Online Ministry Tips for Leaders
Well this is definitely an article that I can write about in full knowledge and expertise which is a blessing! When it comes to marriage, I can't give you any tips. Want to know how to raise your children? Can't do that either. Online ministry? Oh yes! In 2012, I created and launched Girls of Royalty. For those of you who do not know about Girls of Royalty, let me fill you in. Girls of Royalty is a Christian Women's Network for women of all ages. Our goal is to cast out fear and have you walk in your purpose. However, we don't mean just your individual purpose. We discuss the purpose and intent of everything from marriage to finances. We cover every topic of life that we can discuss in the time that we have with our women every chance we get. Our main mission is to use the web and technology to enhance and change how the gospel is spread. We love to tap into new platforms and software all backed by the online web. I knew that this was something that was going to help us move forward in ministry when I began using Google Hangouts in early 2013 for live streaming bible studies. I was so happy to have found a way for viewers to tune into my teachings LIVE. It had a pretty easy back end and the audience felt like I was talking directly to them due to it being live.
As I reflect on all of this now, I would love to share with you some wisdom that I've come to have by doing online ministry for 3 years. Granted 3 years may not seem much but what we've done in just 3 years is more than many have done in 7-10 years. The online web has a way of accelerating your impact. Don't believe me? What social media has done for businesses has accelerated sales for businesses that could only dream of being overnight successes back in the early 1990's or early 2000's. I've seen one Facebook Promo for a product turn a business into an overnight success. Ministry isn't any different when it comes to exposure. However, I do want to balance this article out by talking about the things you should stray away from due to online exposure and just seeing so many things in this arena of online ministry.
1. Know Your Vision & Your Mission
When it comes to online ministry, the easiest thing to do is fall into the temptation of getting away with inconsistency and lack of vision. Just because you aren't a church doesn't mean you get the free card to just throw a cute vision statement up and roll with it. If I may be blunt the following statements don't count as a vision.
a. Our vision is to help spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.
b. Our vision is to change the lives of women through God's love.
c. Our vision is to motivate people to do God's will.
None of these are a mission nor a vision. They aren't specific enough. These three things that I have listed should be the vision and mission of EVERY ministry. God will give you a SPECIFIC vision and mission. When it came to Girls of Royalty, I knew that our job was to help women to become bold in their FAITH and understand their purpose. However, when it came to purpose, it was more than just their individual one. I wanted them to know the purpose of love, marriage, sex, relationships, sisterhood, finances, and more. Our motto is: No Fear. All Purpose. Our teachings are faith based and we teach more on faith than probably any other topic. The hilarious thing is that even if we are talking about another topic, faith always ends up coming in the teaching somewhere. Why? Because Faith is the opposite of Fear. We have taken this mission and vision seriously that we have done conference calls and have hosted online teachings for finance, vision empowerment, marriage/dating, and so much more.
Anyone can technically start an online ministry because the start-up finances are almost near to none. You don't have to worry about heat, electric, a mortgage or rent. You save money in mailing out welcome letters and postcards to your members/recent visitors. The point is that it is a money saver. However, just because it's easy to start doesn't mean it's easy to do. I've seen people do online ministry and waste years of their time because they did it due to popularity. People love being called "founder" and "president of blah blah". Let me tell you this: Don't pull a title that your character doesn't have the weight to sustain. The ministry is only as good as the vision and the leader. So if you can't lead, it will show. Delegating out tasks doesn't make a leader. I know many "leaders" that can make some calls and get some people on a team. They take the team and delegate little tasks here and there. That's not vision and that's not a mission. A vision and a mission is when you're focused and the ministry speaks toward that. This also means carrying a vision that isn't the popular topic of the year or century. I know many leaders that felt "compelled" to a particular ministry because certain posts received more "social media love" than the posts that they really wrote from their heart. This is why it's so important to know your vision and your mission. You can NOT shake from what God CALLED you to do and it doesn't matter if it doesn't get the "likes" you think it should.
