We find ourselves at a crucial moment in history. A global pandemic. Social isolation. Self-quarantine. People who gather physically to worship together, now unable to do so.
In Ghana the ban on public gathering has finally been enforced and we all have to live with it. Some church leaders are busy putting teams together to re-strategize and adapt new ways to stay connected with their congregation while others have thrown their hands in despair because the ban caught them off guard.
The president of Ghana on Sunday evening announced precautionary measures the government is taking to stop the spread of the Coronavirus. In an address to the nation he said all public gatherings, including conferences, workshops, funerals, festivals, political rallies, sporting events and religious activities, such as services in churches and mosques, have been suspended for the next four (4) weeks.
In response to the directives, many church leaders have issued communiques supporting the ban and calling on Christians to remain calm, keep praying and continue to adhere to protocols and ongoing education about the pandemic. It is fascinating to note that the word “DIGITAL” runs through all these communiques, the churches have stated that they will leverage on technology to connect with members using various digital platforms.
Why the sudden focus on digital?
The January 2020 Global Digital Report by Hootsuite and wearesocial about the state of Mobile, Internet and Social Media usage in Ghana shows that there are 39.9 million Mobile Connections, 14.76 million Internet Users and 6.00 million Active Social Media users. These statistics clearly shows that more Ghanaians are digitally connected now and in fact there are a greater number of connected mobile devices than the total population of Ghana. So, a focus on the digital is certainly the way to go in this period of social isolation and self-quarantine.
The power of the Digital cannot be overemphasized. Its advantages are enormous and it provides a bold new frontier of opportunities for churches.
In this article I will share with you two low budget digital content ideas for church leaders.
1. Bulk SMS
This tool can be used to broadcast daily scriptures, keep members informed of ministry news and other important information about the coronavirus pandemic. With the number of connected mobiles exceeding the total population of Ghana, you can be sure to have most if not all church members with mobile connectivity hence reaching them via SMS is a good point to start.
SMS blast can be done daily or at least three times in a week and please be sure to be consistent with whatever schedule you decide to use. Messages can be sent either by using your personal or a dedicated church mobile number or you may choose to use the services of an SMS service provide. If you decide to go with the latter, remember to include a contact number for people to able to reach out to you when need be.
2. WhatsApp Messenger
This platform can be used to stay connected with members and continue building relationships. In addition to basic messaging, you can create groups, send each other unlimited images, video and audio media messages.
a. Status updates
Use this feature to share intriguing messages on your status update. Let your status update be a way to share Christ's love and bring hope to friends in your contact list who maybe going through a difficult time.
You can also post very important messages via your status but please note that because status is seen by people in your contact list who may not all be members of your congregation, consider status posts as public posts and do not make the mistake of posting messages that are meant only for the consumption of your church members.
b. Direct Messaging
WhatsApp can also be used as a touchpoint to keep in contact with your congregation as well as non-members to further build relationships. It is an easy and secure platform for online discipleship.
You can use your WhatsApp account to share daily or weekly devotionals or scriptures with your members or with a particular group of people. From the “Chats” option you can select, “New Broadcast List” and add everyone whom you'd like to send a broadcast message to. Your messages will be delivered to each person individually rather than in a group message.
Different broadcast lists can also be created for your congregation. For example, a list for church leaders, general church list, new converts list and a list for other ministries.
Use this feature as your digital meeting space. Pick a time where everyone will be available online to meet and fellowship through the app. Leaders can lead the service or appoint one person who will lead the digital service to keep everything orderly during your meeting time.
Meetings can be regulated by intermittently activating and deactivating the function that allows only admins to post to make room for comments, suggestions, and questions from members.
The maximum number of people you can have in a group is 256, this comes in handy for leaders of smaller congregations.
The power of the digital simply cannot be overemphasized. It presents a bold new frontier of opportunities for the church and we must fully harness it for the purpose of preaching Christ and preparing souls for heaven.
The global church as we know is a people, not a series of buildings. A ban from physical meetings should not stop the church from functioning. The church has always been a source of hope to the world; We are the light of the world and we must shine in these dark days.