Communications

Digital Parish: The journey from viewers to members

How do you move people from being passive viewers of online content to active members of a faith community?

Steven Adair shares the story of Glendale United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tennessee--a small church that created a big digital footprint. This dwindling congregation used their digital presence to fuel a season of growth that continues today. Steven shares their learnings and practices.

If you have questions about how digital ministry can help reach new people. Or how digital ministry can help your church grow. Or how you can engage in meaningful digital ministry despite a lack of resources, then this episode is for you.

The Episode

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Show Notes

Find Glendale United Methodist Church online:

Steven mentioned a couple resources that Glendale uses:

  • Sling Studio
  • PTZ Cameras--these are remotely controlled, high quality cameras. Several models are available.

You can also reach out to Steven Adair directly and see all the services his team offers through ResourceUMC!

Steven Adair:

We have a good reputation out in the community or out, you know, in the United Methodist circles, that we're a lot bigger than we actually are based on our social media presence.

Ryan Dunn:

That was the voice of Steven Adair, our adjunct professor on this session of pastoring in the digital parish. Steven is a lay leader in his local church, as well as the director of local church services at United Methodist Communications. And in this episode, Steven is going to share with us the story of Glendale United Methodist Church and how this little church leveraged their online presence to meet new people and then involve them in their now growing community of faith. Glendale doesn't have a big staff. They didn't luck out by getting some kind of generous endowment or anything. They just had a passion to grow and a plan for how they could utilize digital ministry to do that. So if you have questions about how digital ministry can help you reach new people or how digital ministry can help your church grow or how you can engage in meaningful digital ministry, despite a lack of resources, then this episode is for you.

Ryan Dunn:

My name is Ryan Dunn. This is pastoring in the digital parish, your resourcing community for growing your digital ministry. I got really fired up talking with Stephen in this episode, you're going to get fired up too. So if you're ready, let's get to it. Steven Adair is with us. Steven, you are the director of local church services for United Methodist Communications. Uh, you're I assume a lifelong Methodist. I mean, you're pretty committed to the United Methodist tradition and especially Glendale United Methodist Church, which we're going to talk about considerably today and your experience there. Uh, from my perspective, you're really one of the most committed laypeople have come across. Like I thought, man, if I had worked at a church that had a Steven Adair in it, um, the things that would be possible would be phenomenal. Um, and also you are at least one of the co-creators of not the creator of the United Methodist church Facebook page. Is that correct?

Steven Adair:

College actually. Yeah.

Ryan Dunn:

Well, let's start there a little bit, cause I think that's kind of a cool story. What, what inspired you to just kind of throw that?

Steven Adair:

Yeah, so that story gets brought up from time to time, uh, which is it's, it's kind of a funny one. Um, so we, uh, you know, I think Facebook pages were pretty new back then, uh, between 2006 and 2010. And so, uh, there were some groups that were United Methodist branded that were probably just ran by who knows who, uh, maybe just church leaders or pastors or whatnot, but there wasn't like a page and pages were starting to take off. And I created one for, uh, here at Glendale and I was like, oh, there's not one for like the denomination yet. Um, so, um, started that, I think, um, it got up to about 25,000 followers and I'm just sitting in a house that I lived in, in Chattanooga while I think that was senior year of college. And, uh, not really knowing what to post on behalf of the United Methodist church.

Steven Adair:

Um, so I would just post where you going to church this Sunday or like get Bible verses or something. And then, uh, actually, uh, so Diane Degnan who still works at UN calm, she contacted me, I don't know how she got my phone number, checked it down in the Methodist circles, United Methodist circles, I'm sure. Um, and, uh, called me and said, Hey, you have the most following, you know, with this page. Um, can we take it over at young calm and, and utilize it, uh, for the denomination? And I said, sure, I don't know what to post anyway. So, um, anyway, so it took, it, took it on and then, uh, a few positions, I got a job at UMCOM a couple of years out of college. And, uh, I ended up, I don't know, a couple of years after working at UN con taking that page back over, um, is that was my role to manage the social media for the denomination. So it was kind of a full circle moment there when I got that role at young com

Ryan Dunn:

And you've been doing that for the denomination, but all the while you've been working in the local church as well with Glendale, and I think Glendale is, it's a great case study for us because of just where you are that, you know, it's not a huge church. I think a lot of our leaders can, um, can sympathize or, you know, feel empathize with that kind of situation. Uh, but right now it it's a growing church. Um, and it kind of started out of a place of, um, well needing to grow. We, we can put it that way. Right. And I would love to look at some of the process that y'all have employed at Glen Dale to, um, kind of live into the digital space and then kind of meet people there, but include them in the life, life of the church. So going really from kind of like the, the passive online consumer to kind of the involved member of Glendale UMC. So in starting that journey, can you describe what really the congregation of Glendale was like a few years ago?

