Digital Parish: Why does our church need an online pastor? with Jay Kranda

Maybe your congregation isn’t all that digital. How does online ministry help them grow? Jay Kranda shares his story of becoming an online pastor and growing the digital ministry of Saddleback Church.

The Episode

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Show Notes 

Jay Kranda's website is full of informative posts.

Some of Ryan's favorites:

Ryan Dunn (00:00):

This is pastoring in the digital parish. Your resource and point of connection for building digital ministry strategy and bringing your congregation into the digital age. Hi, my name is Ryan Dunn. One of the hot topics that we've been addressing in several of the digital ministry groups that I'm a part of is justifying the role of a digital minister or online pastor. We're hearing a lot of stories about churches who may be supportive of a digital minister, but in the end, they don't see how the role is relevant for their congregation. Meaning that they don't believe that their congregation is really currently active in digital spaces and aren't sure why they should move forward there. I don't need sp <laugh>, I don't need to spend time trying to convince you that this is a very inward focused mindset that is gonna have some big challenges and bearing fruit in terms of church growth.


Instead, let's spend some time reacting to the objections or reservations that congregational leadership might have regarding a minister who's heavily invested in online ministry. I was once offered a piece of advice that I've found repeatedly useful for mitigating conflict in the church. And it goes like this. People can argue your theology, but they can't argue your story. So perhaps the best way to meet our objections in reservations is to explore the stories of digital ministry making a difference. In this episode, we're getting some stories. I sat down with the digital ministry og Jay Crada, and Jay shared his story in getting started in digital ministry way back in the 2010s, which you know, was decades ago in terms of relative space in the digital ministry realm. And he also shared how the ministry has impacted his church, which is one that you've probably heard of because Jay Crada is the online community pastor at Saddleback Church, where he oversees an online community of both online groups and home groups around the globe. Jay is a graduate of Bola University and Talbot School of Theology. He loves the N B A and cold coffee. We're gonna get to that in a second. Let's feed Jay Crda. Well, Jay, I see what you're up to this morning. I need help understanding something. And I read this in your bio as well. Cold coffee over warm coffee, like <laugh>. Am I doing a wrong What? What's the appeal there?

Jay Kranda (02:36):

Yeah, that's a, that's a great, that's probably one of my most favorite first questions on a podcast. Yeah, I love, I I love coffee and I, to be honest, I have a little bit, I can have at times a weak stomach and I learned cold coffee has lower acidity. When you drink it, when you brew it, cold brew, not just ice coffee, but when you actually brew it different or you steep it. And so, okay. And then being in Southern California where it's hot most of the time it's, it's a good deal. Cuz you could take, now it's, I get it. I struggle. I struggle during Southern California's cold season, which is like, you know, low sixties, high fifties <laugh>. Right. where I'm, I do, like this morning I woke up, I had a meeting at 7:00 AM my time and I'm drinking cold coffee. And in my office it's, cuz my office is still kind of in my garage space. It was like, it was like 59 in my office and I'm like, this is not, I should be drinking hot coffee. But yeah, I love cold coffee.

Ryan Dunn (03:36):

Okay. Do you dress it up?

Jay Kranda (03:38):

I do not. I drink it black, so.

Ryan Dunn (03:40):

Wow. Okay. Yeah. All right. Let me on. That's normally when I just toss it out like <laugh>, but Okay. But maybe it's the brewing process. I get it. Yes. let's get a little bit more personal. Your digital ministry experience goes back to at least 2010, which comparatively means that you've been doing this since like the dark ages from my perspective. So how did you get involved in online ministry? Like what led you into that role?

Jay Kranda (04:08):

Yeah, so I, I came to faith when I was in high school and was gonna be a youth pastor cuz that's when God kind of got a hold of my, my own life. My youth pastor became like a dad to me. And the church radical, you know, Jesus radically changed my life, but my church became my family and I saw the power of that how just a healthy local church, what it can do. And so I wanted to go into youth ministry. I was at like a smaller church, a church of like 500 or youth ministry was like, you know, 70 kids. And I happened to find myself in a situation like a lot of people find them in where the church that I had come to faith in grew, grew up at, didn't have job opportunities. And my senior pastor of this church said, you know, I was, I was kind of wrapping up my college degree at a local university here, Biola.


