Thursday, January 31, 2008

Can you cyberpastor a church? part two

Part One

Can You CyberPastor a Church?
part 2

Upon accepting the role I currently occupy as pastor, I immediately entered into a different phase of ministry. Much of my ministry in those weeks of transition before I moved here could be described as cyberpastoring. What do I mean by such a word? I simply mean using the forms of electronic communication to oversee and shepherd a congregation of believers. Personally, I received many emails immediately from people I had not met before. They most likely ‘googled’ my name, found my previous church, and presto, instant information (scary thought).

So, what forms of electronic communication am I speaking of? That is the vast difficulty of the internet and cyberspace. Terms and trends are often very hard to define, describe, and come to agreement upon. What is here today, could be gone tomorrow, or even sooner! But, here is a representation of electronic communication I have used today to pastor the church I was called to serve.

  • EMAIL – This is probably the most common communication of all. I currently have 2 primary accounts that I check fairly frequently. Through email, I have made appointments, counseled, shared prayer requests, actually prayed (through writing the prayer out), encouraged, discipled, answered faith-based questions, evangelized, evaluated books, shared resources, taught theology, collaborated on projects, gave input on decisions, and much, much more. Much of these things are clearly fundamental biblical aspects of pastoring. I don’t think it is the only way to pastor, but it has provided avenues to do so.

  • BLOG – Before I was on the payroll of the church, I was speaking to the congregation. How so? Through a weblog, or ‘blog’ for short (fyi, you are reading the blog, if you were unaware!). I currently post 4 to 5 times a week. I speak to an audience that is often faceless, although I hear comments from time to time. I open up my life a little, and get to speak to dozens (maybe hundreds?) of people through each post. I make book recommendations, share my devotions, point people toward helpful resources, promote sermon ideas, share some laughs, follow up on sermons (extending the teaching time). And, it is free! Within a couple of seconds, thoughts typed on a computer in Newark, DE, can be read around the globe. And they have been read around the globe. I have a web-based tracker that has brought to my attention that people have hit the blog from 6 continents (no one from Antarctica yet), and from numerous countries. Several missionary friends have read it, as well as friends in other states, and former members of the church who want to keep tabs on what is going on here.

  • FACEBOOK – I was not the first to get on the Facebook train (or many other trains for that matter). Facebook is in the same type of category as MySpace. It is hard to describe them, because they are so exhaustive. Overall, I would say that it can function as a place to communicate with people, disclosing personal interests, pictures, and just about everything else (if you want to). It can function as a place to send messages back and forth or just see what is going on in your friend’s lives. As it relates to my current role as pastor, Facebook has been a place to connect with friends from past places in my life. But, specifically, it has been a resource to communicate with people who are currently a part of the congregation here. I had a meeting recently that was set up exclusively on Facebook, no other form of communication. Our church has an underutilized Facebook group. I was told by Emily, our church’s director of college ministries, that more students are likely to keep close tabs on their Facebook page than their email accounts. I think that is true. What has also been amazing is to keep up with friends who are sharing the gospel in remote places. I can see pictures, read stories, pray and celebrate God's work among the nations through the technology of Facebook.

to be continued...