talking about the message of the gospel but the evangelism strategy.
Why every digital disciple should identify a problem to solve
There is a huge difference between the way people in the physical church and online church consume the gospel.
When people go to church, they are prepared to consume whatever gospel they are given, while people online search for a specific message that meets their needs or answers a question they have.
For example, during the COVID-19 lockdown, I heard a sermon about grieving. The sermon was timely because of what tens of thousands of Americans are going through right now. The sermon was titled “Blessed Mourning.”
Even though the sermon title is perfect for the church, it is not effective for the online audience. To illustrate this further, I typed into google search the term “blessed mourning,” which I got.
- Monthly Searches - 0/month
- Search Results - 10.4 million related searches
In contrast, I did a quick search to see what people are typing into Google, and I found the term, “How to grieve..”
- Monthly Searches - 2,900/month
- Search Results - 37.5 million (related results)
The results above show how the same content can be successful in the physical church and fail online. It is, therefore, important that you create content that solves people’s problems.
Example problem to solve:
I have created a fictitious problem/solution to help me illustrate the steps.
Becky is a Psychotherapist by profession who recently come across some alarming data on the high rate of at-risk teenage boys being raised by single black mothers. She has been helping teenagers for over 20 years, and she’s compelled to do something about this problem.
We’ll use Becky’s story for the rest of this article.
Step # 2. Define your ideal audience
As a digital disciple, Defining an audience for your digital is very important to your success. Without doing this step will be like a fisherman who goes fishing without knowing what type of fish he wants to catch.
I use the analogy of fishing because Jesus himself used it when he called Peter and Andrew to follow him.
You see, before you go fishing, the first thing you have to do is:
- Decide what type of fish you want.
- Where to find the fish,
- The right bait
- The right equipment to use
- Best time to go fishing
This does not mean that you won’t end up catching another type of fish, but that you have a target and that you are ready.
The Bible is also full of stories where we see Jesus targeting a particular audience.
For example, Matthew 9:27-31 talks about Jesus healing two blind men. The target audience in this story is the blind people. Jesus is giving hope to the blind.
The truth is that without a target audience, you will end up reaching none.
When it comes to defining your audience, you must put the problem you are trying to solve at the forefront.
Example: Defining your audience.
Problem: Single black mothers are having a hard time raising their teenage boys; thus, many boys end up selling drugs and jail.
Target Audience: Single Black Mothers
Step # 3. Digital disciple ministry validation
On paper, every idea looks good; however, that’s not always the case in the real world.
Before you begin your digital discipleship, it is important to validate your digital ministry idea. Fortunately, this process is easy and will only take you a few hours to complete.
You want to validate your idea that you want to make sure that you solve a real problem that people are facing and provide value to your audience.
The digital ministry validation process
This process aims to find out how many people are experiencing the problem you want to solve. You also want to know where these people are found and why they find themselves in the situation.
Here are some things you want to be established at the end of this process.
- Problem - Is the problem real and worth solving?
- Solution - Is your solution going to solve the problem?
- Expectation vs. Solution - what kind of solution are the people expecting, and how is your solution better?
- Ministry model - Is your ministry model viable and scalable?
- Resources - Every ministry requires money, resources, and workforce to run. Do you have enough resources to run and grow your ministry?
The process is as simple as doing a simple Google search on a particular problem. You also want to check some statistical data to help you determine the scope of the problem.
Once the scope has been established, it’s time to engage with your target audience. There are several places to go to, but we do recommend the following:
- Facebook groups - find and join Facebook groups that are dedicated to solving the same problem.
- Quora - a place where people ask and get answers to their problems and questions.
- Reddit - Another platform full of Subreddit groups, where you can find communities dedicated to your particular target group.
This process aims to validate your ministry idea further, so the best approach is to observe and ask questions. At the end of the process, you should have a pretty good idea and information to push you into the next phase.
Step # 4. Take stock of your skills and tools
Now that you have validated your digital ministry idea, it's time to take stock of your skills, resources, and digital tools.
Digital Disciple Skills
I am sure that by now, you know exactly what kind of services you want to provide. Do you want to preach to your audience or offer them real solutions like therapy and coaching based on biblical principles?
