A bigger, shallower pool of friends

The virtual and social media worlds and our church’s ministry–Part I of a series

By Rev. Rick King

Our “Pandemic Pivot” of the last two years has really changed my thinking about whom I write and preach for, and who and where our church is reaching people. And it’s made me think about the possibilities of reaching a wider group of people.

This desire to reach beyond the congregation and our four walls is not new to us. We’ve had many conversations at Falcon Heights Church about this, from the Executive Board to the Membership Ministry Team to our Crossroads cohort in 2019. We’ve been thinking and talking about the wider community and our mission in it, and how to reach out and build relationships.

And that was all happening before the pandemic.

Once things shut down physically in March of 2020 and this forced us to begin an online ministry, conversations among leaders and ministry teams alternated between learning how to use Zoom and Facebook Live and getting content up on a weekly basis (survival) and dreaming about who we were reaching without knowing it, and who we might reach through these new media.

And therein lies the bind. We have two groups of people in our minds now: the people we reach regularly now, and those we hope to reach. And two things can happen: We can try to reach that new group of people—I mean, really go after them in a strategic way; and we can neglect the needs of the congregation and those we already have reached in pursuit of that goal.

Example from recent experience: Our Worship Ministry Team has been wrestling with what to do with a practice that’s very meaningful to a lot of our worshiping congregation, and that’s passing the microphone person-to-person in order to share joys and concerns. Pre-pandemic, this practice made for some of the most touching, poignant moments of community-building we regularly experience.

Passing the mic was a vital part of our worship for many of our people—but we stopped it when we went all-virtual, because there was not really a way to continue it when we weren’t in person. When we resumed hybrid worship last fall, we were faced with the problem of what to do with it: restore it and risk breaking confidentiality as joys and concerns went out to that wider livestream audience? Or find another way to do joys and concerns?

Well, we haven’t been doing it lately, and we haven’t found a suitable substitute. We’d like to restore it a couple of times a month because it’s an important, meaningful practice in which worship and care intersect. And not to do it would be sacrificing the care of those FHC has already reached in favor of worship that’s less particular and more bland in order to reach the wider population.

You see the dilemma? We’re a small, personal, highly relational church that I believe needs to capitalize on the virtues of being small. What do YOU think we should do? Tell me your thoughts: [email protected].