Church after COVID: What will it look like?

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Is your church’s online experience intentional and impactful? This is the question the Adventist Church Online Network (ACON) team is posing to attendees of its upcoming five-week event, beginning July 18.

In addition, ACON is providing a forum for the question we’ve all been wrestling with: “What does church look like going forward?”

The momentum for this event was driven by a need identified by Pastor Victor Kulakov, Discipleship Ministries leader of the New Zealand Pacific Union Conference (NZPUC). The need was for churches to continue ministering in the digital space even if COVID-19 restrictions no longer demanded it.

In August 2019, NZPUC hosted the first Digital Discipleship Conference outside of Australia (and the fifth conference for the Digital Discipleship ministry). At the time of the conference, Pastor Kulakov said he could see the importance of digital. However, after the disruption of COVID-19, the lockdown and subsequent re-opening of New Zealand, Pastor Kulakov said he was more convinced than ever of the need for churches to minister in the digital space. “Now, you’d have to convince me not to encourage churches to minister online,” he said.

Since Pastor Kulakov’s initial idea, leaders, pastors and lay members from NZPUC, the Australian Union Conference, Papua New Guinea Union Mission and Trans Pacific Union Mission have come together along with the Digital Discipleship Ministry of Adventist Media in the South Pacific Division to develop a free five-week event called the Adventist Church Online Conference.

One of the members of the planning team, Joshua Stothers, pastor of Hamilton Central Seventh-day Adventist Church in New Zealand, knows the issues being faced by churches firsthand.

He shared, “At the end of 2019, we were praying about next steps for our church. We felt really impressed after attending past Digital Discipleship Conferences that we needed to have someone [at our church] with the skills to do digital. We felt like God was really pulling us into that space to do ministry on social media and use the wonderful world of the internet.”

In their planning, Hamilton Central identified their vision: To be a major Christian influence in Hamilton. From there, they identified four impact areas: Connect people with Christ, love people, serve others and build leaders.

However, after completing their vision planning, they were faced with the disruption of COVID-19. As a team, they felt derailed.

But, because they were impressed God gave them the vision, they decided to use the digital space to fulfil their vision rather than to simply advertise it, and this has resulted in a journey to intentionally use their social media accounts, livestreams and website to carry out their initial plans. Now, they have found, even in a less restricted physical environment, they still have an online community that worships with them alongside their in-person congregation.

ACON is asking you and your church the same question Hamilton Central Seventh-day Adventist Church had to ask itself: How can your church use the digital space to fulfil the vision God has given you? You are invited to join ACON over the next five weeks to answer this question.

Here’s an overview of what we plan to cover each week.

July 18: What Does the Church Look Like Going Forward?

This session will challenge your thinking about the power of your church’s online presence and the impact it can have. We’ll explore the benefits and challenges of live and recorded services.

July 25: How to Set Up a Team for Your Digital Church

Learn who to include on your team for churches with a lot of volunteers and those with just a few. Also, learn ways to engage members in the church’s digital evangelism.

August 1: Gain Technical Expertise for Your Digital Church

Learn about equipment and understand the best equipment to buy for different budgets. Understand the technicalities of live streaming, podcasting and other types of online ministry.

August 8: What’s the Journey for People Visiting Your Digital Church?

Think through the steps a person takes when they visit your church’s online presence. Think about what you want them to do next and develop an intentional journey.

August 15: Learn the Different Models of Digital Churches

Understand the different ways your church can minister in the digital space, both when serving online is necessary and when it becomes a part of your church’s ministries as churches return to in-person meetings.

The Adventist Church Online Conference will run from 2pm-3:30pm AEST/4pm–5:30pm NZST on July 18, July 25, August 1, August 8 and August 15.

During our one-hour gatherings we will feature testimonials from various churches, interviews with digital church leaders, consultations and giveaways. Following the gathering, there will be half-hour sessions for workshopping and questions.

Additional resources and training will be available within the ACON Facebook group and on the Adventist Church Online website, as well as on the Union and Digital Discipleship Ministry websites and social media platforms.

ACON is working to support the work of the individual Unions in the digital space while also highlighting one of the four focus areas of the Digital Discipleship Ministry.

Information: adventistchurchonline.com.