Advancing the Church’s Digital Ministry — An Interview with The Church Planting Podcast

| Cristy Bird |

One Eighty’s owner, Wes Lewis, recently joined the Church Planting Podcast as a guest. Wes and the podcast hosts, Josh Turnasky and Clint Clifton, explore what’s been going on in churches during the pandemic and take a look at digital ministry during the pandemic and post-quarantine. This podcast episode led to an interesting conversation. They explored ways the church is shifting during virtual meetings and virtually interacting with congregations. They also discussed the tools to look at and the voices pastors can utilize inside their own churches to help them build teams and thrive, not just survive. Wes had a great time on the show with his good friend, Clint. Listen to the episode here to get more insight into this conversation and be sure to share what you learn on your social platforms (and tag us and the podcast as well – @OneEightyDigital and @churchplantingpodcast). You can follow along with the transcription as you listen or read it now below.

Episode June 10, 2020 | With Guest Wesley Lewis | Digital Ministry Post Pandemic Quarantine

Transcription below:

Albert: This is the church planting podcast. Thank you for tuning in.

Albert: Every week we sit down with leaders who are shaping church planning efforts, here’s your host John Turnasky and Clint Clifton.

Josh: Hey, welcome to the Church Planting Podcast. My name is Josh Turnasky and I’m joined here by Clint Clifton. Clint, hey hey man, great to hear your voice and it’s good to be back for another episode of the church planting podcast, we know guys are out there, some guys are just hanging on for dear life and others are like I’m going to make it through covid-19, other guys are like on pause they’re wondering are my dreams dashed, you have a leadership role with the North American Mission board (NAM). Give us some perspective, what are you seeing from fifty thousand foot view of church planting?

Clint: Yeah. Well I am seeing that it’s not as many but a lot of guys are still planning to launch their churches, or are working toward Church launches.  I think in the beginning everybody was like pause the whole thing because this is going to be bad and it’ll blow over but now everybody’s like oh this isn’t going to blow over so let’s just figure out how to do it in the midst of this. So that’s what’s going on right now. So yeah NAM, particularly I mean our  NAM leader, we have a president his name is, Kevin he’s always a great leader but he has very wisely just kind of put the brakes on everything but essential things. We start using phrases like “mission-critical” to describe what we’re spending money. So we grounded all the traveling we’re doing and everything and just tried to squeeze out of our operational budget you know all of the savings that we might lose so that church planters didn’t feel it at all. And man he did a great job of that. It has dramatically affected the lives of those who work for NAM but it hasn’t affected our ability to help start churches at all.  I think  a lot of churches and agencies did that kind of thing. They just kind of prepared for the worst and most cases they’re finding out that, financially speaking, it’s bad but not as bad as we thought it could have been.

Josh: Yeah. Now NAM receives a lot of its support from a significant Easter offering
Clint: Yeah.
Josh: And they didn’t even advertise or push for that offering is that, or was that the case or did I just miss that?

Clint: Yeah, I mean it kind of felt you know toned deaf to do that. Of course the mission continues, that’s kind of our mantra right now. It does continue but you know people are suffering, churches are scurrying trying to figure out what’s going on. At Easter think about, I mean we’re now six weeks back and think about where we were at at Easter in terms of where out head was at with this whole thing and to to ramp up to that month before Easter and tell everybody how you need to really make sacrifices to give to this offering, well it just seemed like you know what we would have been saying than and we would have sounded toned deaf. So I think you know wisely the leadership said let’s back off will trust you Lord for whatever comes in but let’s hope our churches right now and yeah they they did that and you know surprisingly not surprisingly the offering did relatively well I mean not as well as it normally does but you know all things considered really really well

Josh: Yeah. And that’s awesome. Yeah it’s good it’s some wise decision making but I’m sure now is there a sense of okay we’re coming out of this and we’re ready to re-engage or is is everything still pretty lockdown with NAM and other networks.

Clint: Now I would say there’s no sense were coming out of it from the network standpoint in fact and I think everybody’s okay with that I mean it feels like a fresh wind in terms of like one of our values at at the North American Mission board is it to do more with less we kind of sought to do that but in this scenario like this you see what you really can do without. We all stopped traveling in March you know I mean we were we were, our employees were traveling all over the place trying to raise money for church Planters to all kind of stuff and we’re not doing that now and missions are still continuing on all those meetings we thought they were essential to be in the same room, they’re really not, we’re accomplishing them without we’re not burning up the road with gas we’re still training Planters or you know so you know it’s it’s not ideal in some sense relationally sure for sure but on the other hand we’ve all had more time with their families we’ve recalibrated back to kind of maybe a healthier rhythm in terms of life and yeah I mean I think all things considered it’s been a really good season for us and we’ll probably have long long implications.