Steven Adair:

Um, probably I would say a good timeframe is, is September 10th, 2017. And I'll come back to that, that date. Um, but, but before that I grew up actually in this congregation. Um, and so lifelong 34 years of seeing this, uh, group of people evolve and change. And, um, so, you know, it was the, it was kind of the, the, the church of my grandparents' generation when I was a kid. Like I was one of a few kids, uh, ebbs and flows, like every church of how many kids and youth and stuff. Um, and, but really quite, uh, I watched it continued decade after decade decline in attendance and the people that were dying were not replaced or exceeded by the number of people that were coming in. Um, and I think that we, uh, had a story that a lot of United Methodist churches still have today.

Steven Adair:

I think that the story that we had is still the story of, of many churches today, uh, to where it was that the greatest generation I think is the, um, you know, that, that had passed away. Um, and we're not replaced, um, by, by new people. And that was just for a multitude of reasons. I think, uh, one of the main issues is that churches can get stuck in how we've always done it that way. Um, not provide a place at the table for new people to really get involved or to really feel like they're making a difference. Um, and I think our smaller churches and, and medium-sized churches, um, have a lot of opportunity to provide people, places to be involved in, in, in real, tangible ways. Um, you know, that's not to say that large churches don't have those opportunities, so I don't want, I don't want that to be heard.

Steven Adair:

Um, but I do think that our small and medium sized churches do have, um, extra opportunity to really let somebody walk in the door and they can know that they're making such a difference on the trajectory of where the church is headed. Um, just by themselves, as you know, um, as, as part of the community, um, you know, we had gotten down to probably about 20, 25 in average worship attendance, um, you know, early 2017. And the ones of us that were left were looking around at each other, saying, this is not sustainable. It's not vital. Um, what can we do? Um, you know, and especially after watching this church decline for so many years, um, and not in any negative way, just in a natural, um, natural way of, of not being that openly in invitation all, I mean, everybody was always friendly. It wasn't that our churches are friendly, uh, for the most part.

Steven Adair:

Um, it's not a friendly issue a lot of the times, but there just wasn't anything super engaging going on. There wasn't anything new going on there, you know, it was just, we were doing what we were doing. Um, and so we made some changes and all of these sound, and some of them are technological tech tech, uh, you know, in, in that area, but, but all very, very minute, um, individually, but that September 10th, 2017 date, uh, we, we, we put, uh, just a bunch of changes into place. Uh, we, and again, individually, very small, we removed the call to worship, and that's my thing. Like we just started it, we just start worshiping with a song, you know, instead of please stand for the call to worship. I don't find that very exciting, uh, to get into. Um, I think probably some of the listeners will disagree with me on that, on that one, but we removed that and just really started hitting it with a, with a song we added projectors, uh, we updated all of our bulletins and all the printed materials that we have to update to make it look, it's not that, you know, the traditional bulletin that had some sort of clip art copied on the front, uh, that probably a lot of our churches still, uh, kind of have just to have a bulletin.

Steven Adair:

We moved worship from 11:00 AM to 10:00 AM because I got some feedback from actually one of our coworkers that said, I wouldn't even come check out Lindo cause her worship's too late. Um, because I have young children that are up early. So I was like, okay, that stuck with me. So let's make that adjustment. Um, you know, cause if that's one parent's thing, it's probably other parents, uh, they feel the same. We added communion every Sunday, um, instead of the traditional, you know, first Sunday of every month, which actually has no basis other than passengers moving around and couldn't be at a church every Sunday. Uh, but John Leslie said do it as often as you can, but we added that back in. Um, so, and we hit all of those one Sunday instead of making this, you know, one change very slow to time, the church can be so slow at moving forward or to change and change is hard.