And, and he said, if, if you wanna work at a church, you need to go somewhere else. But I didn't know anybody and I to have a friend who was one of my mentors had started at a bigger church in our area, Saddleback Church. And hey, just come interned with me your last year of college. And I did, I left my church, which was a big decision and just interned. And through that I started on the comms team. They, they had a ministry opportunity to be over all these ministries, the web ministry, the photo ministry. I didn't know too much. I mean the, the amount of people that were in the ministries was more people than the church I had come from. Like, I couldn't even

Ryan Dunn (05:35):

<Laugh>. Right, okay. Yeah.

Jay Kranda (05:37):

Like, they had like 250 photographers and I was like, I don't even understand this. And so I grew and learned a lot and one of the things they had was something called the internet campus mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. And this was like 2009, 2010. And in that role on the marketing communications team, I started to engage on this thing called the internet campus. And then I helped them start a Facebook page and a Twitter account. And I just kind of learned, and one of the things small churches have this too, but because it was a big church, we happened to have a lot of people at our church. And I started to meet a lot of volunteers that do that were doing social media in ways like for their companies or for, you know, whatever. And we just started to learn. And so that's how I kind of got thrown into the deep end.


It wasn't something I went to, you know, I have an undergrad in Christian education, a master's in theology. I have no, I had no like professional digital experience outside. I was just kind of that age group and I started to learn a lot. And I still remember, this is a total rabbit trail, but I still remember meeting there was an individual who volunteered, you know, like most churches, you kind of go, Hey, we wanna start this, Hey, who can volunteer? Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. And this guy came up to this event that I was hosting, like a volunteer rally. And I said, yeah, we just need help. He comes up and I find out, like he literally runs all the social media campaign stuff for like the Republican like party. And he had gone to our, he like was a member of our church Jeff, Jeff is his name, and he was just one of those like, brilliant guys. And I was like, I just need to learn from this guy. Like, what, what does he do? And he, he was one of the many people that, you know, churches, I always tell churches, you have more gifted people at your church. They just may not understand how they can use that gifting at your church.

Ryan Dunn (07:28):

Yeah, okay.

Jay Kranda (07:29):

I learned that at my church. Like, wow, like this guy is running this thing for this whole country <laugh> and now he wants to volunteer. And and it so that, that's how we kind of got into it. And that's how I got into it. I got thrown into deep end and I, and I grew to love the scale of it mm-hmm. <Affirmative> because I came from a smaller church and also I, I loved the the intimacy of it that you could engage with people from all around the world in ways that, and, and locally that just sometimes, you know, like I always joke that if you go to churches like Google or Yelp page, like it says it's closed most of the time. Yeah. Mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, but your social media never closes. And just thinking about that, it's, it's really powerful. And so that's why it's important to, that those presences are dialed in. It represents you well and you also are following up on those leads and those opportunities quickly and a and, and in a pastoral way.

Ryan Dunn (08:25):

Yeah. When it comes to digital ministry, especially in, in places like social media, there's this kind of tension in that, you know, formerly we had a communications person who had really no ministerial training who is doing the social media stuff. And now they're being asked to kind of be this relational pastoral presence in digital space, or we have the, the ministerial pastoral type who has their training there. And that's, this sounds like your experience, but does not have training in <laugh> kind of the logistics of online community and how to do social media. So what were some of the first things that you really had to learn in order to grow into that role?

Jay Kranda (09:10):

I think, yeah, it's, it's a good question. I I, I feel one of the things is we tend to take certain aspects of our job or our career very seriously, and we don't necessarily we're not as thoughtful in all spaces. So the, the prime example of this, sometimes people do, is that they take their job very seriously, but they don't take like their marriage with the same type of seriousness. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. So like with your job, you have a plan, you work on it, you you may have a review, you get better at it. Sometimes, like unfortunately, sometimes with marriages, people don't take a lot of time to take their marriage to the next level. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. So I, I think the same thing happens with a lot of digital stuff or social stuff. It's like, well, I just need to do this one thing.


And they don't back up and think about, okay, how do I need to be strategic, thoughtful? What's the plan with this? And so for example, you know, like, you know, if somebody sends me a question and I, I'm trying to think of something recently where somebody may have asked me, like I, if somebody sends me a Bible question around, you know, why is it if I line up all the times, the, the crow in the gospel's, you know, you know, cl or whatever, it's nine times, does the Bible contradict itself? I'm not expected in like, there are a lot of questions in the Bible, I don't know off the top of my head. So what do I do? I go to my commentaries, I follow up and then I get an answer. So if I'm running into a problem with digital, I think sometimes pastors specifically in ministry leaders, if they don't know the default answer, they just think that they can't find it.