Josh: Yeah, yeah, those are good adjustments. So guys that are listening thinking about church planting we’re still saying be a part of a network still come still still reach out.

Clint: Yeah, there’s still a lot to be gained from being a part of the network. I think honestly, denominations have been under fire for years. Everybody thought you know, 20-25 years ago somebody got the idea tht denominations are evil and bad. All of the sudden you know nobody likes denominations and it was in Vogue to to say you are “non-denominational” but times like this really I felt the value more than I ever have before, being part of a family. Part of the denomination, it has it has the good and the bad, you know things associated with it but so does everything else and being a part of the family like I got I got uncles that are also kind of nuts but still, I mean they’re welcome to the family reunions like everybody else is. We let you know in a sense the figuring out how to cooperate with one another on mission is really important. So I found one of the things that is so encouraging about this whole thing was I had in the midst of you know where the rubber was really hitting the road and turn the church plants and getting you know having a difficult time we had large existing churches bending over backwards making sacrifices to help make sure every Church Plant got through this season and they didn’t even really have to because the church plants themselves were bending over backwards to help each other when they were sort of you know everybody looked at each other instead of said hey we’re going to all get through this don’t don’t worry you know and it was cool it was really cool I mean we had a situation where we divided the church planters in DC up into sort of vulnerable churches and rooted churches and the rooted churches helped out of vulnerable ones and everybody got helped it was so cool man. Just really thankful for this.

Josh: So good, yeah, so let’s sort of shift gears and talk about this episode. This is an interview that you did with Wesley Lewis and you personally know him and he has helped in the past with some of our technical stuff. So share a little bit about what our audience has in store for this episode.

Clint: Yeah, there’s a bunch of cool things about Wesley but the 1st the most important thing is that we grew up together from the same Hometown a little town called Palatka, Florida and he was the Methodist kid in town you know so I didn’t really hang out with him you know because I was Baptist. I’m just kidding. His girlfriend and my girlfriend were best friends and so we were like forced to be friends because of that, you know, and we ended up really liking each other. And so we both went into Ministry he did a bunch a bunch of schooling and got a couple master’s degrees and then got out there and started doing Ministry at the same time I did. two different tracks two different parts of the country but we stay connected and stayed friends. And he was in full-time Ministry for a long time and then he started a company he started this company and he kind of had been on as a side hustle doing it for a while helping churches with their IT Tech stuff and then it just rolled into a full-time thing and so he still sort of does Ministry is his side hustle now and so he’s he’s a great guy. You know I think the distinctions really important he’s a Ministry guy who does IT Tech stuff and really understands it well and he understands the applications for Ministry he thinks about leveraging it tech for the spread of the Gospel, the building of the church that kind of stuff rather than somebody who is leveraging ministry to make money, you know he’s leveraging the church to try to make money for his business so you’ll you’ll hear that in his tone I mean is always he’s just really thinking about the church a lot and he loves church planning is just a good guy really is a solid dude full of Integrity. Anyway he’s built this business and he’s got other people working with him now and so it’s great I want to encourage people to use him and hopefully this conversation is helpful for them.

Josh: Yeah, now a word from our sponsor and then we’ll jump right into this interview with Wes.

AD: This is on the same page about the need for new churches so we’ve created a material to help pastors and church leaders talk to their congregations about church planting in a way that’s compelling and convicting. We’ve created a resource called the church planting primer and that you’re planning primer can be used as a small group curriculum or it can be used for your congregation as a whole maybe on a Sunday night or Wednesday night before it can be used in other smaller settings send School classes or or or even for your leadership team know your mission can I do to go through the first time primers four session to starts with the biblical rationale for church planting moves on to the need for new churches in North America and after that we talked about how churches began what are the nuts and bolts of how to see begin the new testament Christians can be involved in starting new churches this material is absolutely free it’s video-based downloadable online for your use and you can find it all at NewCityplanting.org

Interview with Wes Starts Here

Clint: Wesley Lewis, welcome to the church planning podcast.

Wes: Hey, I am glad to be here Clint, thanks for asking me to be here.

Clint: Yes, Wesley we are old friends.

Wes: That we are, we have known each other for quite a long time, haven’t we?

Clint: Yeah, yeah you know we ended up in one of those forced friendships that comes about when your significant others are friends.

Wes: That is true, that is true it was…

Clint: My now wife and your now wife are good friends and both of us made it through the dating journey.

Wes: That we did. I mean that is success in and of itself, right? That we actually dated in high school and married the people that we are with that’s that’s one accomplishment.