Steven Adair:

We lost some people through some of those changes, but we have gained so much more and so many more, uh, from that. Um, but, uh, just, uh, you know, through all those changes and we did a lot of other things too. Um, but those are just some of those initial changes that really got us kickstarted, uh, to, to move forward. Um, and since then we've added 75 new members. Um, and so many more that have not joined, you know, joining a church is not, you know, not everybody does that, but like so many people, um, that have come to find this place as their home. Um, and, uh, you know, for a church that was averaging 20 to 25, not very long ago to add 75 new members, plus all the, all the people that haven't joined officially, um, you know, that, that we don't have hundreds and hundreds of people, but that is great progress and a transformation for sure

Ryan Dunn:

Has that upward curve of involvement stayed on the upward curve through the pandemic?

Steven Adair:

It has, of course. I mean, obviously there's challenges during a pandemic for everybody. Um, I think what we Excel have excelled at because we've continued growing even this year. Um, we have another person joining this Sunday, which is the third Sunday in a row that we'll have a new member or new members, uh, which is exciting, um, is that, um, we, we were already live streaming before the pandemic hit. So we kind of already had that, but we had a phone up in a window on a tripod. Um, it wasn't super advanced, but we were at least already doing it. And I know that a lot of our churches have had to adapt and start doing that, uh, since the pandemic started, um, since that phone in the window on an iPad or on a tripod, uh, we moved when nobody could be in the building.

Steven Adair:

We moved to online only, um, for a while. Um, and then we, um, we got a new it's called sling studio. That's a really good next level for churches if you're listening. And you're trying to figure out how to up that game from a phone sitting on a tripod, um, in your, in your sanctuary, uh, sling studio, it's around a thousand dollars. So you do have to have a little bit of a budget, but you still use phones on tripods, but you've got different camera angles that hooks right into your sound system. It just really is. Um, it's, it, it ups the game for sure if you're looking for that next level, but even since then, when people started coming back into the building, uh, you know, we still are wearing masks in here, um, on Sunday mornings, but we are back in person. Uh, we had to figure out how do we not have phones on tripods around the sanctuary?

Steven Adair:

So we got, uh, the PTZ cameras mounted on the wall. We've got a whole computer set up behind the Oregon. Uh, that's behind me over to the side, um, that you can't see from in here, of course, um, it has different monitors and you know, it, it does all the streaming for us. Um, so we've had to adapt along the way. Um, so, you know, I can only imagine for the churches that had nothing, um, at the beginning and didn't really have nowhere to go. And I know that a lot of our churches are still struggling with that. Um, I think that we've still been growing because we had, we continued to improve upon our, um, live streaming and the engagement ways we engage with people during worship, um, through worship services.

Ryan Dunn:

Let's talk about that a little bit, because I feel like that is a next step for a lot of our leaders out there. Like there, they have the online presence, they're putting the product out there, so to speak. I mean, I hate using that kind of word, but the service is there a, what are you doing to engage with people because some of the people that you've had joining in your worship or all over the place, aren't they,

Steven Adair:

They are. So we have, uh, we have people in other states, uh, we have people that haven't found a church near them that they identify with or that they feel comfortable with or whatever reason that they haven't found that church home that's near them, um, that have come to find and call Glendale their church home. Uh, even though we might be in a different state, we even have people in other countries and I know many churches have, have experienced, uh, that we're not, we're not alone in that, um, that that technology has brought, uh, the, the world is, as my parish has really, um, made it made, you know, the pandemic has made that a reality for many of our churches, uh, to be able to practice that and live into that. Um, but, uh, you know, I, I think making sure, and this is so basic, and I say it on every training on everything that I do that I say to a church.

Steven Adair:

So it probably doesn't fit this cause this sit in the training, but, um, to make sure that sound and like the audio and the video is great quality when you're live streaming, no matter if it's with zoom or on Facebook or YouTube live or whatever, that's like your first basic, uh, basic thing to make sure to have an audience want to worship with you online. Um, you know, I think when you come into the building during a worship service, I mean, I think you need to look at, and what we do is that we look at every aspect of our worship service. How can somebody who's worshiping with us online? They're not just watching, they should be an active participant of worship. Um, even if they're sitting at home on their couch, um, we have a candle, um, up there, um, kind of, we call it, I guess it's our Christ candle.