And I like to encourage pastors just cuz you don't know it off the top of head, doesn't mean you can't go and find out the answer. There's a lot with digital, I don't know, I don't have stored on the front lobe of my brain and I have to go figure it out. And so usually it's just like, I, I like to, I found that I'm a learner. And so what really was my advantage is that if, if I ran into a wall or I was confused, I just figured out the lifelines to go find that answer. And so if, if they're like, oh, what's the best time to post? Or, you know, what should I do with YouTube? What do I, what do I do the same thing? You know, I had my front door a couple weeks ago was jamming and it was the door was sagging.


And what do I do? I I go on YouTube and I find out like, oh, I can move the hinge and I can, I'm like, wow. And then I fixed the door. So digital's the same thing. Well how do, how do I leverage TikTok? Well, let me go watch a bunch of YouTube videos on how people are doing TikTok. And so I think I just found early on like, where do I go to learn and grow? And then it's taking that mindset that I take in my career, in my own time with God and I apply it. So I think those were like the biggest things. And then I really, the, the, the last thing that I really dialed in, and this was something one of my youth pastors drilled into me when I was like 16. One of my first jobs at my church was I would mow and weed whack our church's property like every Saturday.


Like I was paid five bucks an hour. I did this. And, and he really, he really drilled into me this idea that we have this, God has blessed us with this property and we want to make sure that we take care of it and it represents who God is and how we steward this property to the community. Well, so this is why we pick up trash. We, we you know, we pull out weeds, we trim, we, we do all this stuff so that it gets ready and that communicates a value to our community. And I've really, I've really leaned in and I would tell any pastor or ministry leader, leader this, your social presences have to be taken seriously. Just like you, you take your property serious.

Ryan Dunn (12:40):

Hmm. That's a good analogy.

Jay Kranda (12:42):

Oh, is somebody looking at your website? Is somebody, you know, looking at Facebook messages Instagram? And so it's just, it's like, so it's this strategic, like, just cuz you don't know it, figure out how to learn and grow. And trust me, there's so much in digital. I'm, I I, I don't know, somebody asked me a couple days ago about setting up in TikTok ads. I one time started a process with a TikTok ad ad I don't know how to do it, but I know I could figure it out if I needed to figure it out. And then just taking the presences, like the same type of series with our physical properties. And I, I think that's a mi those two things have been really helpful for me.

Ryan Dunn (13:18):

<Laugh>, it, it's funny you bring up like, Hey, I've got this question. I'm going to YouTube because I actually, that's, that's how I found you. I had questions about <laugh> digital ministry job descriptions and oh, pops this guy, Jake, that's hilarious. And, and here we are having this conversation and we're gonna get into some of that job description stuff, but I wanna, I wanna jump back to our story in 2010 and just kind of exploring how your job then is different than how you're executing your, your ministry position today. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, like what are some of the key differences?

Jay Kranda (13:50):

Yeah. So early on when I started, it was very much our church was in a flu of figuring out if it was valuable mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. And I think I was in a mode of just justifying the position like that it was worth the investment. And I think there was a lot of just lack of clarity from top down of how does this fit into what we're doing, you know? And so early on there was a lot, like, I kind of treated it like a, you know, if you read like a lot of these books where it's like your first 90 days on the job, I was just trying to figure out what was happening how do I connect the dots and, you know, what should the objectives goals be of my role? And so early on it was, it was a lot of honestly, a lot of what I did was just like post to social accounts follow up on emails and phone next step cards that were being filled out at the, the time.


And then we were, we did a couple online groups that we were engaging, but it was pretty minimal. And to be fair, like early on I was part-time, I was doing other things in this, on a lot of the online stuff was just part of my job. Still milling the grass. Yes. Yeah. No, I wasn't doing that. But but it was, it was kind of just this little thing. So I think it was just figuring out the plan. I was just talking to a ministry leader yesterday at, at a church, and I, I always, this is something I've done many times. I still do it to this day. I will draw out on a whiteboard or create some kind of diagram and I will say, okay, this is how our church brings people in, sends them out. Here's our discipleship pathway of Comey to come and die.


