Various technologies can be used to share the message of the Gospel. What is your church using? Many will argue it is not as authentic as face-to-face conversations. However, the ability to reach a global audience with inexpensive tools cannot be ignored.
Internet ministry is using online tools and services to connect with people, spread the Gospel message, and create meaningful relationships. I will start out by debunking the myth that you cannot create a relationship via online tools. If this were true, how is it that people are meeting through online dating sites and creating relationships that sometimes end in marriage? On the flip side, how many marriages have been ruined because a spouse meets someone else through a chat room? These relationships are powerful, and you can use these technologies to create real relationships with Internet ministry.
For now I will skip over the strategy of having an online ministry and first explain some tactical solutions that you can try. Your church may not be ready to invest in a full-time online ministry, but one or more of these can be integrated into your traditional church experience.
Social Media Outreach
Two way conversations can occur in both public and private via social media. The key to initiating this is not by making statements, but by asking questions. An easy one have a pastor or church elder ask if there is anything they can pray for; soliciting responses either privately or publicly. Additionally, post all of your outreach events on social media outlets and your website. Then you can encourage your congregation to publicly share those events with all their friends, or (more importantly) send a link to a friend in private. There you are initiating personal conversations and inviting people to hear the Gospel message. It does not beat a face-to-face interaction, but it might be the only way to reach out to a loved one across the country.
One Way Broadcasting
Many churches are broadcasting their sermons online. Others take it another step and also broadcast worship as well. This second step is often more difficult depending upon the songs you use during worship. If it is a contemporary service with modern artists, licensing costs are an obstacle many cannot overcome. Still, it is a great way to "do church online". I personally subscribe to several church sermon podcasts outside of my home church. I may not be tithing to those churches, but often they have inspired articles here; and I make sure to give them credit and a link.
Two Way Broadcasting
One way online ministries can often evolve into two way ministries as time and technology catches up. One example is LifeChurch.tv. They developed some amazing technologies that allow you to broadcast an entire service online and encourage people to interact. They can chat, or even indicate that they are responding to an altar call for the first time. Note that your services can be streamed live, or recorded for broadcast throughout the week. Another example is Brian Hardin's Daily Audio Bible podcast. He started out just recording himself reading the Bible over the course of a year. Eventually he added social elements on the website such as chat rooms, webcams, numerous social media opportunities, and even a prayer request phone line that airs along with the podcast.
As you can see, there are a lot of ways to get involved in Internet ministry, and a lot of levels you can traverse; from the simple to the complex. Much of it depends on what time your staff has. A part time pastor in a newly planted church has different time constraints compared to a full time team at a megachurch. See what you can do, set a schedule, and get moving. If you never start, you can never build momentum.
Note: Thanks to the Social Media Church podcast and Internet Toolbox for Churches podcast for the inspiration through continuous teaching and evangelizing of this topic.
Photo courtesy of Lotus Head