Steven Adair:

Um, but we like that at the beginning of every worship service and invite them to light their candle at home alongside us, that brings the light of Christ together lit in both spaces, but together at the same time, I mean, that's super simple, but you know, just doing that and, you know, and having that information when the live stream starts to go get your candle ready, you know, in the comments and having somebody engaging, uh, with, uh, those comments that are coming in and saying, good morning, I see churches, um, around here that don't engage with the people watching, uh, that are worshiping with them at all. It's just people commenting and there's no engagement back. The church should be engaging back with the people who are worshiping. Um, that is so important. Um, why would somebody come watch you if they get nothing, no back and forth.

Steven Adair:

And they're just, uh, uh, I dunno, participant's not even the right word, a viewer, um, an audience member. Um, and so, you know, the candle, um, I think one of the things that we do that I think is really important is during our prayer time, uh, we actually, um, invite people, um, a little bit, a few minutes before we get to our prayer time in our service, uh, to share any prayer requests they have in the comments with us. And once we get to the prayer time, we already have those ready in the comments. And I get up and read those from Facebook and YouTube live during the worship service. So not only does the congregation here in person hear those, and we can pray over those, uh, in community here, but they know that we in real time have taken their prayer requests and have acted upon it, uh, here in the space.

Steven Adair:

And they get to hear that, um, you know, if they're, if they're joining us online and that's shared at the same time, as people here in the congregation are sharing or lifting their prayer requests too. So it's all just a combined effort, no matter where it's the same experience, um, in a way, um, no matter where you're worshiping with us from, and to make sure that the pastor whomever, if there are per requests or anything spoken aloud, that's not on a microphone, um, in the congregation needs to be repeated on a microphone. So those at home can also hear as if they were sitting in a pew here in this space.

Ryan Dunn:

Okay. And are there other ways that you're inviting participation in the digital way throughout the service?

Steven Adair:

Um, it just depends on the worship service. Um, you know, I think we, um, we have, uh, we don't really do a traditional passing of the peace here, but we have a welcome statement that we read out every Sunday. Um, and at the end of that, you know, um, the person who does that, uh, invites everybody here, uh, to, um, you know, stand up and greet your neighbor and go say hello to somebody you don't know, you know, those sorts of things. And it's a little less, uh, high church maybe version, uh, of, of passing of the peace, uh, low we're pretty relaxed and laid back around here. Um, but we also invite those who are joining us online degreed and welcome one another in the comments. Um, so I think that that's an important thing. So anything that you do here that makes sense for somebody to do online, share prayer requests, greet one another, um, you know, there's a light the candle, um, you know, and even in the offering to during announcements or those times where you're telling people here, you're instructing here in this space, um, to do something or that something's available.

Steven Adair:

You also need to be looking in the camera and saying, if you're joining us online, uh, this is what, you know, you can do, or, you know, whatever. But to, to really, um, not only look into the camera from time to time, whether it's in, during the sermon, during the announcements, during something that really has to do with the people watching online, um, but to address them because they're there too. Um, and, uh, you know, I think it's really easy for somebody watching at home to feel disconnected. So how do you connect from the church? How do you connect into their home

Ryan Dunn:

When you first started doing the online services way back pre 2020, how did you first get people like eyeballs on the services? Like how did you grow it from just, you know, two people watching who couldn't be there that, that particular Sunday into, uh, in a sense its own extension of the congregation.

Steven Adair:

Yeah. So that goes into some social media training, uh, that that's a whole nother, we could do a whole nother thing on that. Um, but you know, I think, I think being effective on social media is the way that we, um, have been successful, um, in reaching new people. Um, a lot of it, our website and our social media, um, are the two main ways people find out about Lyndale. So if your social media, if your church is social media and website is not on point, um, you know, and I know that there's a learning curve there, for sure. It's not just easy to, to do that. Um, I think that we have a reputation here at Glendale, although, you know, I would say we have probably about 130 active people, I would say right now. Um, and maybe a little bit more, um, if I had to count, I haven't counted in a while, but I would say we have about 130.

