Like many churches across the country, my church, One Community Church in Plano, Texas, started going digital when the news about the pandemic came in March. With virtual small groups through Zoom, a girl named Amaya began attending each week. As the weeks went by, Amaya started growing and developing relationships through digital discipleship. You see, this virtual small group was becoming more than just a Zoom call to her . . . it was becoming “church” for her.

When summer approached, the church decided to begin opening its doors. But Amaya had questions.

“Pastor Andrae, what about me? Where will my church be?”

Amaya lives in New York. She had been attending church online every week since the start of the pandemic. Because of digital discipleship, Amaya was able to learn about God through relationships built at this church. 

When Amaya told me about her situation, I knew that digital ministry couldn’t stop. It’s why our church and many others decided to leverage digital platforms to inspire faith. I’d love to share four points to consider as you implement digital discipleship in your ministry. 

Digital discipleship has no boundaries.

Before going digital, churches had barriers set by time, space, and resources. But now, there are no boundaries! Digital discipleship gives us the opportunity to meet kids exactly where they are, whether that means places beyond our church’s city limits, our typical resources, or our schedule. 

Truthfully, if we only choose to do in-person ministry, we miss out on an entire group of people who are waiting to connect with God and others. What if by engaging in digital discipleship, you connect with someone who doesn’t live near you? Imagine if it connects our kids with someone who doesn’t look like them? You see, digital discipleship breaks dozens of boundaries for community that would otherwise be missed with only in-person church.

Strive for connection over content.

While the content you produce is important, it’s not what will keep people engaged month after month of virtual church. We don’t want to be another Netflix, endlessly creating content that results in screen discipleship—a place where families go to simply watch. The goal is to create meaningful connections that result in digital discipleship . . . a place where kids go to engage and interact in conversations about Jesus. 

Some ways we can build connections are through engagement questions and virtual small groups. When we lead effective small groups, relationships form. For some helpful tips on building virtual small groups, you can download our virtual small groups guide. Other ways to build connections might be through parent Facebook groups to create buy-in with families. For at-home church, it’s also helpful to give parents the opportunity to watch the content and cue them with conversation points to have as a family.

Redefine your roles.

Before the pandemic, we had several important volunteer roles at church—everything from greeters to small group leaders to storytellers. Digital discipleship calls for us to redefine these roles. 

For example, the kids ministry at my church created different teams of volunteers who help digital discipleship to go off without a hitch. There are virtual small groups for kids to join and volunteers to use their gifts. Also, there is a digital content team with producers, camera people, hosts, storytellers, worship . . . the list goes on! Finally, there is a care team with volunteers to check in with families, online tutoring, or other connections. You can even redefine the roles of parents by making a parent council or parent Facebook group, providing them with resources to help them disciple kids from home. As we redefine our roles, we build the capacity of the church to make digital discipleship work.

Measure what matters.

Rather than emphasizing the amount of views on a series, the number of faces on a Zoom call, or attenders on a live-stream, let’s measure what really matters—life change. We can measure this by analyzing our engagement.

To measure engagement, you can create a dashboard with several data points, including the number of kids consistently showing up for a group, the number of kids taking next steps, the number of volunteers signing up to serve, and the number of parents getting engaged. This could also be measured through surveys or forms that people fill out to share their engagement levels. The bottom line is to focus more on the life change shown through engagement than the views. 

As we venture into digital discipleship, one thing is for sure:

Our mission has not changed. 

We still want to partner with families to help their kids know and love God . . . the method to do that has simply evolved. Rather than kids coming to us, we get to come to them right where they are. Let’s imagine the possibilities in that, and let’s embrace the changes that digital discipleship has for our ministries and the kids inside them.