Making Space in a Digital World

Aley United Methodist Church had dipped their toes into the digital pool, but it took a pandemic, a dream and a few grant applications to dive into the deep end.

“Our goal is to grow the church and bring people into a relationship with Jesus Christ. The digital space provides one way to that,” said Abby Lightle, Pastor of Outreach & Family Life. 

When she heard that communications grants were being offered by the West Ohio Conference and Miami Valley District, she went to work dreaming and discussing possibilities with Aley’s Lead Pastor, Bill Halter,  Digital Media Coordinator Adam Clark and the church trustees.

Although the initial conversation focused on enhancing video equipment and increasing internet capabilities, it was soon discovered that what Aley needed was as much philosophical as it was technological. 

The Aley team realize that in addition to praying for God to use the technology to bring people to Christ, it is important to balance the needs of those already attending at our church location while reaching out to those who attend online.

A few people expressed concerned that the new equipment would require removing one or two pews from the sanctuary. This would mean less seating capacity for those physically present in the building.

“We had to learn to make room. For some, this meant a new way of thinking about church,” Halter said.

He reassured them that if all the seats were filled during the existing two services, he would happily begin a third. “Right now, we have a whole new group of people who are worshipping with us online with some contributing financially to this church – a church they have never seen in person,” he said.

Education continues to be important, so church members understand what is happening and why.

Lightle reports that 50 people are regular attenders of Aley’s virtual church services. One of Clark’s digital media responsibilities is to track attendance and keep the online community engaged in the service.

“We have to open our minds; we have to be creative. The world is changing, and we cannot keep doing the same things, the same ways and expect something new,” Lightle said.

She encourages all church to have a digital presence as an outreach ministry. “For small churches with little or no advertising budget, this could be a game changer,” she said.

Halter, Lightle and Clark all agree that using more digital resources provide opportunities to connect with people. Examples of this include a video featuring people from various cultures speaking their first languages as part of a World Communion Service and a Veterans Day documentary project called, The All Who Gave Some.

As the Aley church prepares for the installation of new equipment, they continue to stretch their imaginations. Halter said he is thrilled to be working with this team.

“I am an elder, Abby is a deacon and Adam is a lay person. We have defined responsibilities, but we are better together. If we want to reach people for Jesus, we need to make room for new ideas and give new people a chance to help lead,” Halter said.


Written by Kay Panovec, Director of Communications

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