Is your church focused on digital ministry or digital marketing? Here's how to tell the difference.

As the world continues to shift to more of a digital culture, churches are left to figure out how to adapt their ministries. But this isn't the first time the church has had to do this. In fact, in the Middle Ages, the church was one of the most creative, innovative and adaptable entities in the world. 

In the 1990s, the church adapted again to become more attractive. They knew if they could attract people to come to their buildings and create experiences people didn't want to miss, they could minister to them. It was a “come to us” mentality. And it wasn’t bad. In fact, it was working! But now we have a problem: We are trying to fit an attraction, event-based, in-person experience into a digital format.

We’re trying to fit our “come to us” structure into “go to them" digital tools.

And it’s not working.

We know church leaders want to adapt. We hear it all the time. But, often, when churches ask us to help them with their digital ministry, what they are actually talking about is digital marketing. And there is a big difference ... 

Disclaimer: Digital marketing isn’t wrong or bad! We LOVE using digital tools to help promote events and initiatives. You can plant seeds, spark curiosity and grow your reach using digital marketing. But, if your leadership is saying things like, “we need to figure out how to minister to people online” but you haven’t gotten out of the marketing mindset, it's going to be really difficult to measure success. 

One of the best places to start is by assessing your own digital efforts to know whether you are actually putting a focus on digital ministry or if it’s just digital marketing in disguise. 

As we've talked to church leaders, we've noticed a few patterns. Here are the three key differences between a church that's focused on digital ministry vs. one that's focused on digital marketing. 

A church focused on digital marketing is … 

  1. Primarily using digital tools to connect people with their church
  2. Using digital tools to inform & invite 
  3. Asking, “how can we recreate our in-person _____ online?” (worship service, small groups, newcomer class, children’s ministry, assimilation path, etc.) 

A church focused on digital ministry is .. 

  1. Primarily using digital tools to connect people to Jesus
  2. Using digital tools to inspire & disciple 
  3. Asking, “Who is God calling us to reach? What is He calling us to do? And how can we use digital tools to accomplish that calling?”

Do you see the difference? It can feel subtle, but can change the outcome of your ministry effectiveness! 

How'd your assessment of your own digital efforts go? Do you feel like you're focused more on digital ministry or digital marketing? Why do you think that is?

We'd love to hear from you! DM us let's talk it through. (It's kind of our favorite thing.)

We also covered this topic on a recent podcast episode. You can listen to the full episode here!