And I will, I will say, okay, this is what we're doing digitally and I will draw it out and I will very much almost like a, like a creed where it's like, do we align? Like are we okay with me doing this? And I've done that with my church. I've done it with other churches because sometimes there, there's like, you know, the joke is that it's like a multiverse of, of things you can invest your time on with digital. And sometimes you have to put something on a wall for people to disagree with. And it's like, are are we sure this is like, and, and I mean that's what creates are, you know, it's just like, can we just align on these things? And I think I've had different stages of our, of our church specifically where some things we couldn't do and then a couple years later we could do.


Yeah. And it just because they wanted to, I, I think some of it had to do, they wanted to know if they could trust me to steward our church's vision and mission, because sometimes I found Frontier, like new first wave people tend to be mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, you know, you know, missionary types are unique breeds and <laugh>, you know, they, they could do all sorts of stuff. And I think with digital, you know, that, that's the other thing. There's a lot of voices on digital. I have a lot of friends in digital and you know, they think, oh, Jay's bringing up digital and they're thinking about this guy who did this VR baptism. And I'm like, no, no, that's not me. But yeah. You know, and, and it's, and cuz for me, I'm, I'm, I'm trying to, I'm trying to figure out the flavor within my church's own theology, my, my, my own, our elders like how they think.


And so it's, it's sometimes there's just narratives. So like there are trigger words that it's, that can be trigger and digital over the last, you know, 10, 15 years can be a trigger word to a pastor. And so I think I've figured out, okay, what are the hot areas for my church? And I'm gonna stay away from those. So like, for example, a really practical one was a big way our church disciples people is through our class system mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. And we have something in that called membership. And it was a big deal to my pastor that we did not want somebody far away to be an online member. Like we, we didn't, because we don't want people thinking that the biblical way to do life is by yourself virtually spatially separate from a bunch of people. So I knew that was not something I talked about for the first couple years.


I leaned in on how to get our service better. I leaned in on how to make our group experience better. And then eventually what happened when they had a, when we had hundreds of groups online and all this stuff, they started to go, you know, we need to get these people members. Well what does that look like? Yeah. We wrestle through it. And so it's almost like you create a new, like, I think I would tell this usually to younger people, it's like you're, you get such an activist like mine on these one, these walls, if you just focus a little further in, you create a problem that you know the answer to. And then ultimately what happens is if you get a group of people to do one thing, they'll, your leadership will go, Hey, why don't you do this? Whoa. Because we don't do membership yet. Can we talk about membership? So like, for membership, one of the things we did was, we made it very clear in our membership when we started offering it on demand and on Zoom, was that we added a line to our online membership where you membership that you have to start a physical group.

Ryan Dunn (19:04):


Jay Kranda (19:04):

So the idea is that we don't want people by themselves in another state to think that they're a member. That the idea is that at least if they're watching online, but if they have a group of eight people that they're doing life in their city to us, we started to feel theologically more okay with that concept. Okay. and we knew there were Stu Ton to figure out. But yeah, so I, I think, and now my job is completely different just because we have microsites that are connected to our online community. And and, and Covid for sure just really unlocked a lot of opportunities of figuring out, you know, what really the fun part is figuring out a digital strategy for our local campuses. Because now it's like, it's not just the person far away that wants digital, it's the local person who wants to, so that it's, it's a very different type of job.


I've also reported to probably like four or five different people over the, that period of time. Yeah. During Covid, I would joke, I, I reported to three different elders because we were trying to figure out how to make sense, which I actually kind of love because it was like, I want, you know, I, I would al I always say that I, I want what's best for my church cuz my kids are gonna grow up in this church mm-hmm. <Affirmative> and hopefully they're gonna stay in this church when they're, you know, in their twenties and thirties. And I want to figure it out. And I think digital's a big component for the future of our church and it's messy and I don't have all the answers. And so let's mess around with this strategy until, you know, the puzzle pieces is fixed. You know, ma makes sense.

Ryan Dunn (20:32):

Yeah. Hmm. Have you seen in practice some of these microsites pop up so that, you know, you're in California physically, but you have say like a microsite church that through a digital meeting has now popped up and say like, I don't know, Georgia or Connecticut or someplace like that? Yeah.