Ministry is about tapping into the potential and power of your vision and mission. Many ministries don't know how to market, have horrible graphics, and don't tap into the power of their own online platform. So please do not switch your ministry and vision and then claim that God gave you a "new" passion. You can change your look 5 million times and it wouldn't matter. You need to get back to what God called you to. Don't follow after your favorite ministry trying to be just like them. You may get the fame but you are walking outside of the will of God and that is something that you do not want to be apart of. You can not allow people's likes and comments about what they want to hear tear you away from what God has called you to do. At the end of the day, those hearts and likes online will not earn you a "thy good & faithful servant" sticker. You have to stick to the vision and mission no matter how tough it gets.
2. It's not about works. It's about the call.
When I started tapping into online ministry, I wanted to be just like Heather Lindsay and Pinky Promise. The crazy part is I know some ministries who want to do the same thing and they are sadly: fools. Haha. I love everyone but I'm just trying to help you guys out. Pinky Promise used the technology of Ning.com which is a great platform to create your own social media site. Members have the option to create their own profiles, discussion forums, and so forth. The price point is stellar and it's a great avenue for a ministry like Pinky Promise. Guess what? I tried to do my own version of Pinky Promise back in late 2013/2014 with Royal Girl Takeover. It was a FAILURE. Well, it wasn't too bad. We did establish some Royal Girl cities and we did actually have groups that met up in cities like Chicago, Philadelphia, Alabama, and a few other cities. However, that isn't our mission nor our vision. Yes, it was a good idea and it did draw out some people BUT it did not last long because I soon realized that I had to cut the cord. The crazy thing is that like 2-3 months later some of the ministries that followed us started doing the same such as establishing chapters and cities. I did see how these ideas also faded away in their organizations. When it comes to online ministry, there are a few things within this "Works" category that you have to be really careful of. Just because you do something online does NOT make it easy. Yes, it's easy to get a domain and a website up. It only takes a 10 year old to setup some social media profiles. Like there are literally teenagers out here that do Instagram better than most of us young adults (haha). However, it also takes strategy and wisdom. Pinky Promise had MAJOR success. However, their focus was to establish these small groups in different cities with accountability and they made it that way. You can't just have a website up and then start telling people that you're also transitioning into physical engagement. You need to establish some presence first. For myself personally, I am not going to have GOR establish physical small groups until our online small groups have been established for at least 2-3 years. By that time, I want to have some back-end technology up and running for us to expand our online capabilities for our small groups and not depend on outside platforms.
Here are some additional reasons why when it comes to online ministry & establishing online presence:
- The amount of followers you have online versus ones that are going to physically come out aren't the same. For every 100 members, we expect about 30-40 to be actually attentive. For instance we have a growing membership but on average we have a 40% open rate for our weekly emails. The click rate (how many people are clicking links to actually check out our website, files,ect.) is around 9% versus the average rate of 6.92% according to email marketing software like Constant Contact. (More info: http://support2.constantcontact.com/articles/FAQ/2499) So with all of this being said, we learned very early on that we can't expect or base events on the entire population of our members. We base our events and activity now on those that are actively participating. Stop worrying about blowing up and start focusing on how to make your current participants more interactive with your ministry. Many ministries focus on getting more followers and more members. However, if the ones you have aren't connecting already then you need to obtain a better strategy.
- Social Media Followers aren't your promised audience when it comes to online ministry. It's your email list. Not everyone is going to see all of your announcements on social media so don't depend on it. I'm all for social media based ministries and I think their reach is amazing. However, always have a backup plan because you want your ministry to last for generations and not for a season. Having an email list with data never fails. People always get smart with me when I mention this but I'm trying to help people have their ministries last. Why put in so much toil and sweat into something God gave you and it become something of the past when a new platform pops up? Also, having an email list gives you a direct way to connect to your base. I know that for others they use an app that they offer to their audience which is another direct way. These are people who have added their information and have taken extra steps to stay connected to you. I've noticed how some social media ministries are adding at least a small website and an email list. That's all you need.