Steven Adair:

Um, and that's a, that's a long way from, uh, from 25. So, and it's a whole new congregation. Like those 25, there might be five of us left that have been here longer than my four or five years. So it's a, it's a whole congregation, but, um, you know, I think, um, you know, making sure, oh, we have a good reputation out in the community or out, you know, in the United Methodist circles that we're a lot bigger than we actually are based on our social media presence. Um, and, and I love I'll take that as a compliment. We already re continued to grow that audience and it was pretty natural. It's, I mean, it's techniques like making sure if somebody likes your post to go invite them to like your page. I mean, that's how we were. That was one of the ways I'm not so easy.

Steven Adair:

If they've engaged with you, you can invite them to like your page and hopefully they will. Um, but even like, you know, boosting things, um, I mean, there's so much I could talk about that, but like making sure that you're utilizing that space and not just making it a bulletin board, uh, for your announcements and it's not always gotta be invitational. It's it's it's who are you? Like, you should be able to share online and through worship. And, and one of the things that I've heard, we've had quite a lot of people come, and then I say, you know, how, how did you find out about us or whatever. Most people that answer this this way, they don't say, oh, I watched you last Sunday. And I decided to come this Sunday. I know they say, I've been watching you for months, months. It has taken months.

Steven Adair:

I've heard that so many times, which is shocking. I thought, you know, you, you, in my mind, you'd check out a church maybe one week and then it's like, oh yeah, I'll go check them out next week. Nope. Months. That's how taking people to feel comfortable to actually walk into a church, um, to experience it in person. And I don't think that has anything to do with the pandemic. I think that has to do with people's comfort level with the church and making sure that they're walking into a space, um, that, um, they feel is right for them for whatever reason. Um, and so, you know, that's been so interesting to see that it's taken that long and what's been nice is that I kind of follow up if it fits and it, it's not a weird kind of conversation or a point to make with somebody when I'm talking to them, when they come. I say, I hope that what you've experienced here today was, was expected, was like from being with us online, like, it felt the same as you were expecting.

Steven Adair:

Yeah. And they say it totally was. And I'm like, that's, that's the, we're doing it right. If somebody comes into this space, of course it's different because you're in person and there's different, you know, you have to interact with people and you're not just on your couch, but that's what your livestream and small groups, even, we haven't really talked about that. But like those experiences where somebody is joining your mind should feel exactly the same as when they enter your space. And I think that authenticity has a lot to do with that, um, to where if you are preaching or teaching or sharing what your community is alike and all about, then when somebody walks in that door, it better feel that way. Um, and I think that that is, that's been a lot to our growth too, is that I feel like we are authentic here. We share what we believe. We share what we, you know, fight for and as a community of faith and what we care about. Um, and when somebody walks in the door, that's they, they get that. So authenticity, I think instead of just doing church because it's church and how you're supposed to do at 11:00 AM on a Sunday morning, um, and get dressed up and, you know, whatever I think authenticity is, is where the church can thrive. And I think sometimes it lacks that.

Ryan Dunn:

Do you have like a sense of procedure when you first meet somebody online to then kind of ushering them towards like deeper engagement in the community of faith or even towards membership?

Steven Adair:

The engagement we do in comments, whether that's something basic is just welcoming them to be into this space. Like if they say good morning, I'm so-and-so to really engage with them by name, um, to ask them those prayer requests. I mean, I think our engagement strategies in a worship service, um, make people feel like they're cared about, even though they're at home and not here in the sanctuary to where I think that that is the bridge, um, to get them to come. Um, I think, you know, there's obviously people that don't live anywhere around here. They may never even walk in the doors, but how are we making them feel like they're part of a community, because if they're watching and they're worshiping alongside us, they're obviously seeking something, uh, they might be seeking community, but how can we get them into a small group?