Clint: And are still married to them.

Wes: And are still married and they’re still married to us, that’s the surprising thing.

Clint: And they don’t hate us, to our knowledge.

Wes: That’s right, haha.

Clint: Well, so we’re going to talk about IT Tech digital components of ministry today. So for a frame of reference, are you a ministry guy who does IT or are you an IT guy who does ministry?

Wes: Oh, that’s a great question. You know for me, I would say this that my calling is to serve the church, my profession is technology. So, Clint and you know this, for a long time I was in Ministry full time and still help pastor a church here in Jacksonville with my good friend Jimbo Stewart and I enjoy that and do that a lot but my vocation is I don’t know web development agency called OneEighty Digital and so that’s what I do to to make ends meet but yet my calling is Ministry.

Clint: gotcha gotcha well I think of you as a Ministry guy and then an IT guy because you were Ministry guy for a long time in my book and then then just in the last few years of really I mean you were always kind of dabbling in it but in the last 2 years you got real serious about it and it kind of pulled out front in terms of your attention.

Wes: Yes for the longest time I was always the nerdy guy on the ministry team I mean that was kind of my go-to if there was a technology issue they were looking to me to solve that problem and it was really just kind of God’s gifting for me and really fully leaning into that gifting out to be a way to provide a means for my family so yeah.

Clint: I bring that up because it’s kind of an important piece. When you’re in Ministry and you don’t understand IT and you’re trying to figure out how to accomplish Ministry problems with technological solutions, especially when you’re talking to somebody who doesn’t understand the ministry problems.

Wes: yeah no yeah that is very unique I mean I work for the Jacksonville Baptist Association as well. I do a lot of kind of consulting with church plants, churches of all different sizes. The thing that they like about me is that I understand both worlds and specifically some of their unique problems that they are trying to do so I have all that insider language and understand their goal and want to help them you know along that, to get to that goal.

Clint: Right. Well this conversation was kind of prompted by the pandemic because we’re in this season where all of a sudden if you were a pastor who didn’t care about the digital component of your ministry then you’re no longer that Pastor. I mean, this is hilarious to me but I’ve been noticing pastors that I’ve known for years joining Facebook. Like they were not on Facebook before, and now they’re on Facebook. I think, what a disadvantage. To have had no context for like doing anything online and just making your first Facebook friends in the midst of this.

Wes: Yeah, and I have had calls from those people and have helped coach people on how to make a Facebook account and do Facebook live I mean and starting from scratch and you know I’ve been happy that I’ve been able to get some of them caught up and they’re able to minister to their congregation now other than a phone call. That was really the only option that they had or an email so now they have some way to come to touch base with their congregation which is good, I enjoy that.

Clint: I think for most of us when the pandemic started, it caught us off-guard for sure and we thought oh this is going to be you know a couple weeks or or whatever and we’ll probably be talking about it for years as this blip on the map but now we’re 3-month deep into it with no kind of you know end in sight for most of us, what do you think are some of the long-term implications that the pandemic is going to have on churches regarding media and their digital footprint?

Wes: Yeah so, when all of this started I think most of just thought it was just simply an interruption like it was just going to be a short little time frame and then we want to get back to church as we knew it before and I think we’ve all started realize over time that this is more of a disruption and if you were not digital as a church it is a necessity for you to do that and I really see that you know some of the things that churches are doing is obviously you know people who weren’t even or even set up for online giving now is the predominant way that most people are able to give to them and the number of churches that are offering online services obviously it’s now a necessity that you do that and what is interesting about that is I really feel like flexibility has become the new metric to measure like as a church are you able to adapt and change and you know with whatever kind of throws your way and so a lot of churches are learning to do that and that’s great that’s good for us as as churches to be able to be more flexible in our structure and the way that we gather and the way that we hold our services .

Clint: Yeah, interesting that you bring that up I totally agree with you. I think flexibility is a huge component and in that way we talked about this a few times on the podcast in the pandemic started but the the flexibility is kind of pre-programmed into a church planting environment you know you don’t have a staple space you don’t have a stable budget you don’t have a stable a lot of things so you kind of you you become flexible are fluid maybe it would even be I’m just going to fill in the cracks of what’s available to you and do the best you can with what you have and that has turned out to be a huge advantage for church plants actually I would say I’m across the board Church plants are fairing far better than existing churches in regard to their survival and kind of how they’re thriving in this season of time where when this started I would have thought that would be just the opposite.

