If you are a Church Communicator or Social Media Manager, you know the value of online connections. But you don’t have to hold just one of these positions to know that online connections can lead to more than just a simple “like” or comment on a post. For example, there are plenty of opportunities student, family or children’s ministers have in which they use online tools to connect with those they are ministering to.
While most ministers know that online connections are important in this day and age, there is still a lot of debate on whether or not you can actually have real community and discipleship online. The reality is, while online discipleship is outside of what’s always been done and isn’t “traditional”, in today’s world, it may be the only real shot someone has at growing in Christ, learning what it means to follow Him and lead others to a relationship with Him.
So is Online Discipleship actually possible? Can you really make real connections online that can help others grow in Christ and make an impact in their community? I believe you can and I’ve seen in happen in 3 different ways.
- Facebook Groups. Facebook groups are great for adults because most of them are on Facebook practically daily which makes it an easy on ramp. You can use Facebook Group for discipleship in a variety of ways. You can create groups centered on a holiday like Christmas or Easter. Or, you can center it on a topic, book of the Bible or sermon series. Or, you can just have an open group like, “Student Ministry Parents” Group. Regardless of what group you set up, the format is similar. Each day you can post a scripture, challenge, image or video to encourage them in life and Christ and to also get a discussion going. The more interaction that happens the better the discussion and trust that builds up where people begin to share “real life” issues with each other.
- Text Message Apps. According to Text-in-Church 97% of people open their text messages. Because of this awesome open rate, using text messages is a great way to communicate and encourage others in Christ. Group chats work great as a way to share scripture and encourage each other daily to grow in Christ. I have used this a lot in student ministry groups as teens and college aged young adults are on their phones so much. Apps like WhatsApp or GroupMe work great and can be really effective in reaching people with different mobile operating systems or for International members in your church.
- Video Groups. If using social media and text messaging aren’t your cup of tea, then maybe video conferencing using FaceTime or Zoom can help you disciple others. This could be in form of a Group discipleship gathering or individual, one-on-one times. You can get together online at a certain time and actually have interactions LIVE as you discuss life just like a “physical” life group or in person meet up.
Times have changed. What has always been done before won’t work for us in the future. We live in a digital and online world. People are online all the time these days. So, it only makes sense that we provide opportunities for people to grow in Christ and be challenged to live for him. These are just 3 options you have. There are sure to be more.
Life groups, Home Groups, Community Groups Discipleship Groups or whatever you call them are vital to helping people develop and grow in their faith. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, not everyone is able to participate in a traditionally formatted group. That is where technology comes in and makes online community and discipleship happen. The more technology evolves and changes the more opportunities there are for people to experience a life group online. So, while online discipleship may not be ideal for everyone, online discipleship is definitely a possibility, real discipleship CAN and DOES develop online.
What do you think? Have you tried online discipleship before? What format do you use and how have you seen people grow in their faith because of it? Share below.