Also, I think many online ministries have become obsessed with having 20 things happening in their ministry. That almost killed Girls of Royalty. I made a MAJOR mistake a few months ago and as a budding leader, you have to call out your own bull crap. For myself, 4A Ministries happened WAY to early. God did give me the idea but I pushed it out too early without developing it. I also put it in the wrong place when it came to strategy.
So 4A Ministries is basically the 4 Ministries that make up the family: Men, Women, Teens, and Kids. Girls of Royalty is what started the entire thing and has been at the forefront. Men of Royalty was started in 2015 but never had a good leadership team until actually a few weeks ago and I can't wait for Mr.McCray to get that up and running for our men. Our Teen Program is thriving and it's called Branded Teens. They actually have a solid team and are doing a phenomenal job all on their own. Our children's/kid's program is still in development but all designs and logos have already been put out and we do have our social media accounts for all 4 ministries. The crazy thing is that I put it out to soon and made 4A the face of all of our ministries instead of keeping them as individual ministries. 4A Ministries was meant to shine in the background keeping everyone abreast of very general basic announcements that concerned all ministries combined. I almost ruined the core brand: GOR. Let me tell you what "busy" does. Busy is when you boast of having all this stuff going on in your ministry for the sake of saying, "we're producing". God does not care about your 20 programs. He cares about the programs that are actually working and have the passion to sustain themselves.
So here is how I took a God-given move and prematurely used it. I took all our ministries and moved them to all one site. So GOR's site was no longer there and it redirected them to 4A Ministries. No more girly. No more women focus. So now the bible studies were co-ed and all together. I had misunderstood what God wanted to do with 4A. He never meant for 4A to take over. However, that's what happened. Our studies became generic and more importantly: unfocused.
So very recently before our 3rd birthday, I called up Alyssia. Alyssia is GOR's social media head and also serves on the CORE team of GOR. The core team of GOR makes up the major decisions for the ministry. She told me that she had thought the same thing. We had lost what made people fall in love with GOR in the first place. Ministry is not about the doing. It's about the mission and what God called you to do. So when our birthday came on November 5th,2015, we made the correct changes. We removed programs that were not stagnant and instead of killing them they went to the back burner. We placed 4A Ministries on a smaller site and made it more like a resource site where people could learn about all 4 of the ministries. However, GOR returned back to GirlsOfRoyalty.com and we placed the spotlight back on our women. We went back to the girly fonts and the pink. We resurrected our purpose and mission.
CUT STUFF OFF THAT ISN'T WORKING. YOU'RE ONLY HURTING YOUR MINISTRY!
Our membership during our 4A failure remained stagnant. I kid you not. Our numbers were at a standstill. This taught us that what we were doing was not productive because it wasn't drawing people in. So I say this as an encouragement because some of you have gotten busy doing non-productive things. Get back to what God called you to do and tap into that mission and vision. Stop being busy for no reason and get active what your heart beats for. You will find yourself exhausted. I've seen many leaders become exhausted. They then blame their exhaustion on "doing the work of God" and how "leading a ministry with blah blah blah things is not for the weak". No. You're doing 300 things that don't even align to your vision nor mission.
The day I changed everything back to GirlsOfRoyalty.com and we put out our new revised and updated logo and upgraded customized graphics, our membership started rising up. We had additional members on our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram daily. It's only been a few days since November 5th,2015 and the numbers are increasing. The engagement is greater
With Online Ministry, GOR could be doing SO MANY things. Matter of fact, let's go to my second to last point to prove this.