Steven Adair:

How can we make that virtual space, not just about worship? We all know that worship is not the best time to get to know people and develop relationships. Like you can say, you can have small talk, say, hi, how was your week? That sort of thing. But you can't really like dive deep into relationship with one another. So how do you connect people outside of that? No matter if they live down the street and they're joining our mine or they live five hours away, um, how can you bring them in to the community? Um, in tangible ways. And you know, one of those is small groups. Uh, we're starting life groups, uh, right now for the first time, like we've had small groups, Sunday school, we've done all that stuff. You know, that most churches do. We're starting these intentional core groups or life groups that we're calling them. Um, and it's intentionally small groups. Well, there's a, there's going to be a virtual option for those who may not be able to be in a, in a physical restaurant with a group of people or in somebody's home, um, or whatnot. So looking at everything you do, what's the opportunity for somebody who might not walk through your door ever the physical door. I don't know if that answered your question, but

Ryan Dunn:

Yes, yeah. As begin. Yeah. The intentionality of just giving people a kind of a next step to go sounds very relevant. Even from the aspect of like somebody who has just kind fish, bowling things online, uh, to give them the next point of entry is good. Um, you've had new members join each of the past three Sundays. Uh, have any of those been folks who just started engagement like through the online worship service or through an online small group?

Steven Adair:

Yeah, so we, um, we have a young person who is joining this coming Sunday. Um, uh, they came up to me. We had a lunch after church actually, uh, yesterday. Um, and they said, um, you know, I think they had only been watching for like a month. So like, that's one of the shorter ones that I had heard. Usually it's like multiple months, but it was like a month. And, uh, they heard our welcome message and, and just the aspects. And they were like, we need, I need to come. I need to actually venture out and, and do it. Um, and, uh, they've been coming for probably a month, uh, in person. Um, so not very long. And after we had, uh, two people join, uh, yesterday, uh, they S they came up and not United Methodist background. We've had, so most of the people that have come to, uh, join, uh, this church, um, have not been United Methodist background.

Steven Adair:

Uh, it's, it's been just a, a lot of other denominations and Catholicism and, and everywhere in between. Uh, so this, this person, uh, uh, didn't, uh, know the protocol of how do I, how do I become part, like I'm seeing these other people become a part of how do I do that? And I said, you can do it anytime you want to. And, uh, they were like, how about next Sunday? And I was like, yes. Um, so, you know, I think that there's, there's just that longing for community. And, and that was just one of many people that check this out online first. Um, and I think that the people that joined yesterday, uh, actually went physically to, uh, quite a few. I think we were the last church that they went to. So luckily they gave us a chance after, uh, quite a few others around here.

Steven Adair:

Um, and they decided to call us their home. Um, but they did the more traditional go actually visit in person. Um, but what we're seeing is that most people have checked us out online for awhile. Um, but definitely first before they've actually walked in the door. And I think that churches who are, I know we don't have all the financial resources here. We are not a big, we don't have a lavish building. We don't have all the money, um, like some of our big, bigger, bigger churches around us do. Um, so, you know, I think doing what you can to make your online environment or opportunity as best as it can be in your context. I know we have rural churches that don't have internet. Like I know that that is hard, um, that, that it's not one, one size fits all for everybody. I mean, it's harder for others, uh, to, to do that, but I think that whatever you can do to reach people on the outside, through online worship, online, small groups, social media, your website, those are the churches that are going to continue either reverse the trend of declining, like we've done or continue growing.

Steven Adair:

Um, I think if it was without our social media, our website, and without, especially through the pandemic, our online experience, um, we, we wouldn't be growing today at all. I know that for a fact, um, you know, you know, it's, God has been in the midst of all of this, of course. So I don't want to say that it's impossible, but we were also given the, the, the skills and the abilities to help foster a relationship and, uh, growth, uh, in a community of faith.

Ryan Dunn:

Yeah. I, I think that platforms you pretty well to, to move into the role that you're currently in as the director of a local church services, what are some of the most consistent requests or questions that you're fielding within that role what's coming to your team?

Steven Adair:

Yeah, so the pandemic has been interesting, you know, our team, uh, normally on a regular basis helps churches with social media strategy, branding logo, development websites. We build websites for local churches. So I'm shameless plug here. If you need some help resource umc.org/lcs, uh, we would love to help, but, um, during the pandemic, of course, we continue doing that work. Um, and there's definitely a place for our social media and our website work and even branding and logo stuff, uh, to, to still be important. Uh, so we still, our team still does that day to day. Um, but you know, it's been interesting. We've, we've tried to really adapt what we do and we continue to try to adapt, uh, what services, what products, what just, what do, what can we offer? That's going to help churches in today's reality, whether that's, you know, the pandemic of today or just the, the need for technology and, and, and, you know, online engagement work, that's going to be needed forever.

