Editor note: Friday, April 24, 2020 - In the midst of the COVID season, the rules of Pastoring Online are changing. Even the Online Campus idea is shifting as the majority of churches in America are now online only. As a result, there's some interesting perspectives that are shifting. See the slides below, and then more information on the Online Pastor Job Profile is found below.
The Online Campus Pastor – (Pre COVID-19)
Like multisite campus pastor; shepherd and care for people who are not at a physical church/campus. People who attend physical campuses don’t interact online, so not Online Pastor’s responsibility.
The Digital Pastor – (During COVID-19)
Responsible for utilizing digital tools to shepherd/care for entire church, regardless of whether physical or digital. Attenders are not one sided. They exist both digitally and physically.
The Project Manager, Digital Champion – (Where we're going)
Digital is entire church staff’s responsibility, not just online pastor. Digital Champion is essentially a rah-rah cheerleader making sure everyone manages their online responsibilities well.
Ask yourself this question: How does your church want to operate digitally. Your church's strategy should dictate this question. Once the above is answered, then dig into below.
Back in my early days of ministry, I served at a church who had just hired a new Creative Director. To some at this particular church, the idea of a Creative Director was a foreign concept, and the gossip behind closed doors was that he was becoming the "Pastor of Photoshop". Years later we can laugh at that time, at the lack of vision the church had creatively. Today it's obvious to most, if not all, the need to utilize Creativity for the purpose of Ministry. Back in the day? Very controversial.
Similarly, the Online Pastor has gone through difficulties with vision. Who are these people shepherding? Who are they counseling? Can you even disciple in online spaces? In recent years I was introduced to a church staff as the "Online Pastor" and another Pastor stood up in response to ask this question: "Are we, as a church, theologically okay with doing this?" (Utilizing online communication technology to create disciples? Why wouldn't you be!)
Church, if you want to be effective in doing Church Online, it's time to start staffing Online. There are certainly different roles that you can eventually staff, but if you are serious about ministering to the Online crowd, look no further than the Online Pastor. But what does an Online Campus Pastor do? I get asked this a lot. For those curious, here's a job profile to help start the conversation:
Online (Campus) Pastor Job Profile
1) Develop Weekend for Online
Work alongside worship, production and stage teams in preparing your weekly service online. Most weekend prep teams understand how to create effective worship services in physical spaces. They don't yet understand how to do it Online. Help them see. Remember that weekend services are an effective front door to get people connected to your discipleship pathway. Do the announcements work for people outside of your physical locations? Does the application of the message need adjusting for people watching from an online environment? An effective Online Pastor helps others understand how to reach the Online audience.
2) Drive Online Discipleship
Just like our physical churches are called to do more than weekend services, our Church Online is called to do more. An Online Pastor of a healthy ministry often relates more to the Small Group Department than anyone else, they need to be that relational. The most important thing an Online Pastor can do is discover, meet and engage the people who are watching Online. Get them connected into your Online Discipleship Pathway. Don't have a pathway set up for online yet? Figure out what your church does at its physical locations and port it to the online realm. An effective Online Pastor will relationally connect with people, preventing church-in-isolation.
3) Champion Online Locations
Battling the church-in-isolation ideology that Church Online can suffer with, an Online Pastor should constantly challenge Church Online to make physical connections (as well as virtual connections). Empower others to start Watch Parties, Microsites, House Churches... whatever you want to call them... a healthy Church Online isn't just a virtual broadcast watched on an iPhone, but a method of gathering people in physical spaces. An effective Online Pastor will accept the opportunities to disciple, as well as train, leaders of these smaller locations.
4) Liaison to Physical Pastors
There will be tensions between physical and online environments, especially if Online is growing. Remember, there can be a lot of tension between physical locations and online location. Ultimately Church Online can be useful to reach people next door to your church (as well as reaching around the world). An Online Pastor serves as a liaison to the other Pastors of the church to figure out how Church Online can impact the entirety of your church, regardless of where people are located. An effective Online Pastor helps others see how Church Online can help the entire church do ministry.
5) Research & Development
Online changes on a regular basis. Church Online should as well! What is the church doing that's working? That's not working? What new advances are happening in technology? Is the technology the end, or is it the means to the end? Remember, methods may change, but the message remains the same! Want to know what your church should be asking? Here are some freebies for you and your staff to wrestle with:
- As communication gets shorter and shorter, our sermons typically stay the same length. What content can your church create to be a more effective front door?
- In what ways can mobile technology help us create disciples 168 hours a week, expanding our ministry to more than just one hour on Sunday?
- How can the technology of Church Online help people serve in their community, regardless of where they live?
Stadia is getting ready to launch another round of their Phygital Learning Communities. Almost 70 churches right now are learning how to THRIVE, GROW, and MULTIPLY. We want to help your church learn how physical and digital can work together to achieve your mission and vision, meanwhile letting your Church, Online, be authentically you. Phygital Learning Communities are starting soon. Check out http://stadiachurchplanting.org/phygital for more information.