At the Every Nation Campus Staff Summit two years ago, I talked about the relevance of new media in ministry with the goal of helping interested campus missionaries recognize two things. One would be the readiness of online platforms to be part and parcel in promoting not only personal, but even organizational identity. The second would be how we ought to take advantage of this opportunity. Here’s why.

It is of no cost!

Just think about it. Not too long ago, people had to pay television networks and print publications large sums of money for limited ad spaces to lend in the announcement of one’s message.

These days, to start a blog, a page, a show, would only be a matter of filling out personal information, answering a few questions, agreeing to terms and conditions and voila! you have your own channel, ready for the population of your own content, with no boss dictating which to and which not to publish. Above all, this comes to us without any charge. It is all for free.

It is like a living room.

Of course it is not good to give license without warnings. The implication of not having an editing body behind our channels is that we are now solely responsible for the thoughts and media we put out there. I liken it to our living rooms where the pictures we hang on our walls and conversations we allow to transpire as we let people in, tell much about who we are.

Do we like dogs? Do we love our family? What is the utmost priority of my life–is it my studies, ministry, or God himself? Whatever we display for the public to see on our feeds inevitably communicates something, and so it takes tremendous discernment to know which are helpful to our cause and which aren’t.

It is for a great cause.

Speaking of causes, I hope that it has already occurred to us all that as ministers of the gospel, our online spaces have incredible power and purpose when we utilize them accordingly. Is it not that left and right, different communities gather together to forge their existence and message out into the World Wide Web?

Now my question is this: as followers of Jesus, as the people of God who very well know the greatest story that has ever been told, have we done anything to steward and release our message out into these spaces? Have we used them enough to aid us in the discipleship process? Because if we haven’t, then we might be missing out on what Carey Nieuwhof calls as potentially a massive front door for the curious and unconvinced. And if you are someone who does not want to overlook that opportunity, here are a few things to consider.

1) Tell a story

A book I was reading about new media says, “It takes many impressions to make one impression.” The truth is that our diverse content as they appear on our social feeds, blogs, and vlogs, all serve to tell one giant story. Unfortunately this is an encouragement and caveat at the same time, especially when we try to recall all the cringe-worthy content we’ve posted in the past!

But let this not get in the way of our excitement, and instead, be mindful and guided from now on, knowing that something as small as a shout out on our timelines, to writing long form blog posts, to other articles we share publicly or in private, are turning us into producers, publishers, and curators of a specific story all at once.

In this light, a good question to ask ourselves would be, what values should our stories reflect? Because every story has them, right? In Every Nation Campus, we value relationships, discipleship, leadership, and the next generation. If this is the case, we should aim to share quotes, photos, videos, and written content, which naturally advocate and validate our principles.

However, we must note that stories are particularly effective because they do not only instruct, but do so with delight. So let’s pepper our posts and forwards with a whole lot of joy and fun, shall we?

Remember that no one likes to be around someone who seems like he is nothing more than a book of moral lessons, but everyone is always drawn to storytellers who are wise, humble, authentic, and looks to lead an enjoyable life!

2) Know their story
In my time, we found many young people in discos and clubs. While I think that a good number of the next generation still party day and night, their online presence is actually more massive than we think. Everyone, especially the young people are online. This is where they talk, converge, and even air out their problems.

I think it’s worth noting that marketers say these days that it isn’t enough for brands to simply advertise online, because this generation is looking for something more. They want engagement. They want to talk and to be listened to. So maybe we ought to ask ourselves if we have used this avenue enough to listen to the young people that we are trying to reach.

Do we know their issues? Have we engaged them in this space? Because sometimes, it takes a simple like button to communicate our willingness to listen, further our conversation, and deepen our relationship with them. Remember to use this space not only to teach, but also, to reach out and be a real friend to skeptics and seekers alike.

3) Gather Together
Back in the ancient days, people told stories in person. Jesus Himself came in the flesh, spoke parables, and spent time dining and talking with the disciples and the lost. Who knows if Jesus would be tweeting or posting photos of his whereabouts if he came in the flesh on earth today? Yet I have no doubt that he would not limit his efforts online, but continue to seek the lost and engage them offline. Jesus would not only visit people’s timelines for sure. Instead, he would invite himself to people’s houses, towns, and cross the seas if only to be with people from the ends of the earth.

So it’s good to remind ourselves that while online spaces are great tools for ministry, it cannot be a substitute for it. It is a supplement and not a replacement.

Even Paul himself who has written epistle upon epistle in lieu of physical presence in some churches, said this, “…For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine” (Romans 1:10-12). He knew writing would not be enough, as Jesus knew it wouldn’t be enough to not be incarnate.

These are exciting times. Technology forces us to change some methods, but we must remember that it can never change our mission. We will still honor God and make disciples in words and in deeds, in ink and in spirit, online and offline, virtual and physical, because after all, he is the One True God of all time, all worlds, and all spaces.

How about you, how do you utilize your online presence as a tool in furthering discipleship? Which of the three points would be something you’d consider as your strength, and which would be a weakness? Comment below!