I frequently speak with Pastors about the challenges of pastoring churches in the 21st century. I am involved in worldwide online discussions as well as face-to-face conversations in the New England context. A common question that arises is, “how do we take the best of what is traditional and merge it with the best of what is contemporary”. This question isn’t about the songs that churches sing, but about old models and new models of how to do church.
For example, most of us grew up in a church environment that was building-centered. Mostly everything took place in a church building on Sundays for an hour or two. If you missed this window of opportunity there was no Plan B. You had to wait a week and hope that you could catch the next “window”.
In today’s technological climate, people don’t want their church experience to be totally dependent on an hour long worship event once a week in a certain time and place. For many, they want access to that spiritual content whenever they choose to access it. And some want to listen (and perhaps sing along to it) as they take walks in their neighborhoods, or drive to work, or do the dishes. For them, Podcasts to listen to are essential.
For others, they choose to attend services when they can but also watch the service on “live-stream” where they can see it live as it happens, wherever they might be at the time. Others prefer a “video on demand” approach, and they will see the taped service when preferred in online places like YouTube, or the church’s website. FYI—you can subscribe to our church’s channel on YouTube by doing a search on “New Life Hudson”.
Two big questions remain. First, does having an online presence keep people away from Sunday worship in our building? The research on this topic would say no. In fact, having multiple ways to access a church’s ministry only strengthens a person’s reliance on that ministry. And it only ignites the interest in being there to share in it with their own presence. Churches with fewer “ramps” to their ministry become less relevant to the active American culture. The second question is this: will church buildings ever become outdated and unnecessary? The answer is maybe, but I think churches will always desire a place for real encounters with God, His people, and the lost of this world—wherever that might be—in 24/7 availability.