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PODCAST 040: Daniel Herron & The Robloxian Christians, or doing Gen Z Church in a Video Game

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I (Jeff) used to consider myself innovative. Then I met Daniel. While most kids were running away from church, Daniel at age 11 was trying to figure out how to plant a church in a video game platform known as Roblox, and over eight years later his church has impacted over 24,000 lives. Even today, as a 19 year old college student, Daniel is still making strides with how to grow and stabilize his Robloxian Church.

Looking for a fresh perspective on Gen Z? Check out The Church Digital Podcast.


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ON THE SHOW

 

Guest: Daniel Herron
The Robloxian Christians
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Host: Jeff Reed
THECHURCH.DIGITAL
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Co-Host: Rey DeArmas
Christ Fellowship Miami Online
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SHOW NOTES

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Love you all! Praying for your Churches and your Ministry Online.
 
Jeff Reed
THECHURCH.DIGITAL
 

TRANSCRIPT

Jeff Reed: 00:00 Episode 40 of The Church Digital Podcast and this is going to be a fun conversation today cause I got to tell, well, let me ask you this question. Let's just back up. I want to ask you this singular question. What were you doing when you were 11 years old? Like what was your life? What were you obsessed with when you were 11? I can tell you for me it was Tim Burton's Batman. The first Batman. This is way before the Nolan films. Batman begins. This is like a was, what was his name? Michael. Michael Douglas that is the wrong one. Michael Keaton. Yeah. Michael Douglas. Michael Keaton. Don't make that confusion. Michael Keaton running around in a Batman outfit chasing a Jack Nicholson. The joker. Good movie. 1989 that was me at 11 I was obsessed with that movie sneaking into movie theaters at the South Dade AMC Plaza. By the way, if you're old school Miami, you understand the AMC 8 back there at the South Dade.

Jeff Reed: 00:56 Yeah. So here's the deal. Well, I was sneaking into movie theaters at 11, our guest today, Daniel Herron, he was starting at church. He was starting a church in a virtual reality platform and a gaming platform called Roblox while I was in probably the rest of us were riding our bikes and having fun and goofing off and doing, trying to stay as far away from church as possible. This dude was actually creating a church in virtual reality on his own in roblocks completely on his own. Now let's pump the brakes here a little bit. What is Roblox? This kid's 11 like this, this, there's a lot of questions that I know are popping up. Here's the deal. The dude's not 11 anymore, the dude's 19 so fast forward, getting your DeLorean eight years into the future into today, he's still running this Roblox church, the Robloxian Christians and as a result of this ministry over the past eight years, he has, he has touched the lives of 24,000 people through this video game platform called Roblox and he is still going and doing this on a weekly basis.

Jeff Reed: 02:07 It's an incredible story coming from a, and I apologize here from a kid, from a young adult, from a gen Z, or from somebody who should be doing anything other than running a church in a virtual reality community. This guy is doing it. And I would love to understand the why and the how, how we got here, how he got started, what was his motivation? All of these things we ask in this, in this podcast. So here's the deal I'm bringing to the table, Rey DeArmas, Online Pastor with Christ Fellowship Miami, of course, cohost, with myself, Jeff, with The Church Digital and Daniel Herron. I don't even know what to call him. He's not a pastor. The guy who's running the Robloxian Church in a conversation centered around the Robloxian church. Everybody. Here you go.

Daniel Herron: 03:00 I am, I'm Daniel Herron. I grew up Tacoma, Washington, West side, about an hour South of Seattle. Both my parents, they met in, in college just a few blocks away from where we live. And I sort of grow, I've grown up in this like diverse, lower income area of my city that's historically been, has had some really tough, has been tough with gangs and crime and stuff. So I sort of growing up, I grew up around a lot of people that didn't look like me, which was, I think important in the work that I do now. Born and raised in the Presbyterian church. I local churches, smaller migrate. It's actually funny, my great, great, great grandfather actually started the church that I go to now. Cool. And Tacoma, which is pretty cool. So sort of, there's, in my family, there was this, this, building, people that have been in ministry, and sort of has been inspirational to me to do this.

Jeff Reed: 04:01 Let me ask you this question. Do they consider you in ministry right now?

New Speaker: 04:04 They consider me a ministry. Yeah. 18 year. I mean, they wouldn't consider, I don't, they don't consider me ordain because I'm not ordained, but they, they do definitely consider what I'm doing to be a church and to be ministry. And on that note, I don't think, I've never actually run into anyone. I mean I've shared this with probably thousands of people at this point. Thousands of individuals, pastors, I've never run across someone who has like challenged the idea of whether or not it's a church, which I know in a lot of other people doing similar work, like they've sort of run into people that are been opposed to it. And in my experience, maybe it's just that I'm a cute like younger kid, but I've never experienced that, which is, has been a blessing I think.