Jay Kranda (20:56):

Yeah. We, we've done a lot of experimenting on this and I'm honestly very grateful that my church allowed our team to kind of mess around. I I had a lot of you know, I, I always think of the 10,000 hour principle from Gladwell that I think is very much true. You know, I've been the online pastor you know, full-time since 2000, like 12, 13. And so you know, for sure been thinking about this for a long time and processing mm-hmm. <Affirmative> had tons of learnings, failures, all that good stuff. And so

Ryan Dunn (21:31):


Jay Kranda (21:32):

Yeah. We have right now something called extensions, which are microsites and, and for an extension for us is a group of eight to 75 plus people that watch service physically in person together. And they do it either weekly or monthly. And we have 33 extensions right now that are affiliated with our online community that gather anywhere between if I remove, we have one extension that's pretty big because it's in a prison. And so it's, that's a little bit of a unique variable. But out of our 33 extension if I remove the prison extension, we have about 250 people that meet regularly in person. And yeah. And these are all lay driven and we, we've, we do it a couple different ways. Sometimes a member will move away and we'll mobilize them to, to start something in their home or rent space.


We have a community in the Vegas area that they rent space monthly in a library and me in the back of the library. And they have, they have, you know, 12 to 15 people that meet there. We have we did another one in Singapore where I sent an email to every person that lived in Singapore in our database. And I said, Hey, let's do a zoom. I would love to talk to you about something. We had fif we had like 10 people show up to the Zoom. I said, I would love to start extension. And then three weeks later they had their first extension service in Singapore and they had 20 people great. That were watching together. And I've never been to Singapore. And that was all digital towards them mobilizing. And I put the vision in in them, you know, I said, Hey guys, do it.


And so our extensions, we believe that, you know, God is, is gonna continue to use Sunday morning, but we also believe that we're probably moving into a future where like big expressions might not be the entryway to the average believer here in America or even around the world. And so the casual attendant are showing up at church. There might be a chance that side doors will be more of an opportunity. And so coming to a big church will be one of the many strategies we always, you know, keep our foot on the pedal, but we believe microsites, there are people that if you start something in your home or rent something in your city we could reach people that we would never reach. You know, another one, Dylan and his family, they're in the mid the south kind of Minnesota area, and they have, they live in this kind of smaller town and they, they have a barn and they host church there, you know, every other week.


And, you know, they've had up to 65 people attend this extension site. And we're still very much in the early stages. We've been doing the strategy almost a year now, and I've probably had 150 people sign up to start an extension. I've had hundreds of conversations with potential leaders and we have 33 and we probably removed or stopped probably eight or 10 33 are going. And we've learned a a lot through the process. I've talked to a lot of different churches about it. I've read all sorts of books about church planting. We're trying, we're still figuring it out, but we're very, we very much do have it. And we believe it's a strategy that God is, is working through, but it's, it's kind of this moving bullet that I feel like we're all figuring out. But I love it because we have this online community.


We, we say here at Saddleback that our online community is a collective of local people that are engaged at our campuses, our 18 campuses in Southern California and around the world, and also people far away. And then what happens is, if our job, if you're near a campus is to get you connected to that campus where our, where I become a campus pastor is that if you live 35 miles or 40 miles away from a campus, my job is to get you to sign up for class to get you into a group. And then ultimately I want you to join or start an extension. And we have a goal to have over 500 extensions over the next five years. And so we're kind of building towards that goal.

Ryan Dunn (25:29):

Hmm. That is very future thinking. And you talk about that future in that Sunday morning may not necessarily be the, the key point of Yeah. Connection and, and opening up the side doors. And I feel like this conversation is gonna help our, our friend out there who's trying to justify the online pastor position for their congregation, what are some of those side doors? Like how are you beginning that relationship with people in digital space?

Jay Kranda (25:57):

Yeah, and there's, first off, there's all sorts of things my church is doing that are not related to what I'm doing. So I, I think definitely

Ryan Dunn (26:06):

There are. Sure. Yeah.

Jay Kranda (26:07):

<Laugh>, like our student teams are doing amazing things. Our kids ministry, I mean, Saddleback Kids has an amazing digital strategy around YouTube that is, I mean really amazing. But for us specifically, I would say one of the things has been, and I this is a moving target, it's, I think we've, we've gotten a lot better over the years at dialing in our YouTube strategy and just understanding, hey, there are a lot of people searching things and discovering us in ways that, that, you know, are not related to an invite or, you know, driving by. And so for example, like the modern day way of thinking about this would be like, you know, food co, like a restaurant would think about this, that how many people drive by your restaurant is how many potential customers you have. And if you can get a percentage of that, you know, that that's how much like your revenue would be necessarily.


