Since mid-July 2020 the Adventist Church Online Network (ACON), a collaboration between the Digital Discipleship Ministry of Adventist Media and the four Unions of the South Pacific Division, has been equipping local churches to create intentional and impactful online experiences.
Beginning on July 18 and concluding on August 15, the five-week series included weekly broadcasts followed by workshops. Each broadcast focused on a different aspect of online church, including building digital teams, navigating technology, developing online journeys, understanding live versus recorded services and exploring models of online church.
“Though this was a time when planning for the upcoming Digital Discipleship Conferences in Australia and New Zealand should have been taking place, the impending impact of COVID-19 put those plans on hold,” said Digital Discipleship strategist and founder, Rachel Lemons Aitken. “[We were] waiting on God, to sense His leading about what He wanted [us] to do next.”
Developed in response to COVID-19 restrictions, ACON was implemented by Mrs Lemons Aitken, who engaged a range of skillsets from across the South Pacific, including representatives from Adventist Media, Hope Channel, each union in the South Pacific and local churches, to make the vision possible.
“It was a blessing to be part of it and get to hear some of the creative ideas shared by church members or professionals in our Division,” said Pete Navosailagi, media and communications liaison for the Trans Pacific Union Mission.
“ACON is a fantastic initiative,” added communications director for Papua New Guinea Union Mission, Cameron Wari. “[But] the cost of data remains a challenge for hour-long programs.”
A challenge of the event was addressing a diverse range of needs across the South Pacific.
“While some countries are faced with the challenges of prohibitively expensive data, others are faced with language barriers to participate in meetings,” said Mrs Lemons Aitken.
In response, topics and content attempted to reflect diverse needs and programs and workshops were adjusted as issues were identified.
“The ACON program has been incredibly valuable to me. You brought the theoretical into the relational and practical. So thank you for that,” said Caitlyn Edwards from Ararat Seventh-day Adventist Church in Victoria.
Although the live broadcasts have now finished, the videos as well as additional resources can still be accessed at the ACON website. There is also a Facebook group to provide support.
Looking beyond the five-week event, the team are identifying ways they can continue to work together to further equip their local churches and leverage the strength gained from their collective knowledge and experience. Some of the possibilities include additional online events, church consultations and training resources.
If you’re interested in learning more, you can visit the Adventist Church Online Network website <https://event.adventistchurchonline.com> or view the videos on the Digital Discipleship Facebook page or Youtube channel.