Daniel Herron: 04:56 But I think, I think a good way to explain what you're asking is just, it's sort of tell you this story or you of the church and how it came to be. Well, I just want to put you, put you into the mindset of what I what I was in 2011. Okay. I was a sixth grader. I was a sixth grader who loves computer games. I would like come home from school every day and I just played these like flash games on random websites or like get like you're probably getting malware from it or whatever. But I was just like, this is fun. So I was playing these games and one day this banner ad, you know, don't click on the ads, but I clicked on an ad and it changed my life. Okay. It was this little ad for a game called Roblox and it was this the ad, I don't even remember what the ad was, but I joined in it.

Daniel Herron: 05:46 I created an account and I started playing these Roblox games and what Roblox is for people that, are not of my generation. They label themselves as a entertainment platform where they, everything on there, there's tons of millions of games that you can play that are all created by different users on the platform. So none of the games that you play have been created by the actual Roblox team, the Roblox corporation, it's all a user created, user generated content. Then there's also like as a virtual economy where you can like create and design clothing for your little avatar and you can sell it and you can earn virtual currency and can make groups for your games and all sorts of, it's a really dynamic platform to make friends and play games with each other, which is really cool. And the little sixth-grader me back in 2011 got hooked real fast.

Daniel Herron: 06:36 I started just eating this stuff up. I remember playing a lot of games for a lot of time and it was really fun. Not going to lie, I really enjoyed it, but there was this, this time, as time went on while I was on this platform, I was like, there's these different groups that you can join to be in community with one another online. And I kept looking for a Christian community because at the time, and today, my faith is a large portion of my life. It's a big thing to me. So I kept looking and searching for this like Christian community, you know, I found one, actually I found it was a group on Roblox called the Christians of Robloxia and the Christians of Robloxia, which is a very interesting name. It's very Robloxy name, they were sort of just like a fan club for Jesus.

Daniel Herron: 07:22 So they were like a group on the Roblox site that would just like join this group if you're a Christian. So it was just a big collection of people that said that they are Christian. They didn't really do anything about it. They just sort of just sort of like put this on your profile. There wasn't much participation and I didn't, I sort of didn't like that very much. So I was like, huh and after awhile I decided to actually leave that group and sometime passed and I was still just searching for this community that was like, I want people that, that are passionate about their faith just like I am. So I left this, this group that was really, didn't do all that much in terms of participation and engagement. And some time went by and I was just like, there's still this like place in my heart where I want to be involved with other people my age, and do this sort of work.

Daniel Herron: 08:06 But there wasn't one that existed on the platforms. I remember very distinctly, it was the day after Christmas of 2011 I just received for Christmas my very first, Roblox, little gift card, to get the premium membership, which was really exciting for the sixth grade me. I was like, Oh yes, I'm going to be cool now. I'm going to be special and I can do things can. So that was awesome, but I got the membership and with that membership you can create groups. So I created this group having no intention whatsoever what would be, called the Robloxian Christians. It started out, in the first couple of weeks. It's just a place where I would invite a few of my friends to come, like this flat block, really large block where we would join together with our little avatars and we would just, prayed together online for whatever was going on in our lives.

Daniel Herron: 08:56 We would just chat and pray, through the platform because I was familiar with the platform it didn't seem weird or odd to me that I was doing it like this. And really, I don't really have words to describe how it transformed over time. It was sort of just like somehow by God's grace and God's blessing, more people started to show up each week we'd invite more people and they would come and eventually we were like, Oh boy, we got that. We got like 50 people coming. Now we need to like, should we do something? Should we like make it more than just a base plate? So we designed, or I mean I designed, there wasn't really much of a staff at that point, but we designed this, this little virtual church building that kind of resembles like a one room, church school house on the Plains.

Daniel Herron: 09:46 I don't know. it was very basic. I was 12 at the time, but that was interesting. We started having these virtual gatherings where we would, it was really, it really resembled, what my church looked like in real life. So I would, I would look at like the service, that I would go to on a Sunday and then I would think about what are the different aspects. So we would have like a worship and then we would have a time of prayer and you would have in a sermon. And then I sort of replicated those in the, online service in the afternoon, which was really cool.

Jeff Reed: 10:22 Right. You're 12, right?

Daniel Herron: 10:23 Yeah, I was 12 at that point in time. And I think people who are coming to this, and that's, that's actually a tricky thing. Roblox never gives us demographics because it's like a kid's platform, right? Like kids gaming platform. So over time what we've done is, for our volunteer application, which is sort of a, like an offsite thing, it's like users can choose to, give information about themselves, just demographic information. And of the 1800, like staff applications that we've received, we're able to get a picture of demographics. And our average age ranges from, I think the range is from six to like 26, but the average where most people are at is middle school, high school, 14, 15.