 The, I think the modern day thought here is that a lot of your social accounts are that type of drive by, is that you have a chance to get into somebody's feed and before they ever think about you, they can or been, you know, be in your building, they can kind of get a glance of who you are. You know, I, I always use the example of like the, you know, to a pastor or ministry leader, what comes to your mind when you think of a mosque? And if you've never been in a mosque, you just have some general thoughts like you, you like from media, there's a lot of unbelievers, unchurched people that have that thought about your church. Mm-Hmm. Yeah. And so what would make you more comfortable visiting AM mosque? You might think, oh, I need to take off my shoes, or do I have to wear something on my head? Do I have to address, you know, and there's all these questions, you know, are there certain

Ryan Dunn (28:00):

Yeah, there's, yeah, we would kind of want to know the rules.

Jay Kranda (28:03):

Yeah. You wanna know the rules, you want to be like, and again, I bring that example up because I think I, I had a, I had an opportunity many years ago to go to visit a mosque and it was just like, it really hit me like, this is what people in our community feel about our church. And so digital, what you get to do is you get to record short videos, talking to the person, giving them a tour of, of what your church is about. Like what, like my church that I came to faith in, in the kind of the, it's like the greater Los Angeles area in Bellflower, California. They had this big brick building and we had like the biggest building in our city, but it was kind of an old school looking Baptist church. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. And I would always joke like, people drive by this building and have no idea what's going on inside of it.


Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. And so like, so like social couple things, recording videos of people, part of your community inside that building to show what's happening. Show different faces on video, not just your senior pastor or your teaching team, maybe younger faces. I think the other thing is making sure that you are responding to all the messages on your accounts. And if you can't respond to everything, you might need to remove those accounts because you gotta make sure you're being personal. I definitely think one of the most compelling strategies for most churches and growing a presence is doing you know, 45 second vertical video. Somebody young talking to the camera and asking them like, Hey, is there something I could be praying for you about? And running that in a geo area and do a messenger campaign is one of the, to start real conversations in your community.


So I think those are some of the things for sure. It's a lot of vertical video, short short, short type of stuff where you're just giving a glance into what's happening in your building. And cuz I think you gotta demystify that experience because it is, it is a scary, think about, like, it's a scary thing to show up somewhere that you've never met anybody. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. And then that's why I think we think about the flip side is giving tools for the, for the, for your member to invite. But I think if you think about people just walking into your building, I mean, if, if you've ever gone somewhere new and some of us don't do this often, so we, it's not a familiar experience, but I always joke like

Ryan Dunn (30:23):

We had, we're doing it less now than we were a few years

Jay Kranda (30:26):

Ago. We're totally doing it less. Like I saw it with my, my youngest daughter had this experience re like this start of the year where she was started kindergarten and I really saw how nervous she was. And the teacher sent a video before the first day of school, a vertical video within some app that they use. And it was like, she toured the class and she said, I'm so excited to see you. And it immediately calmed my daughter down and I was thinking, man, we gotta figure that out cuz like, I still remember the first time I went to my high school and I remember like, I was a, at the time I hadn't really hit puberty to the full degree. I was a small kid. And I remember like the first day of like the, the whatever the, the couple weeks before they do the tutorial where you, like, you walk around and you, you check out your

Ryan Dunn (31:14):

Classes. Oh yeah. Orientation.

Jay Kranda (31:16):

Like this is, this is nerve wracking. And, and I think a lot of people before they set foot on your church, like they have all their feelings. So social and all this stuff, digital are opportunities to kind of put them at ease. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, that's how I would say it.

Ryan Dunn (31:32):

Yeah. I I guess it's an entry way of making it pe making it easy for people to get to know who you are. Yes. yeah. Well, if you had to <laugh> well maybe not today in the early days, w did you have to kind of defend your <laugh> your position? Were there times that you had to answer the question of you know, Jay, why do we need an online pastor or digital minister?