3. Just because it's a good idea, doesn't make it good for you.
GOR (GirlsOfRoyalty.com) has the ability to do so much because it's online. The web gives us so many options. However, just because you have the options doesn't mean that you need to add additional lanes. For instance, I was looking at some an online ministry that has an encouragement text service. People can text to a chosen custom keyword and they are put on this text list to receive inspirational texts. I thought it was an awesome idea. I did not add it to what GOR does though because we needed to focus on what we were going to contribute to ministry. I think there is this feeling in ministry that if we see someone else doing something, we need to use it as well for what we do. Nope. It goes back to have 30 programs in your ministry and you're running around like a chicken with your head cut off. I remember when I saw that Heather Lindsay was doing a teaching once a month on Google Hangouts a few months ago. I said to myself well she only teaches once a week to her members. Let me do the same. So we went from teaching weekly to once a month. I received backlash from our members. They wanted weekly interaction. That's what they were used to because that's what our vision and mission focused on. We wanted to be involved in our women's lives on a daily/weekly basis. This is why I teach and harp on knowing your specific vision & mission well. I know ministries that want to be just like Saved in the City. Can we just stop with the copying? Learn how to make your vision and mission your own. Let me give you a perfect example. I love chicken. However, there are many ways to cook chicken. That's a perfect and simple example for ministry. Stop cooking your chicken like Sally Mae and Billy Bob. People will love how you cook your chicken the way you cook it. Some ministries are using store cooked chicken but that's for another article (haha). But seriously, let's focus on making and doing what we do special. If anything, it's out of respect for other ministries. For instance, our ministry is relaunching our empowerment calls soon. Tons of people do empowerment calls. I'm trying to figure out a way to do it differently than I've seen it. Even when it comes to our monthly curriculum, I write from my heart so that it doesn't sound like anyone else. You have to believe in the words that God puts in your spirit to share with others. Some leaders don't even trust the voice of God. I can tell because their online social media accounts would be filled with more custom content than reposts of other people's inspiration. Do you not trust the words of wisdom that God can impart to you through prayer?
4. Know Your Platform & Limit Your Platform
If your ministry was built off of Instagram, you should be keeping up on Instagram and their developers. You should know what apps are best and how to use it to the best of your knowledge. Where your ministry is parked is your online home. Don't use "I know God" as an excuse to be ignorant of tech and web development. You don't have to be a geek or a wise guy to read a few articles on Google. God has placed us on the online world to spread the gospel. We have to take it seriously! If you have built up your platform on YouTube then you should look into how YouTube is helping content creators and how to increase your viewership and marketability. If you've built your ministry from a blog, then you should be not just reading great blogs but also doing workshops and training. Nothing hurts me more than when people say that they don't know something that I found out just by typing words into the Google search. Some are so focused on getting their name out there that they forget to tap into what is around them. Stop focusing on blowing up. That's an offense to God because it's built on a base of pride and self-promotion. Put the ministry first and know how to increase the quality of your platform and output.
Lastly, learn that online ministry is NOT a church. Let me repeat this because some people are trying to make these online churches. Online ministry will NEVER replace the local body of Christ gathering together. So with this being said, don't do anything online that would take people away from their commitment to their local church. At GOR, one of our brand values (every ministry should have brand/church values) is that we value the local church. We want to connect our members to local churches if they don't have one already. This is a biblical truth. So please do not try to have people leave their churches to follow your voice. That's not love nor is it biblical. Online ministries are another arm of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We should work alongside the church to help bring people who find us online to ministries around us that make up the local body. Online ministries should be pushing people to church and not replacing them. Also, just because you lead an online ministry does not make you your own pastor. You need a covering and should be active in your own local church. People who want to lead others online but don't serve actively in their local churches confuse me. You must be a servant first to lead others. You should also be held accountable within a local body of Christ.
So what are your thoughts? Let me know! I know I covered a lot but I had to get these thoughts off my chest because I want online ministries to thrive and not just have an external impact. We need to make some real dents in the enemy's plans to keep people held captive to their old lifestyles and habits. We need to make real changes and that starts with our leadership and having a clear vision and mission.