Jeff Reed: 11:14 Yeah. So middle school or high schoolers don't want to sit in a, in an average physical church building, but they'll go and they'll experience a virtual service in a virtual building with, that's kind of comprised the same way utilizing virtual elements. Like, that's crazy.

Daniel Herron: 11:30 And I think what's, what's really special about it is that we're not making it challenging for them to go and it's for them to attend. They can show up at really any time and someone will be there. They can participate in our discord server or on our, like our discussion wall on the group page, which is an area for prayer requests and such. What's, what's beautiful about having a, a church on a video game platform is it's where, young people are already ad. I always like to think of the story of Zacchaeus when Jesus was preaching and Zacchaeus was up an old tree and he said, gee, so I'm going to your house today. I'm actually going to where you're at. I'm going to talk to you. I'm going to help you change your spirit and change your heart. He actually went to where he was at. He wasn't like, Hey Zacchaeus, come meet me at the synagogue or come meet me in the upper room or wherever. He was like, right here, right now, this is where I'm going to meet you. And I think that's something that we're replicating and we're trying to do online. And it's been really, meaningful and successful. everything's really special.

Jeff Reed: 12:36 So 12 years ago, you're reaching 50 or so people, or excuse me, when you were 12, seven years ago, seven, eight years ago was about 50 people today. We're still doing Roblox Church. Like what does it look like in a given Sunday?

Daniel Herron: 12:55 We are definitely still doing Roblox. Church. One of the limitations of Roblox is that in the actual virtual world, there's like capacities on how many people you can actually fit because of the technical issues. The maximum that we can fit is, 50 people, at one time. But at our services we always have people joining and leaving. So we're not going to have just 50 come. What we consider membership in the churches. Actually joining that group that I talked about, one, someone attends either a service or one of our outreach events or visits are one of our outreach. Our God is love prayer ministry, which I can talk about in a minute. But once they visited that, we encourage them to join the group and get involved in the church. And that's how we track like the total membership of the church.

Jeff Reed: 13:48 Nope. The Roblox service is just really the front door that funnels into this other.

Daniel Herron: 13:55 And I sort of think of the, the community group as like as the group hub, a hub or a portal to a bunch of other, work where the ministry actually happens online. but like to answer your question in our, in our community group, we have, just under 24,000, youth members, at a given service, we might, range from 400 to 800 people that would come at some point in time in that given service based on the stats that Roblox gives us.

Jeff Reed: 14:36 So you've got 24,000 names in a database that somehow engaged with a Roblox service, which you've funneled into this database and then went to database. What are you challenging them to do? Like what's the end game? What's the goal of this?

Daniel Herron: 14:52 What we really challenged the people in the group to do, is to attend the virtual services to get involved. ultimately our, our mission statement and the entirety of the church is to share the love and word of God with all young people online. And part of what we're doing at the, at the services that we're preaching and what we're talking about, especially in the sermon series that we're in right now, is once you've made the claim, once you've decided to follow Jesus, how do you go out and live out that, how do you live out, as a Christian, what's that lifestyle like? How do you respond to people? How do you act around other people, especially on Roblox, and on other gaming platforms and in your life? What does it look like to follow Jesus and trying to equip people to equipping these young people to, live differently and to live as, as a light in a place where there's not much light.

Rey DeArmas: 15:57 That's, that's really good, Dan. so tell me more about, like are you taking them through like a discipleship process? Is there a strategy that you're walking them through because that's, that's amazing stuff that you guys have been able to accomplish and in such a short period of time really may feel like a long period of time, but really in the life of a character, it's a short period of time to reach the number of people that you're reaching.

Daniel Herron: 16:19 Yeah. That's actually one of the challenges too I think. And I think that there's something that's a challenge on there. A lot of the larger brick and mortar churches as well as the, as we've grown larger, it's harder and harder to engage people one-on-one, and harder to stay connected. We definitely have, we have things that we try to do. We encourage people to continue to attend services to get involved in our, we have life groups going on. They meet on Saturdays and then they are in breakout groups. we really, we also encourage them to get into the discord because the discord, unlike the Roblox group, we're able to, there's less, censorship and filtered, chat. So we're able to share more and posts more. And it's more active in terms of like being vulnerable and sharing about your life.

