Covid-19 Resources

5 Beginner Essentials For Digital Experiences In Youth Ministry

Tim Balow
March 24th, 2020

And just like that, digital experiences in ministry became the new normal.

Not just digital ministry, but digital everything has taken over daily life. From hangouts, to small groups, to churches streaming their services, to morning devo’s with staff members, churches across the country have accepted a new normal for doing ministry through the digital space.

For some, digital ministry was a growing option for people to engage with your faith community and connect with leaders. For others, digital ministry was still just a means to an end, to get people into the actual building for the “real ministry” or “real relationships” to happen.

In a week, the world went from seeing digital ministry as a supplement and even as an alternate to the real “in-person” ministry, to digital ministry as the centerpiece of connection and experience with your church.

In the recent cultural journal post entitled Trends Of A Pandemic, it was noted that digital ministry will probably never be a full-on replacement for “in-person” connection and relationships. It may always be an alternate or a supplement, but for the time being as the world intentional isolates itself, digital ministry has come to the forefront of practice and experience.

While some churches may have different capacity than others for digital ministry, there’s some essentials for beginners in digital ministry that we can all learn from as we move forward with the digital space and how it intersects with our ministry strategies.

Digital Media Wish List (If You Can Buy Things)

Money might be tight, but you don’t need $5000 to get some amazing things that can help you make quality digital experiences.

Here’s some go-to pieces for your digital ministry:

  • Camera (digital SLR works best, but there’s other digital options out there too)
  • Tripod (Joby is a fantastic brand and has a lot of great products that connect with their tripods such as lighting and microphones)
  • Lighting (Light rings are usually the most affordable; check out Neewer or Limolight)
  • Microphone (Rode Mics are quality, but more than an average price for a camera microphone)
  • Props and set pieces – in the same way you may have a set for a live event or worship background, utilize props and sets for your digital experiences
  • Apps that can helpCanva for media + graphics, Parrot Teleprompter as a teleprompter app, Adobe Spark for intro/outro bumpers and/or graphics, and Adobe Premiere Elements for overall editing

60 Seconds To Capture Attention

Everyone will have their list of wins and fails as they venture into digital ministry. Bottom line, in the same way as you craft a talk to uniquely connect with your audience, if you’re not connecting with your digital audience in the first 60 seconds, don’t expect “viewership” to engage the rest of the way.

Using a 60 second to engage rule helps you narrow your focus too. Even in the age of swiping with social media channels, give students and families the opportunity to decide to engage based on what you give them in the first 60 seconds.

Polished Over Perfect

There’s something being said about not everything going exactly as planned. And then there’s sloppy. One can communicate authenticity, and the other can show a lack of being prepared and even randomness. Not everything needs to be scripted, but a lack of planning can lead your “viewers” to question whether they want to engage the rest of the way.

Using the phrase “polished over perfect” can be a guiding value. It doesn’t mean you need to edit out every hiccup.

Pro-Level Wins

More could be developed, but for those that are just beginning into the essential waters of digital ministry these days, here’s some pro-tips for some pro-level wins:

  • Don’t use wireless internet – use a hard line (especially if you are truly going live for your video)
  • Light brighter than you think (lighting is usually the reason your videos look cruddy; learn more about digital video lighting here)
  • Use humor/fun as a connection
  • It IS interactive (active), it’s NOT a show (passive)
  • Good production mostly involves quality lighting and clear sound alongside a solid flow for your digital experience
  • Script the experience, but don’t let the script dictate everything that happens in the digital space

Avoid These Tendencies

In a list of essentials for beginners, maybe the most essential practice you can have is a list of tendencies to avoid. If a goal of digital experiences in ministry is to engage people (students, families, etc.), then there’s some pretty significant things that you can avoid that can detract from engagement…

  • Acknowledge that there’s no one in the room with you (in the digital world, we are there with you even if you can’t see us)
  • Not giving the camera eye contact
  • Not using facial expressions to communicate (move close enough to the camera to show facial expressions, but the video shouldn’t be a selfie video)
  • Isolating a digital experience on one person in one position for the full media experience
  • A live-stream that should have been a recorded video (remember that even a Live video on social media can be a recorded video)

Everyone is entering a new era of essential digital ministry. What used to be considered an alternative or supplement is now a centerpiece of how you connect with people. The same values of authenticity, transformation, and growth can still characterize your ministry…it’s just through a screen now.

Want to learn more? Check out these great downloads from NYWC that can help you level up your digital ministry experiences from our legendary speakers:

Tim Balow

Youth Specialties exists to elevate the role of youth ministry and the youth worker to grow the faith of the next generation.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.