The Digital Church

By Luke Johnson

I keep being drawn to the sentence, “Helping your church navigate the biggest communication shift in 500 years.” If it is true for YouTuber Brady Shearer, or for author Phil Bowdle in his book Rethink Communication, how is this true for Summerland Baptist Church?

How do both the digital revolution and the pandemic really impact SBC?

Let me preface this by saying that the many historical ways we’ve communicated in church were all done for a reason. God used it, and still does. He worked through the historical use of the offering envelope or the paper tract, the good old felt board, or just a plain checkbox paper signup form. No need to discount any of it. It all had a purpose.

But as I begin, to borrow a word we like to use as staff, we have all had to pivot. Our roles are shifting. The tools we use to have the most impact on SBC, are changing. Perhaps I should best illustrate it as I highlight a few departments. 

At the church office Corinne collects most of our giving through the online platform. Only three years ago was this shift made, as we saw the convenience of online giving. While we still offer envelopes, gone is the need to even be in person to give. A major shift in technology that only started with the rise of the internet, and more importantly, internet security.

As a staff team we don’t rely solely on email anymore. We now use an instant messaging tool called Slack. This allows for an instant chat to be initiated for all the things we work on. Instant feedback is extremely useful. If you want to kill some more time, look up Discord, I really like this as being the future of online church conversation. I do apologize for the titles of these technologies; it makes it sound like we use these tools to not work efficiently or are upset at life.

In the SBCkids department, Bree and Carolyn have had to rethink Sunday school, in a way. They have pivoted and made extremely good use of the SBC YouTube channel to engage, entertain, and capture little eyes. This means limited use of the felt board and less need for Izzy to dress up as a Disney character, although he looks great as Olaf! It also means a new kind of engagement. It means more eyes can see what the department is sharing – all through the use of a 16-year-old technology.

In the Youth department Dustin has had to increasingly utilize our database system Elvanto to create sign up forms for multiple events and then have them properly communicate. His job has had to pivot. Dustin is also in the preliminary stage of creating a Youth Help Line. In coordination with a counselor, and using an established service, Dustin has made a way for youth to communicate with him using text message. Another use of a relatively new technology, 30-years-old to be exact. The text message can’t be that old, can it??

For me, in the communications department, the use of modern tools like WordPress,, Cognito Forms, Eventbrite, and Photoshop make my job almost strictly digital. But one tool in particular is super helpful; Canva is a designer’s dream, both for ease of use and for inspiration. I do not consider myself a graphic designer, but this tool has allowed me to learn more and develop. Also, if you have not discovered the SBC Podcast, try it for the first time.

How does all this change our church? How does SBC move forward and embrace new technologies? What does church now look like?

We need to pay attention to the online audience.

What we need to realize is there is now a secondary door to SBC. People are now coming in through an online door. Whether it is the YouTube channel or one of our social media accounts, their engagement in our messaging is being found through new means, not just the front doors on Sunday morning.

Please don’t hear me saying that in person Sunday mornings are not important – meeting together is crucial. Years of the church and how God has designed us proves that we need community. Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” We need each other.

How does a 2-year pandemic change things? It makes the importance of online church (which can take shape in many ways) that much greater. It has put churches in the spotlight. We need to shift. We need to strongly consider those who are in their pajamas, on their couch at home, and with their family watching our message. It’s extremely important. To miss them would be to miss our mission.

So, you could say the church has had to pivot. What used to work is just not as effective in today’s technology driven world, in today’s modern church. When was the last time I took a paper bulletin home with me on Sunday? Hmm.

I am challenged to take this on, I am challenged to see SBC reach, deepen, and restore using a new set of tools. Summerland needs it, the world needs it.

If you have thoughts on this, please contact me anytime.

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