Daniel Herron: 17:14 And it's more of an everyday sort of thing and building community with others as opposed to only when you're only when you choose, on the group, on the Roblox group, there's more interaction on the discord. And that's one of the big things that's important to me in this church is that just, it's amazing to me how vulnerable people are, young people, how much they share about their lives with people that if they were in a brick and mortar setting, they might not feel comfortable sharing it, which is there's that level of anonymity online, which some people might say is like, that's dangerous because people are just going to take advantage of it. But in my experience, that hasn't been true at all. People have actually used it to be more comfortable sharing which with what is actually going on in their life and being open to support others in our process as well.

Daniel Herron: 18:08 Sorry, to cut you off there. In a previous episode we talked to a DJ Soto and one of the things we talked about cause he's doing first from VR, has a lot of overlap in terms of your experiences. We talked about how this serves almost like a digital confessional, if you will, that having that layer in between really helps somebody to kind of open up and you're seeing that, right? There's this one example, I don't use it because it's a dramatic example, but I use it because it really was powerful in my own life to see what the work of the church is. It was actually a really hard, hard time in the life of my faith actually. But we had three young people who were battling with depression and anxiety. We had three attempted suicides in the course of three weeks, all unrelated. I'm so, we're so blessed that everyone survived and is doing better today.

Daniel Herron: 19:03 But there's, there was this, and one of them, there was this awesome beauty of seeing the interconnectedness of the, of the online church, that because they, because, because Sally had built such strong friendships and relationships through the church and through the discord ministry, she had actually talked about what she was going through before she had attempted suicide. She communicates so, so like frequently that, when she was actually doing it, it was someone from the church, several states away. She was in Alabama and the person that actually called nine one one, or emergency services to rescue her was calling from Wisconsin into her town. So the friendships and relationships that were built through the online church, and the, the level of what was shared in those relationships, I think is incredibly powerful. And I think that this is only three people. Just imagine what's happening. I don't, I don't know what's going on and with everyone's relationships, but I know that there's, these are pretty common, these sort of strong relationships that are being built.

Jeff Reed: 20:18 Let's, let's park on this for a second. that great story. Yeah, but so you've got somebody in Alabama and somebody in Wisconsin and even though they're in different time zones, even though they're on different sides of the country, even though they're not breathing the same air, there's a friendship, a relationship, a comfortableness that in that desperate moment of need to reach out isn't to mom isn't a dad, it's not to a school teacher. It's not to anybody within the state. It's in Wisconsin. The church today would, would say that doesn't, that doesn't happen, that you can't have community. They can't have relationships that tight, that intimate online yet. Strangely this, the story here with, with Sally and whoever has, so what, as a young person, what about online helps that relationships connect? When you're 19 and you're making connections with someone through Roblox, church or through discord or whatever the platform, how can you connect with someone like that that may be us as non 20, 30, 40 year olds as an older person. Maybe we struggle with that. What's the younger generation looking for that they're getting online?

Daniel Herron: 21:41 I think, I think to answer that question, we have to consider the fact that to my generation at least, I don't think that technology is so much, I want to say that's not seen as a tool, but it's not like something special. It's something that we've grown up around that we've been surrounded in. It's like second nature to us. So like communicating online, whether it's on discord or Roblox or Facebook or Instagram or Snapchat or any of those things and building relationships with people all the way around the world. It's not foreign and it's not hard. I think the way that I've been able to build these relationships with people that have been apart of my church and people that hadn't been apart of my church is just, the ability to communicate with them and the willingness to, to have the trust, that they're taking it seriously and that it's a real relationship. Cause I know, I know that my friend gave over in Texas. I know that he's a real person. I know that he has real emotions and he's really caring. So when I talk to him, I don't feel this level of disconnection because of technology. I feel this greater level of connectivity because without it I wouldn't know who he was and I wouldn't be able to talk to him. And as a, I'm not a millennial, what am I? A gen Z born past 2000.

Rey DeArmas: 23:05 Yup. No offense. Just categorize you earlier. I take it back. That's all right. I felt aged by Jeff. I was like talking about, man, I am a proud, lazy millennial. Just kidding.

Daniel Herron: 23:18 And he was like, I like what I just said is that technology, since technology is not foreign, it's like, it doesn't feel much different to text someone on Discord than it feels to talk to them over the phone. Right. In fact, I think talking them to them over the phone might even be slightly more uncomfortable than talking to them with one of the other platforms. And I think that a lot of on on these platforms feel the same way because it's just, we've grown up around it. It's what we're used to and it's what we're acclimated to.

