What does the future of the Church look like for us?

In the past, it was common to assume that churches in general were about 20 years behind the curve on the current trends with technology and other modern advances such as worship presentation audio/video, and livestreaming, as well as other areas. However, over the past two years, with the nature of the pandemic, we have had to ask some questions about how are we to be church during this critical time as well as moving forward. As an entity, how will we be both prepared for situations like we have faced from 2020-2021 in which we had limitations of being together in worship and as a body, but also how do we move forward in planning our ministries to continue to fulfill the mission of the church, "To make disciples of Jesus Christ, for the transformation of the world."

We have had to learn several things:
1) Computers and technology is not necessarily of the Devil:
What I mean by this is that we can no longer allow our fear of learning how to harness technology prevent us from using the tools that bring us into the present culture of communication and connecting with those beyond our church walls.  For too long I have heard people say, "computers and technology is of the Devil".  it is true that we must do our due diligence to uphold and maintain our professional decorum, our faith and belief principles, and be diligent out our message and also very diligent of our web security. but as the last two years have proven, these things can be learned by most all of us, and they have become and will continue to grow as essential tools for the ministries of churches moving forward.
2) If we are willing to engage Technology, We can use it to help stay connected to each other. When we were called to Socially Distance, be locked-down, or limit our visitations during the pandemic, we were not prepared, and had very limited means to try to remain connected. The primary means was by telephone calls, trying to reach out to the largest group we could via Facebook/Facebook live, or by email.  Telephone calls are really the least efficient means to communicate unless we are communicating with only a few people.  making phone calls can be a hit or miss, leave a message, play phone tag type of endeavor, not to mention if you have to call everyone in the church about the same thing, it takes a lot of time. However, as we began to learn how to live stream worship services, and as we began to experiment and work and learn how to employ various technology tools, we have systematically created a new multi-teared system by which we can have utilized technology, computers, and the internet to have our own layered ability to communicate with church members and those beyond the church walls.

Over the past couple years we have utilized and developed the following means to assist in helping our church members to stay connected with each other and for others to connect with us:
1) Grottoes UMC Community Facebook Page - our Facebook followers have doubled since the beginning of the pandemic from about 90 followers to 181. For the month of February we have reached almost 1000 people with our posts and messages.
2) Church Web Site -  our web site interactions have increased over the month by 65%
3) Grottoes UMC Church App - We are in the process right now of bringing our church app online for people to download. this free download is open to anyone to download and connect to our church. Additionally it brings together several tools right at the tip of your fingers, on your mobile device/smart phone. these tools include "Push Notifications", chat group features, web site, electronic prayer requests, volunteer information request, baptism request, information requests, church calendar, worship live stream and past worship services, WesleyOne internet radio ministry, online Bible and reading plan, and online giving.  and soon to come the Grottoes UMC TV App that allows you to view Grottoes Media on Roku and Apple TV. (This is truly a powerhouse of a church communications tool).
4) WesleyOne internet Radio - WesleyOne began as a vision to allow a music and talk platform that people could tune into and listen while at work or in their free time.  We have the capabilities to pre-program segments or even go live on the radio station at any time.  This tool is one we are still working to hone in on and to discover all of the possibilities, but there is much more to come in the near future. 
5) Email, Snail mail, and telephone - Of course we still utilize the traditional means of communication that we have used over the twenty years and beyond as well.

So the big question that some may be asking, is this sounds great, but how does this help us in ministry, missions, compassion and justice in the world.  Well, outside of planning well for a mission event, fundraiser, Bible study, worship service...etc, we now have several doors that become open to us, as long as we begin to use our imaginations and begin to think about the new possibilities that are open to us.  
  • We can now tell tickets for meals, Apple Butter, or Pork BBQ meals to go and host online fundraisers utilizing pre-orders through our online giving/payment portal, advertise our events online through our church Facebook page, and through our expanding communications through our Grottoes UMC Church App.
  • There are now possibilities of hosting a media based Bible study in person or online. Imagine if folks are unable to come due to weather or some other reason, but they still want to participate, we can set up live media events or prerecorded Bible studies that people can engage on the Grottoes TV App.
  • We can begin to find new inroads to engage people beyond the church in other localities to be a part of our ministries and to support us in new ways, be it financial, extending the ministry opportunity to their neighborhood, and so much more.
  • We are developing ways to share the Gospel Message of Jesus Christ literally around the world as we are legally broadcasting WesleyOne with full licensure in the USA, Canada, and the UK. And we can grow the reach of our church with the church app, anywhere one can download the app and have internet service.
  • We have now streamlined our communications in such a way, that we now have to work to build up our church online, which can also effect our in person worship numbers over time as well.
But perhaps the best part of all of this, is that the next time Grottoes UMC is faced with a communications challenge, like we were in 2020, we can move seamlessly without losing a beat.

For anyone who is interested in learning about the new church app, or would like to have an active role in the WesleyOne ministry, or learn about how we livestream, or other technology upgrades that you could help us improve on, please to not hesitate to talk or contact me
(Pastor Brian)

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