This is the part where you evaluate your skills. Are they enough, or you need to partner with someone who may have the skills you need?
Whatever you decide, this is an integral part of building a strong digital ministry foundation.
Do you have the resources to share or solve your target audience's problems?
Depending on the type of services you want to provide, you have to make sure you can help or solve the problems.
Resources may include videos, articles, books, support groups, one-on-one or group coaching, etc.
Many new digital disciples are intimidated by technology. Yes, learning new technologies take time, but you can learn them.
Before you decide what digital tools you need, you have to make sure that you know your audience well. You have to know where and how to reach and connect with them.
If the majority of your audience is found on social media, then that’s where you set up shop. The reason why digital evangelism is so effective is that it allows you to take the message to the people where ever they are.
It’s easy for a new digital disciple to get confused about what tools to buy first when it comes to digital tools.
The only advice I would give you is to take your time and buy only the tools you really need. I know that you will probably go for the cheaper stuff initially, but cheap is expensive in the tech world.
Be careful not to buy unusable cheap tools that you will hate using and be forced to replace.
Step # 5. Digital Disciple - distribution platforms
As a digital disciple, you need a home online, and choosing the right home is vital to your ministry success.
The first platform I would recommend to every new digital disciple is a website. You will need a main hub or home where you can control your narrative and brand.
I know it may not make a lot of sense to spend money on a website for a social media evangelist, but you must remember that social media can change at any time. Remember what happened to Hi5 and MySpace?
Your audience on social media can be taken away from you anytime; therefore, you will need a website where people can connect with you away from social media.
In other words, you need to own your audience so that your ministry can exist beyond social media.
If you are still wondering what kind of digital platform you need, we have a great article about digital evangelism methods to consider for your digital outreach.
Step # 6. Create and distribute your content
Now that you have all the groundwork done, it’s time to do the fun things.
Before creating your content, it is important to remember how people consume information online.
Depending on the problem you want to solve, your ideal audience journey will most likely begin out of a need and question.
For example, let's take the problem and solution presented above.
A young minority single mother going through a hard time raising her teenage son may search for the term “How to raise a teenage son as a single parent.”
Knowing what problems single parents face will allow you to create content that solves their problems. Above all, you will also learn how to create and title your content to make it discoverable online.
If you need more information about the most effective way to create your digital evangelism content, we have a great article for you (How to implement the Del method)
Step # 7. Monitor, engage and grow
One of the most common mistakes many new digital disciples make is creating content based on their needs or convictions. There's nothing wrong with this physical church approach, but it does not work in cyberspace.
One common question I get asked is, “How do you know this?”
Well, I know it doesn’t work because of the power of analytics and monitoring.
Once you create and publish your content, you will have to monitor how many people read or consume your content.
Many digital disciples get discouraged because no one consumes their great content. This is also true with many churches, especially during the COVID-19 lockdown.
You must ask yourself, why are some churches seeing an increase in online church attendance while others see their numbers drop with every service?
The answer is that people consume that which is relevant to them and their spiritual journey.
If you want to build and grow a strong digital ministry, you have to monitor your engagements and reach. You must analyze every content you put out to see how people are interacting with it.
When you analyze your content the right way, you will soon discover that people don’t really care about your opinion but how you can change their lives.
Analyze to see which content is getting the most engagement and give your audience more of that.
While the world is on shutdown, we see many people utilizing media to connect with their friends and family.
Churches, friends, and families are having online meetings and Bible studies together. The COVID-19 has hit us hard, but we’ve found a way to evolve. We are interacting with each other more. Online.
While most look at the negative effects of the pandemic, others look at it as an opportunity to spread the love of Christ.
If you’ve read this article in its entirety, then I know you really want to do your part in telling the world about Jesus. If that’s the case, then to you, I say, “there’s no better time than this.”
Do you already have a digital ministry idea? Or maybe trying to find one?
I hope that I was able to push you a little further into taking action. I believe that I am also doing my part in helping people like you to get started.
Please comment below and let me know what you’ll be working on, or you may also visit the contact page if you need any help.
I wish you all the best, and God bless!