Rey DeArmas: 23:54 What we're finding is it's not, it's not just a generational thing in that, you know, but, but it is becoming more and more common in your age group. And you know, Jeff and I got kids in, you know, that are Gen Z. And so what's coming behind this is folks who are growing up into this, you know, and I was introduced to Roblox a few years ago. And so at first when Jeff's told me, Hey, we're going to be talking to Dan and you know, he's got this Roblox and Christian group. At first I thought it was a denomination. We honestly, I was looking it up like, man, I never heard that serious. And then, and then I was like, Oh, this is the game. This is awesome. You know? But it's what, it's become much more than that because it's become this platform for interaction for people which is where so many people are finding connections because of mutual interest, which then opens the doors for ministry. And so I think what God has enabled you to do as a sixth grader, I mean my gosh, as a sixth grader man is powerful that you recognize, Hey, I'm going to leverage this platform that God's given me and I'm just going to bring my faith here along with me. And then, you know, the seed was planted and God caused it to grow, which I think is amazing. Dan, can you take me through, can you take me through what a service looks like?

Daniel Herron: 25:14 This is the question that everyone asks and it's really challenging to describe if you're not like showing them the actual video. However, that's called do my best. You have a, you have an avatar which is like, it's like a little blocky Lego guy kind of across between. If you know what Minecraft is, it's a cross between like a Minecraft avatar and like a Lego mini figure and you can dress it up however you want. So you have this little avatar and when you click join into the virtual church space, your little guy spawns. And like in the middle of our lobby in the church, you can come in, you can explore the different rooms. our main worship areas where a lot of our services take place, it's, it's basically just a small little amphitheater that's a lot of little avatars in it. at one time there's like we have pews or benches that you can actually come and sit your little avatar on and it'll look like you're sitting in it, which is pretty cool.

Daniel Herron: 26:05 And then we have a little stage where our coordinators come and they sit up there and they're able to help lead the service. And then when the service is actually look like for the most part, they're pretty standard to what you might think about when you think of a typical church service. We have, we open in worship, we have our announcements, we pray together. Everything on Roblox though is text chat. So there's, there's no, voice aspect of it. However, with that said, we are able to play MP3 audios in the background. So during our worship time we'll be playing worship music that's actually been recorded and played by our worship team prior to the service.

Rey DeArmas: 26:51 You guys are recording your own music and then playing it and that's, that's a different level of innovation. They're playing like videos from like YouTube and stuff.

Daniel Herron: 27:03 You see, we used to do that, we used to do that and it was so much easier to be quite honest with you. Sure. It was so much easier. But then in 2000, late 2017, Roblox cracked down on all of the like copyrighted material on the DRL. Yeah. They reached a point where it was like people started to care and now we are unable to upload copyrighted material. Even if we have like licenses that allow us to have it, which was like, what are we going to do? We're either gonna play like some open source, like organ music from whatever they have, whatever's available or we play the same songs, but we encourage like members of the church to step up and record it and we play it that way. So that's what we've done wow. During worship. So while music is playing, I feel like since it's all text to type, sometimes it can be a little bit boring or like people will lose interest. but I think when we have the music playing in the background that sort of engages people and continues to draw people in, which is really special. I think also when I say text to chat to people that are not on Roblox, it sounds like that would not work. It doesn't work. But that's part of the idea of reaching people where they're at is that we're reaching people that are familiar with the platform. they know how Roblox works already. So when they enter the church, it's not some crazy foreign world that's like, this is what I'm used to. And this is like, this is like an actual community on here that I can engage in a little bit more about our services. Usually after a few songs of worship, we'll enter into like a time of learning or the sermon. and usually on Sundays I give that on our services throughout the week. our other volunteer leaders will, lead that and usually it's thinking about scripture and how it applies and the situations that we're facing is that people. so it's really oriented towards younger, our younger audience.

Jeff Reed: 29:03 So it feels like it's a, you mentioned earlier like Presbyterian raising, you're basically executing a Presbyterian service style kind of church, right?

Daniel Herron: 29:16 Somewhat but we call ourselves a nondenominational church for the sake of, we're a melting pot of lots of denominational traditions. With that said, the services also feel semi, not Presbyterian. They feel, and it feels very mixed. Like when I think of the Presbyterian church, I think a hyms and pews and, the chosen, nobody raises their hands. You know, our church that the church that we have online is not like that. We listened to them. We played the modern worship music that, large, larger churches play. Our services are more engaging and there's a lot of that like call and response, not calling response as a Presbyterian, the whole like say amen. Everybody says amen and stuff. There's a lot of that I, myself and Presbyterian and clearly it wears in, but when other people are, other leaders are also leading, I think they reflect some of their traditions as well into it. So it's sort of a good mix.

Jeff Reed: 30:18 What's your, you're talking about the volunteers and the leaders. Like what's the leadership structure of this? You've got 24,000-25,000 names in a database. You're trying, the goal is to create the services as an evangelical arms. So like what, how are you pulling this off? What are the volunteers look like?

