Prediction: Pastor of Digital Connections

featured-future-howIt’s just a matter of time. The house of worship market has grown up, and with it, has come the need for specialized staff, beyond the technical arts directors, to include a new team member focused on leveraging the digital communications channels that crop up daily. We are about to see a Pastor of Digital Connections as a new, consistent hire among medium to large churches.

When church leaders realized that social media wasn’t a fad, but instead a fundamental shift in interpersonal communications, the need for such a position was born. Churches already have multiple small groups of people with similar or same affinities, needs, and goals; it is a logical extension to see these groups as digital communities, too. The church social network existed long before it was made real-time anytime, anywhere by Twitter or Facebook.

What Defines A Pastor of Digital Connections?

The position is a reflection of the unique DNA and needs of each local church in context to their local communities. I don’t believe this will be the same as the current role of an Internet Pastor, which I believe is more similar to today’s multi-site campus pastor. To takes a guess towards the future, I’d say this position might be more oriented towards the Communications team with a pastoral bent.

If a church is a focused on outreach through projects, social justice, and equipping, I believe the role of a Pastor of Digital Connections will largely be around making both local and virtual community connections and helping organizing logistics that extend beyond using social media as a broadcast platform into a dynamic community.

Understanding Channels & Communication Mediums

Because this role has an emphasis on social media and Internet technologies, it most likely prove necessary for this staff position to have a strong communications background, leveraging social monitoring tools, and clearly understanding demographics. Though the term “targeted demographics” sounds like pure marketing speak, what it represents is a truth in every church and organization:

The need to get the right information to the right people at the right time in the right way or ways.

Churches deal with this week in and week out today…

  • Making phone calls to senior adults
  • Sending postcards to first-time visitors
  • Sending HTML-rich emails to Gen X’ers
  • Sending SMS text messages to Gen Y’ers
  • Sending a combination of emails, postcards, and personal phone calls for people who miss serving or attending (such as children’s classes)

However, beyond a digital version of an analog hybrid, I think the key of this new role will be their ability to leverage technologies beyond social media platforms to influence and serve their communities. The Internet of Things has already begun to create personalized connections that extend into the digital space, but I think the IoT will also find itself as part of church life, such as digital children’s check-in, event registration, and parental updates of kid’s camp. The integration of AVL and the IoT has already begun, and I think that the ‘3rd place’ (work, home, church) of local churches is an ideal connection point for these new technologies and personal connection with a community.

Is This Really A Dedicated Person?

Why I think this will become a common new position is the combination of talents, technology integration, leadership and interpersonal relationship capacity. While I do believe certain staff members may be able to “double up” on some of these roles today, I also believe that the velocity of change in technology combined with the need for near real-time communication will require a dedicated person who can meet the unique requirements of this role.

How technologies are introduced to the House of Worship market as ‘3rd place’ is an important shift from the traditional advertising of AVL gear to AVL infrastructure. I wonder how many will see the possibilities of this distinct change of perspective?

So, what do you think? Am I too early on this prediction? Or am I completely off-base? Share your thoughts and speak into my prognostication.