Steven Adair:

Um, you know, a church just because if this pandemic ended today and everything was fine, churches still need to be online doing it well. Um, so that work doesn't end, uh, no matter what the current reality is. Um, so, you know, we've helped churches with zoom. Uh, we've helped, oh gosh, probably over 1300 churches with zoom over the last couple of years to make sure that they can connect with their congregations. Uh, we help us with very limited. I don't want to say we help with technology solutions, um, like cameras and stuff, because it's, it's not a one size fits all. Every sanctuary is different. Camera needs are different. Like there's just not a easy solution there. Um, unfortunately, but we, we we've helped some churches with some, some basic, uh, that next level from the iPhone, maybe to a Meebo or something. So we've, we've helped some churches with that. Um, so it's definitely shifted a little bit, but we continue to, to, to learn, uh, you know, what churches need and how we can help best.

Ryan Dunn:

What are maybe some of the questions that you wish you were getting as you look towards the future and the needs of the future church? What are some of the questions that you wish that you were getting, but you're not quite getting,

Steven Adair:

I think a lot of our churches, especially the smaller medium ones. Um, and I know this is, uh, this is nothing negative. The pastors have so much on their plates in that size church. They don't have staffs to do, you know, they don't have a communications paid staff member and they don't have all the associate pastors to do multiple things. Um, so, you know, I know it's, it's hard. I think for our churches, a lot of our churches still don't see the value in marketing, in effective communication outside of the church, outside of their own people. They're, they're still internal or insular. I don't know if that's the right word, but like they, they still look inside. Um, and, and still don't provide a place at the table. Like that's what people, that's what everybody here who's been hurt by a church before. And this is their first reentry back.

Steven Adair:

Like there's so many people like that. There is. So there are so many people outside the walls of this church that are looking, and it's just, it's our job to provide that space and that place for people to find and restart. And a lot of times, at least in our case, restart that relationship with God that they had lost along the way. And it was at the hands of Christians and of the church for whatever reason that they had been put out or, or, or just disconnected for whatever reason. Um, it's our place to do that. And they're out there they're, it's unlimited, literally unlimited, uh, out there. And I think, I think our churches don't see the value in social media, on, uh, you know, the effectiveness of the Facebook page, or they don't have the capacity to do it. Um, that's a lot, a lot of it too, but get a college student.

Steven Adair:

And I know not all of our churches are around the college. Um, but like find somebody, if you can't do it, there's somebody who can do it. I think putting some intentionality behind having a good website, which we can help with, or social media strategy, which we can help with. I think it's just reaching out it's available and, and just making sure that that's a priority and not doing that. We've always done it this way. And I will say that is hard to do for churches. It is, it is nearly impossible, I think. Um, and I think a church has sometimes, actually a lot of times, especially our smaller ones have to get near death to be resurrected, to grow, to do new things because the we've always done it that way. And there's roadblocks and there's barriers and to doing church in a fresh, new, not even changing the core principles at all, or the core beliefs, just doing it just different, um, or in a more modern way.

Steven Adair:

I don't know. And I'm not saying even contemporary worship, just being available and, and, and letting I think, letting somebody walk in what's their passions, what are your missions at your church? Are you doing the same five things because you've done them the last 20 years, that person that walks in that might not be what they're passionate about, but providing the space that says, what are you passionate about? We'll do it. We'll, we'll make it happen. Um, I think just that, just being one very small example, I think having that mindset has, has launched us to where we are today and our trajectory just keeps, keeps going. I mean, during the pandemic the last two years, um, I think this year we've added 19 members year to date. And last year I think we, it was a little slower just because, I mean, everything was a little hectic.

Steven Adair:

The first year of the pandemic, I think we added like 11 or 12, but that's still positive growth, you know, and I know a lot of our churches are struggling to, I mean, we, not that long ago where the church that maybe we had one member join, but we have like five people die. You know, it was always a negative. And I, I know a lot of our churches still live in that today. So I think letting barriers go, and that might, might, you might ruffle some feathers, but I challenge our churches. And I know it's harder in some traditions and others, you might ruffle a few feathers and it might be about the check of the collection plate that goes in the collection plate, but whatever barriers there are internally to let you grow, try to shed those. Um, you know, that's obviously different than everybody's context of what that means, but like, it, that, that is that, that saved this place when there were no barriers, any longer of what we could, should do. That's when we took off.