Daniel Herron: 30:39 Yeah, so actually we're in a time of transition right now. Previously, well I guess I'll just kind of start from the top. So there's myself who sort of oversees everything and does a lot of the, my work is really in the past couple of years has gone to a lot of the administrative behind the scenes, funding, development, all that sort of stuff. as well as the pastoral stuff on Sundays. The next sort of tier of level of leaders is like, we have our director of hiring our director of like facilities, our development people for actually building the people or building the places and all of that sort of thing. And then we have a tier of coordinators that are all hired and trained so that they really understand the functions of the church and what to do when like a troll comes in or how to respond to prayer requests or all these sorts of things.

Daniel Herron: 31:38 They're really trained across all the different parts of the church and they are mentors to a subgroup of volunteers. So we have a volunteer staff then that's like the next tier down that, really makes up all of the different ministries of the church. So we have, this is where the transition is at. Actually, we, we used to have these formal teams that we would place volunteers on, like, our prayer team, worship team, outreach team, music team. But we've sort of gotten rid of that and just made a large pool of volunteers that are able to be assigned to different tasks at different times. So they're all trained sort of equally. And we have this hiring process where our hiring director, there's this really, we use Google forms for our staff applications and people can just fill that out. and then our hiring director will reads them and makes decisions on placing people and aligning the skills that they list on their application with which team might best, which tasks might best suit them.

Jeff Reed: 32:43 So how many, how many volunteers roughly are we talking about in this?

Daniel Herron: 32:48 That's a good question. I have to think about that for a second. I, I know that we just graduated our new CLA or like new cohort of coordinators. So I think we have eight.

Jeff Reed: 33:01 Okay. I'm, I'm going to be honest, when I was 19, I didn't even know what the word cohort meant. Oh God. You've got, you just launched a new cohort with eight coordinators.

Daniel Herron: 33:11 We have about 50 to 60 volunteers right now, sort of, which is actually, it's not where I want it to be. It's challenging because I want, I want to have an opportunity for, if someone wants to serve in the church, I want to let them, that's good. But we also want to have a system where we're able to train people and, show them how to support other people in the church. So my goal, hopefully, maybe by Christmas, maybe by Easter, is 120 volunteers. I feel like that's a good number, but we're at about 50 right now. And those different coordinators are the ones that are managing all the activities that the volunteers as well.

Jeff Reed: 33:53 Well, the tension you feel is the tension that every pastor in America feels there. There's never enough volunteers, and there's ever, there's always a desire and a passion to do more in ministry. So, but, but, but it sounds like you're doing it right by getting the coordinators up top, casting the vision to them, letting them break down and, and lead, you know, an organization with 24,000-25,000, you know, names. Obviously that's, that's more than a 19 year old college kid and on the spin in the Pacific Northwest can handle. and so kind of spreading that out and letting some others join in is, is awesome. What's the one thing, and I I've been thinking about this question, I'm not sure how to ask it, but let's just see what happens here. Okay. What's the one thing that a Roblox church can do that a physical church can't?

Daniel Herron: 34:49 There's so many things I could say to this question that I think they were really good answers to. I think the thing that's most beautiful to me about the online church, and it sort of is two things in one, when you're constrained by brick and brick and mortar, your walls and you're restrained by your geographic location. I think what's most beautiful about our online church is how we are able to create community, real community, vulnerable community with young people across borders, across, nations, across states, how our church represents every continent and every US state. I think it's beautiful when we are having a worship service and my friend from the Philippines is online the same time as my friend from the UK. I think that's beautiful even though it's like way different times zones, but it's still, I think it's awesome that when when you're in church and you're singing a song and you're singing praise to God, your language, doesn't matter because you're singing one song of praise to God and that there's that sort of, when we, when we look at the church, we're supposed to be one body united together and I see looking across all of the, all of the places where this church represents, all the situations, all the circumstances, all the backgrounds of everyone and this big diverse melting pot of a church.

Daniel Herron: 36:17 How we can still come together and honor God and love, love people on Roblox and love people in the outside world. I think that's beautiful. That isn't necessarily available in a brick and mortar churches. Also, our online church is cheap.

Jeff Reed: 36:33 There's always that. How, I was going to ask, how much does, does it cost? What do you, what does a year?

Daniel Herron: 36:39 A year up until 2017 and 2018 I started like, we had some people that donated so that I can do this for my like job during school. So the costs of the actual church by itself was under $500 for the first six years. So we were reaching tens of thousands of people for like less than the cost of the new iPhone. So that was awesome.

