A Small Church Having a Big Impact Through Digital
Hi, I’m Rachel Cobleigh and I’m the webmaster for Elmwood Chapel. We’re a small church located near Boston, Massachusetts (USA), but because of our online presence, we reach a far larger global audience!
We’ve been established as a church for over fifty years, with some of the founding members still involved — what a rich community of faith! — and we are blessed to have solid and engaging Biblical teaching. When I started attending, that teaching was only reaching the ears of the people sitting in the pews. Change can be a difficult thing to accept, but when some younger, tech-savvy folks joined the church, we offered to put our skills to use for the glory of God, and the congregation embraced our efforts.
Our church podcasts
We made a huge improvement to the church’s website, and since 2010, we’ve been making a podcast of our sermons available online. It’s actually easy to do: we use an inexpensive, palm-sized digital audio recorder, and then do some simple post-processing with free software. Finally, we upload the file to the church website, where it is automatically published as a podcast. We’ve seen a surprising number of downloads (our most popular sermon has had over 2,000 hits!). Also, new people have started coming to our services and have become active in the life of the church! They said that listening to sermons in the safety and convenience of their own homes was a great, efficient way for them to evaluate the spiritual health of the church and decide if they wanted to visit. In our busy, 24/7 modern culture, allowing people to virtually attend a service lowers the barrier to entry.
In addition to new attenders, many different kinds of folks have been encouraged by being able to listen to the sermons online. Regular attenders who are traveling or are briefly ill can catch up on what they missed. There are people who like to listen to the sermons again, later in the week, as a kind of devotional. Some people who used to be regular attenders have fallen ill and are now shut-ins, but they listen to feel connected and fed. Also, we have received emails from people who found our podcast online and don’t live anywhere near our church, but want to know how to find more sermons in a particular series, and so on. It’s been incredibly encouraging for our little church to be able to extend out via digital ministry to reach more people with the good news of Christ!
Don’t overlook the obvious
Finally, just having a good church website has made a big difference, both in how we present ourselves to new people, and also in how we communicate with each other. Putting our Statement of Faith online has had a huge impact: it allows people to see what we believe. Although having a good website seems like a tiny, obvious thing (welcome to the twenty-first century!), not everyone understands how to do it well.
When I first moved to the area, I looked at prospective churches’ websites, and despite them having flashy, animated graphics and great marketing pitches, many churches didn’t make it easy to find where and when the services took place! So we learned, and we made that basic information prominent on our church’s website.
For a small, spiritually-thriving church with limited financial resources, expanding into a digital space has been a great opportunity for us. Side note: I highly recommend our church website provider, MyChurchWebsite.net, because they’ve got an easy-to-use (even our “non-techie” pastor can easily make changes), great product at an affordable price, and their tech support is responsive and excellent.
It doesn’t matter if you are a programmer or not: if you can envision a way to reach people for Christ in a digital space, go for it! Learn the skills you need, or find a friend who has them. Ask around your church, and see what skills and experience people have. Follow the Spirit’s leading, and don’t be afraid: if you lift up Christ, He’ll draw everyone to Him!