Jay Kranda (32:01):

I mean, I definitely had those moments for sure. I think it was, I had a, I had a one really good friend of mine who older than me, very respected guy, he told me not to take the job when they offered me it because he said it's not gonna be around in a year. And I really heard that and I understood where he was coming from and I just was like, this is such a fun opportunity that I can't, even if it fails, like at least I tried type of mode and but I, I, yeah, I think

Ryan Dunn (32:37):


Jay Kranda (32:38):

Sure, I think one of the things is I've foc I've been very grateful cuz I've been got, I've gotten a lot of coaching around this from amazing leaders at my church and friends outside the church where I focused in on what are the things I can track that show real, not just viewership, but like discipleship And so early on and, and I would say every church has different approaches and different methodologies around this. The our strategy is very different from other churches, our sizes, like, and, and vice versa. So like I, through a series of conversations, and this is where I would tell anybody, like in the, if you're trying to justify the role, you're trying to create it, figure out what gets your, your pastor, your elders, your leadership excited. So I knew that I could double my online audience and it just, it, it wasn't important to them.


Like, it just wasn't like, they don't want a bunch of extra people watching online. They want more people doing something meaningful. And so I focused in on early on with our team how to get more online groups mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, like they would want me to double that than double our viewership on our website or YouTube or whatever because like, okay. I knew like my, at that time my pastor had a famous saying that he never wanted to be a TV evangelist. And so online he kind of saw early versions of that that's what people were doing. But when like the Web 2.0, like the Facebooks and, and social media, like real engagement started to happen. The internet took on a different form. It could be social mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. And so I think like there's just like, this is why we spend a lot of time on groups and we spend a lot of time on our discipleship class which we just rebranded called, it's called Discovery Your Purpose.


And so our team hosts Zooms, we host four Zooms every month where we do our discipleship classes and I teach part of that class. So we do this boom. And, and so we teach those every month. We have our groups. And so we've spent a lot of time historically around I figured out what the wins were for my church. And so I would, like, if I was, if, if I was in a room and a church was thinking about doing digital and I had a person like you there that wants the job and I was in, I go, okay, what is one thing that they could do to, to make this like worth it? Is it double the viewership? Is it more groups? Is it start alpha online? Like what is it? And or microsites, like some churches are really big about starting new locations.


Do you want microsite? And so figuring that out and then building towards, because I think sometimes the vagueness people don't know, and this is where you just have to be a little honest and then sometimes you're like, you may not know the full clarity but you know the direction. Like I kind of knew the online group, but when I, the first job I was at after me hired, the, I wasn't surprised that the first person I could hire was a, a groups pastor because that's where my church is now. My team is very different than it where it started, you know, <laugh>. Sure. But but yeah, it's, I, I think that's where I would say is figure out what your church gets excited about and build something around that. And then the idea is that as you steward that presence or you steward that opportunity early on, you're not gonna get everything you ever want in the first round.


And I just like, okay, if I could just figure this part out, I'll build more trust. And so, and I've just had the luxury of having stack a lot of years upon each other that, you know, now I'm getting old. And, and, and it's like, you know, like, well a lot of people, again, it's that whole like people, they want all the benefits, but they don't want the journey. And I would just say if it, and this is what I would tell anybody, I, I was just telling my team this cuz I have a, I have a couple team members that are younger and I, and I go, they go, oh, this is weird or this is hard. And I ke I just, I remind them it is, if it was easy, you wouldn't be needed. And if it's hard, you get an opportunity to prove your leadership.


So the fact that it's messy, you lean into that and if you can prove you can solve the problem, your value doubles triples. And, and here's the deal on digital for your church. Your pastor has no idea what to do. Has no idea. I've been, I've been in the room with very high leaders, I've been in the room with high level theologians and I'm like, they are wrong on this. Like, and they, I understand where they're coming from, but that's your opportunity. You gotta do it in a humble way. You gotta do it in a way that you're asking questions, do the Colombo thing where you're just kind of asking questions and, and, and say, Hey, can we just figure this out? And you know, I I always come from, I go, I could be wrong, but let me just justify it here and lean into it.


And, and, and it comes. And then that's where I go. I have the desire, the reason why I have convictions, and I, I've pushed on this and I will continue to push on it because I want this to be a place that, you know, I have a 12 year old, a nine year old, and a six year old. I want this to be a place where they can go the long way. And I think digital is gonna be just as, as it's a, it's important for me as a 35 year old, it's gonna be way more important for them. So we gotta theologically, methodologically figure it out. And we've figured out some, but we got a lot more to figure out and I find that fun. So.