Jeff Reed: 37:07 There's always that, that's, that's unbelievable. So Roblox is just, it's, it's a, it's a relatively free platform. I mean you said something about like advanced membership, something around it.

Daniel Herron: 37:18 You can get that for five bucks a month. If we didn't have a website to upkeep, we could be doing this for five bucks a month. So it's really encouraging to see with with all of the platforms that are existing now, all the different places, these are all places that have the possibility to have other ministries and such hop on there and people passionate about this.

Jeff Reed: 37:42 Yeah. So let me, let me ask this. When you were eight years ago, whatever you were, 11 just starting this thing, 11 and 12 did you know, did you have a picture in your mind of what today would have looked like or are you figuring this thing out as you're going?

Daniel Herron: 38:02 I had no idea. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I was just, it's making a place for me and my friends to create together online and God took it and ran with it, which was pretty awesome.

Rey DeArmas: 38:10 That is awesome. That's pretty awesome. That's amazing. That is ridiculous in such a great way that God uses.

Daniel Herron: 38:16 And you know, to think that something that that started as just me and my friends online playing this awful game that I had no idea what I was doing would be something that has been to inspire and motivate pastors around the world and would someday lead to be my job during college. I just think that that is not only is an incredible story, but it's, it's just amazing to see how God is working in this online church and also in people that are passionate about doing similar work, just to show that God moves and it's really incredible. So that's good.

Jeff Reed: 39:05 We've talked about this recently about how churches are often, they're afraid to experiment with things and the reason that they're afraid to experiment. We talked about this in Episode 26 I actually went off on Apple like just, and I don't want to get into it on another thing like painful stuff. You were going off on Apple a few minutes ago. Yeah. It's, it's, it's, it's, there's always something to go off an Apple on. Well done. but you know, I'm number one fan, but here's the thing, like, like church, when they look at this technology, and especially because they're not native, they're not like grown up in it. It's still this outside. It's still this external thing. They're not like you, gen Z kid, who has grown up with this as, as just part of normal life. They're afraid to experiment. And as a result, a lot of times they're afraid to try something until they figure out where the finish line is.

Jeff Reed: 40:03 And one of the things that I love love about you, Dan, is at age 11 and 12, man, you're just playing around with the kids, your friends, and you see something and Oh, let's, let's build on that. Okay, let's build on that. Let's try that. Then all of a sudden you got 24,000-25,000 names in a database that you've touched at some point, and now you've got 50 plus volunteers with a vision and a passion to double that number, you know, by the end of the year. and so you didn't know that when you were 11 and 12. Most people don't know that. But the fact that, I mean, honestly, you've stuck with this idea for eight years. That's, I'm just going to, I'll tell you right now, I've, in my life, I've never had a job eight years. I got issues. There's other things that we can talk about that, but I've just, I've always bailed ship, going into something else. And so yeah, you've reached 24,000 in 8 years really quickly but at the same time, the longevity, I just want to praise you, man. I compliment you with this, the longevity of you to stick with this idea, through the fruition to where it is today and still have passion to drive, to run it even further. Man, that's, that's awesome. Well done with that.

Daniel Herron: 41:15 I think real quick, if I wanted to add, I, there have been lots of people real, real quick. there've been lots of people that have done similar work on Roblox, not necessarily to the scale that my church has grown to, but have sort of, like shooted off from our to try and do their own sort of things. And I know that there been other attempts, by other organizations to do similar work. I just think in my experience, the number one thing that has allowed for this success other than God's grace and God's blessing has just been staying committed and kept showing up. Because I remember in 2013, 2014, there would be times when we had one or two people show up to a service and you're like, should I cancel this? Should I, should I not? Should I just keep going with it? And we would have the service even with those one or two people there because we are still being able to, we're still able to be a blessing to someone. And to offer a space for someone who might need it. So, yeah, I think that staying committed to in whatever, whatever ministry or mission or career that you're in is, super important.

Jeff Reed: 42:33 What advice would you give to somebody who's starting up? So maybe it's not Roblox, maybe it's blah, blah blah video game platform. They want to start a church in PlayStation two, whatever. I don't know. I don't know that world. I confess, but somebody wants to, somebody, some kids got some idea.

Daniel Herron: 42:53 What's your advice? I would not necessarily recommend going the route that I went. Starting with something that you don't know what it, what you want it to be. Like if you have a goal in mind of what you want to accomplish, that is excellent. I think it's significantly harder if, if you went the route that I went that was like, I don't know what I'm doing and I'm just going to go and go with it. It has shown awesome rewards and it's been a beautiful blessing. But with that, like, I don't know, mentality, it's also presented a lot of challenges. So I would recommend talking to your friends, talking to your family, maybe a mentor, and figuring out, what do I want to accomplish? I'd also, I can't, I can't echo enough how much having, mentors and adults in my life that have been supportive of it have, made it easier and taking the burden off when some days you just, some days you get off of this and it's just stressful because people are just being crazy and you just want to scream or you want to cry or whatever it is and you get off and you're just like, you're able to talk to someone who maybe they've been through this sort of thing before or they, are just there to listen.

