A web-based ministry is a form of pastoral or religious (apologetic, prophetic, etc.) work that is formed and accomplished in the online world. Most ministries today are partly web-based simply because they have an online presence. A small number of ministries are exclusively web-based because they don’t have a presence in the offline world — no buildings, parking lots, or worship services.
In this blog post I will show you how to start a web-based ministry and why it matters. The post will be geared towards exclusively online ministries, but you can also use these insights for traditional ministries with an online presence. The steps I mention are merely guidelines to give you an overview and not detailed actions. A description of detailed actions would require a post of its own.
So why would someone want to do an online ministry? I think the answer to this question should be pretty obvious. First, it gives more potential access to a larger audience than offline ministries could ever give. Second, compared to the traditional brick-and-mortar religious work, an online ministry is financially more affordable. All you need to do a web-based ministry is to get an online platform (website, chat room, etc.), then create and publish content (texts, pictures, audio) consistently and according to your ministry vision. Third, a web-based ministry comes with a flexibility that makes it easy to change your design or vision of the online platform and send precise, carefully crafted messages. Also, you can do an online ministry either alone or with a small team and still be successful while in the real world, doing ministry alone is very hard. Of course it’s not as easy as it sounds, but it is easier than finding or building a church, creating parking spaces, and buying various devices (mics, voice recorders, lights, etc.)
But an online ministry features some shortcomings due to the characteristics of the online environment (machine-mediated relationship). First, an online ministry reduces your face-to-face time with people who benefit from your work. You can talk to them online in chats, but that doesn’t give you what being in each other’s presence physically and in the same space provides (a shared context and closer encounter with the other person). The online environment encourages more anonymity and impoverishes the rich, spontaneous, and unpredictable character of in-person relationships; it also gives more leeway for manipulation. Moreover, a web-based ministry is suited for all activities that revolve around sharing information. For a discipleship that revolves around study, observation, hands-on work, and a personalized approach between the disciple and the discipler, an online ministry will never be as effective as a brick-and-mortar ministry.
So, there you go, taking these features into account, you can build an online presence and turn it into a ministry like I’m doing with this website. However you look at it, an online ministry is an adventure — another frontier for the workers of God’s Kingdom.
How to Start an Online or Web-Based Ministry
Step 1. Pray and develop a vision.
An online ministry starts with a vision. A vision means the way you see the purpose and future of your work. Will it be about apologetics? Do you plan to evangelize? Are you writing academic theological papers and want to shake up the intellectuals? How much time and how many human beings will it take to accomplish your goals? All ministries require some prayer to find that vision, so pray and seek God’s will.
However, remember that part of your vision will emerge and change as you build your online ministry and interact with the people who care about the message you’re communicating. This is because you want your vision to be sensitive and dialogical (formed through a dialogue with believers) and not one man’s heavy-handed view of reality that may be isolated from the real concerns of Christians.
Step 2. Get the necessary technical tools.
You can’t skip this step simply because your ministry won’t fly without a computer, the internet, and an online platform. First, educate yourself on the basics of technology. If you don’t know what a domain name is, then learn what it is and how to buy one. If you have no clue what the (dis)advantages of establishing your ministry on a free online platform under a third party’s property name are, then find out. If you have financial support, I would strongly advise you to buy a domain name, find a hosting service, install WordPress, get the necessary plugins and widgets, and get going. If you don’t think you can handle that, then hiring a web developer is another way to do the work. But again, I would advise you to do it on your own. It will take some time. And in return you will gain valuable knowledge and skill. Basically what you need is to buy a domain name (if you want to establish your own platform), pay for web hosting, and install WordPress (if you want a free and flexible content management system). From there, you are good to go.
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