Ryan Dunn (38:08):

Yeah. Yeah. I do too. In the, this will be my, my last question for you. So appreciate your time, but as you have had to figure out so much just through raw experience, what is, if you were to go back and do your kind of theological training or ministerial training, what is a class <laugh> or a, or a training session that you wish you would've had that you had to learn on the job?

Jay Kranda (38:32):

Oh man. I don't know if I, if I, I, I feel like there, I can't think of anything from like seminary or school like that. I feel like there was some potential around like mi missiology type of theology that could have been probably a little bit better on how to lean into new cultures. And cuz that's essentially all, a lot of this stuff is, it's, it's just contextualizing, you know, the gospel for a different generation. But I would say practically I feel like I wish I would've taken I I would've taken more like, you know, this is very insider for somebody who's listening to this. So you, I'm, I'm sorry, but I wish I would've taken more like HubSpot type of training classes. Yeah. They have like an academy. I feel like there were things there that I could have gotten more learning there. So even like, and part of it is my wiring, but just like learning some of that stuff of general communication plans, like Yeah. Content strategy. Yeah,

Speaker 3 (39:48):

Content strategy. Taking those classes too. Yeah.

Jay Kranda (39:50):

Yeah. I very early on created a habit of like reading a certain amount of books a year and I just like kind of started reading that stuff, but I, I'm not like, I'm not a communications expert at all. But I I know enough about it that it's, it's helpful, but I, I feel like that would've been, I probably could have taken more communication classes. I only took one or two in college and I think I find it funny that I started on a, on a communications team at big team. And some people see me as that now and I don't have a lot of experience around that. But cuz I'm more the bridge between, I would say digital strategy and pastoral. I tend to be the person in between that are bridging these teams. Even technically, I wish I would've taken some, I don't think most people need to take this, but I wish I would've taken more computer science type of classes.


Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, I just started a couple weeks ago, a an intro to computer computer science from Harvard. Like they have a YouTube whole course on, on YouTube that I found. And so, but I'm like, I don't, I barely know how computers work and I feel like I'm in com in meetings where I'm having to ask for things that I, so I think it's just like, I feel like you should know that. I wish there's some general classes like that where it's like intro to computers, intro to Markcom, where I think it would, would be very helpful because at the end of the day, I think it's very clear. Like Paul, for example, is a master communicator. Like he's dialed in, you know, he's using examples and, and this is a deal. Like we learned this in like preaching classes, like how to contextualize and lean in and use the right analogies in, in using the right scripture. You know, digital is just that, but it's, you know, without words, it's, it's it's platform. So, you know, why pick Instagram over Facebook? Well, because of this and why TikTok? And so I, I wish those were the classes, but I don't know if that's helpful for everybody listening, but that, that's what I would do.

Ryan Dunn (41:41):

Yeah. No <laugh> I think it is because I've been through that that as well and longing for. Yeah. like, oh, where do I get this knowledge? And yes, it's actually good to hear, you know, that like, I'm not the most tech savvy person either, so <laugh> Yeah. Yeah. I appreciate hearing it, but yet still feeling like an invite to engage in ministry in the digital space. So, well Jay, thank you so much for spending time with us this morning for sipping some cold coffee and and sharing your your experience with us has been really valuable.

Jay Kranda (42:16):

Thank you.

Ryan Dunn (42:17):

If you wanna check out more episodes of pastoring in the digital parish, that would really be appreciated. A couple helpful episodes include Season ones, the Why of Continuing in Digital Ministry with Will Ranny, another digital ministry og. Or you can check out season twos from viewers to members with Steven Adair. And that one has great examples of opening the side doors that Jay was talking about, opening those side doors for involvement, especially through digital spaces. Again, my name is Ryan Dunn and I'd like to thank resource, the online destination for leaders throughout the United Methodist Church. They make this podcast possible, and of course they host our website pastoring in the digital, where you can find more online resources for ministry. If you wanna connect, check out our pastoring in the Digital Parish Facebook group. You can also send me questions and ideas for future sessions at digital parish Another session comes out next week. In the meantime, peace.



On this episode

Jay Kranda, Online Pastor for Saddleback Churcht

Jay Kranda is the Online Community Pastor at Saddleback Church, overseeing an online community of online groups and homes groups around the globe. Graduate of Biola University and Talbot School of Theology. Jay loves the NBA and cold coffee.

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.