Daniel Herron: 44:16 But having someone that you can talk to and, pray with and, who's willing to support you through the work you're doing is really important. Right.

Jeff Reed: 44:26 I mean, there's hard times in that, right? The service for one or two people show up. I'll, I mean, I'll be honest, when I have conversations with church planners, it's the same, what you just said is, is the same advice, you know, stay committed, stick through it, have people around that can, can mentor you, have people around that can give you advice. you're not alone. And really, I mean there, there have been times in my life doing ministry, especially in online circles, we've talked about it in past episodes, but I felt alone too. I felt like nobody was thinking the way that I was. you know, and I didn't have that support base around me. And so Dan, you know, well done, getting that support base around you to, to help out, to, to coach you as you develop this idea as 11 year old to now, a still a young 19 year old, running this, this, this thing, this organization, this church online. So that's great. Hey Rey, as we're wrapping up, any thoughts?

Rey DeArmas: 45:31 Yeah. You know, as, as we look to innovation, you know, in the future. Dan, I love how you just followed the string of curiosity. And even though, you know, it's been riddled with questions that I'm sure have bottled your mind and, I'm sure it's been tough and I just wanna encourage you and I wanna encourage others, man to, you know, stay curious and stay hungry, man, and keep, keep finding new pastors people because, you know, Roblox is your way. Dan. I don't know what, what Jeff's daughter, what my daughter, what's going to be their way to reach people for Christ and so it's just a powerful thing to see people utilize this. So thanks Dan for being part of this.

Jeff Reed: 46:13 Yeah. I can promise this. There's going to be more Dan's out there as, as technology gets more and more in the hands of, of individuals and not companies and organizations. I, and I do believe this, and I, and I've blogged this, historically, I think innovation is not going to come from the church. It's going to come from individuals like Dan who are driving innovation for the church and when you look at innovations historically, even like Billy Graham using his message and satellites to bounce it to a million people, that wasn't the church. That was Billy Graham in a ministry to help the church in that context. Even Paul writing the letters that he did, maybe that was the big C church back in, back in the new Testament, but it was really Paul taking the time to write the letters and then mailing them off to individual churches.

Jeff Reed: 47:00 So oftentimes it's the individual who stands up and Dan, thanks for, you know, being that 12 year old kid instead of, you know, doing the stupid stuff that I was probably doing when I was 11 or 12. I'm trying to think what movie. You know what it was? It was Batman. It was the first Batman. Th, was it Michael Keaton? Jack Nichols? No, he doesn't know what that is. He knows the Dark Knight. He doesn't know. He doesn't, I'm just saying older people out there. Listen, no, no, listen, I've Batman 40 times in the theater. That was me. No, the guy that to make fun of the watch the end game like 87 times, that was me with, with the, the Batman, the first Batman before Batman begins. So a way to like not be that guy and actually like accomplish something with your life and make the rest of us look back. So Dan, as we're landing the plane, man, if somebody listening wanted to get more information or wanted to find out or, or volunteer help out and support you guys, where should they go?

Daniel Herron: 48:00 Yeah. if they want say get involved or learn more about us or see some media about us, they can just go to our website at, therobloxianchristians.org and there's plenty of information on there to help you all out.

Jeff Reed: 48:19 Awesome. So we'll put that in the show notes, therobloxianchristians.org that's awesome and very clear. So, Hey, listen, this has been been a great podcast. I love hanging around kids that I, forgive me, Dan, what young adults are doing. Listen, I am not one, but I love hanging around young adults, who, you know, embrace this technology piece for the kingdom and do phenomenal things as a result. The community, the connections. I mean, I'm just even thinking back to Sally's story, I managed, she's just a phenomenal engagement of technology that the younger generation is seeing, that the older generation has yet to realize. And so, Dan, man, thanks for being on the cutting edge of this, for Rey, for Dan. My name is Jeff with The Church Digital. Thanks again for being here and, we'll see you next time. You all have a good day.

 

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About Author

Jeff Reed
Jeff Reed

With about 20 years experience serving the church in the digital/technological realm, Jeff loves working with churches. As passionate about Discipleship as he is Technology, Jeff uses his passion to help Churches develop technology systems to bring people far from God closer to him. Oh, and he loves Digital Church & Church Online.

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