Ryan Dunn:

Well, I think Glendale has taken off because of a passion for growth. Um, and for seeing the church reach out to new people. So with that in mind and taking the conversation back to Glendale, like what barrier you're moving down next? Or what are you staging next to continue the growth?

Steven Adair:

Yeah. Um, well, uh, the life groups that I mentioned earlier, um, that's a way of intentional small group discipleship. Um, you know, I think we're really good about getting people in the door. We're really good about getting people to join without being pressury about it. I think people, we had a, one person transferred their membership a couple of weeks ago to join yesterday. And this person for next Sunday was just excited and was like, how do I become part of this? Because of seeing that, I think once you, and it kind of snowballs, uh, the excitement snowballs, um, you know, I think our, I think we have growing pains, um, but they're all good problems. Uh it's do we have enough opportunities for people to be involved? Do we have enough, you know, groups, which is why we've instituted this LifeGroup, uh, model of, you know, making sure that everybody, or at least those that want to be are part of a group to really deepen relationships in this congregation, because it's a whole new group of people here on a Sunday morning.

Steven Adair:

My it's, I mean, that's awesome, but we need to, the next level of that is making sure that people stick around because they've come to care about one another. Um, and they've cared. You know, they, they, they feel that this is, this is not only just, oh, this is where my membership is, but they, they feel a sense of purpose, um, here. Um, and, and that we give this space for them to feel purpose. Uh, the, the people that joined, uh, uh, yesterday, uh, one of them is the one that brought the, the life group idea from a church that they were in, in Atlanta, uh, which is, uh, east side, United Methodist church in Atlanta, Georgia. They brought that concept and we were like, we've been looking for a discipleship model, like, what's that next step of getting people together. And they brought that and it was like, it was just, it was a God thing that, that came in when we were like, how do we get all these new people that don't know each other really well to deepen relationship.

Steven Adair:

Um, and they brought that. Um, and then, uh, the other one that joined, um, already started a food drive. And if I turn the camera around, there's boxes in the pews of all this food for a local nonprofit, and he wanted to do that. Um, and we did it, um, because he was like, how do we have we done a food drive lately? And we were like, no, we haven't, you know, the pandemic, it's hard to do certain things. We already did that. And he walked in, they walked in in August and here we are, you know, middle October, they've already brought two concepts, uh, two, two things here. Um, so it's allowing the space for people to contribute, um, to, to, you know, share their,

Ryan Dunn:

Yeah. Oh, well, Stephen, this has been incredibly practical, but even more so it's been inspiring in terms of just kind of sharing in your passion. And I think some of the witness of Glendale's has been a witness to how passion inspires more passion. Um, so if you're listening, you ought to get inspired by that too. You can reach out to Steven's team at ResourceUMC.org/LCS. Cool. Well, Steven, thank you so much for sharing your story and your expertise with us.

New Speaker:

Links to Glendale United Methodist churches, social media accounts, and to the local church services team are available along with show notes at pastoringinthedigitalparish.com. If you'd like to get ahold of me, Ryan Dunn, the best way to do that is at [email protected] That's the email address again, [email protected] If you were really into this episode, you probably would also be really into our episode on fresh expressions with Michael Beck and Roz Picardo. And our episode with will Ranney back in season one about the why of digital ministry. I want to thank United Methodist communications for sponsoring this podcast. Again, my name is Ryan Dunn. I'll talk with you again soon. Peace

 

 

 

On this episode

Ryan Dunn, co-host and producer of the Compass Podcast

Steven Adair is a lay member of Glendale United Methodist Church and the Director of Local Church Services for United Methodist Communications. In this latter role, he helps local churches communicate the good news to their communities..

Ryan Dunn, co-host and producer of the Compass Podcast

Our proctor/host is the Rev. Ryan Dunn, a Minister of Online Engagement for United Methodist Communications. Ryan manages the digital brand presence of Rethink Church, co-hosts and produces the Compass Podcast, manages his personal brand, and obsesses with finding ways to offer new expression of grace.