Wes: Yeah, absolutely agreed. You know most of those because they are a lot of church planters are kind of younger or more forward-thinking in the way that they structure their Church overall they are able to adapt quickly cause a lot of them don’t even have buildings and so a lot of the churches that were kind of sedentary in the way that it did things are are the ones that are really kind of struggling to catch up and even get started with some of this

Clint: so gotcha so what are some of the ways the churches can connect virtually with people online I mean we we think of a few on the top of our head but give me a few other ways that churches should be trying to engage with people online.

Wes: I think a lot of the time churches aren’t really there thinking especially right now because we’re just trying to adapt so quickly to what is happening in front of us and connect with our people and most of us are hoping that things will go back to normal soon but we’re not really sure exactly when that will be so yeah we’re leaning hard into platforms like zoom and Facebook live to be able to connect with our people but I think there’s some other opportunities out there that churches could really grab ahold of to really understand that not everything that we do has to be live not all teaching and learning has to be live I mean it’s one of these kind of transformations that is taking place in and higher education is online courses and that’s a big thing even in my in my space is is online courses and how easy would it be for us as churches to create online content that exists out there for people to be able to take and so it isn’t one of those things that just has to be live all the time and another thing that I see some Churches doing are taking using using platforms like zoom or Facebook live to make the most of the situation that they’re in and instead of just always leaning into the pastor or the team or whatever you have the ability right in the palm of your hand to invite other people who aren’t local to your area to teach and speak into your people so really kind of leveraging all the connections that most pastors already have and really using those to be able to speak into people in the lives of your church. I think it’s one thing they haven’t really grabbed a hold of yet. Because you know we’re thinking this is going to be over and things will go back to normal but really there is a possibility here and really a probability that this may go on for a while longer so make the most of the opportunity that you have and reach out and get some people to connect with your people that is not the same old person all the time.

Clint: Yeah that’s that’s for sure,I was talking to some guys from a particular Network the other day and they focus on on Military church planting and we had the yeah you know they were talking about you know utilizing Memorial Day as a day where they could speak in a bunch of churches and usually they do that but the problem is they don’t have enough personnel to scatter out to the churches that are open to having them come and now that’s not really problem they can just distribute the video and and we get to everybody so there are some interesting advantages to that.

Wes: And I would say what is amazing, we had these tools already these tools weren’t invented in The Last 6 or 8 weeks, they’ve been there we just have failed to utilize them to their full potential and even really just to begin to think about how we might be able to do how to use the tools that that we have available to grow the kingdom because the people are out there and especially with the generations that come behind you and I Clint or kind of part of I’m not sure what generation we’re part of the you know that digital language that that is their native tongue for them so reaching out to you know those younger Generations are is crucial for us to be online and make the use of those tools to the best that we can.

Clint: So, unique challenges that come along with digital Ministry I mean I’m just thinking the massive challenge is the number of pastors that are our generation or older we’re 40 that were gen-xers many many pastors are our age or older the majority of pastors are our age or older and they don’t speak the native tongue of social media and you know digital communication so that’s one huge challenge but what are what are other challenges or how can we address that challenge?

Wes: Well for some of them,we were kind of the first early adopter and typically with technology being the first adopter is not really the best situation it’s those that come after us that grow up with the technology that are able to use it really to its full extent so you know some of the challenges that they face I would just kind of recommend that they lean into some of the people that God has given them in their congregation who maybe are able to speak that and have ideas that they can’t even think of you know specifically we think about social networks you know everybody’s obviously going to default to a Facebook and that’s that is the most popular social media media network out there but most people don’t realize you know YouTube is is right behind a number two and it is a social media network is a way that people connect online so any place where people connect online is a social media network and there’s lots of them out there most people don’t even consider and I know you’ve got a gamer in your household but like you know twitch, which is a social media network, it is a place where people go to watch streaming but more than that to connect with people so utilizing those social media networks that maybe are not quite so obvious to reach specific target groups is an opportunity that I don’t see a lot of people doing right now and that’s mostly because we’re just not in that space we don’t know that so you have to talk with people who are in that space and get them to really understand you know how they can utilize what platforms that they’re on and and utilize that for the gospel I think that’s the big thing you know about us understanding no matter where our congregation is no matter how old they are, they’re all involved with different things and they can all use the platforms in connection that they’re involved with and leveraging those things for the gospel I know we would love to see you know all the people in our congregation do that and the reality is we have those people we just need to really kind of focus on trying to get them to make those connections and think about and consider where and how they could use those for the sake of the gospel.

Clint: Yeah, and this podcast isn’t a big commercial for your company but that is kind of what you do right?

Wes: Yeah, that is what I do, not to talk about myself too much but yeah that’s probably the biggest thing that I do. Not a lot of pastors have that team around that can speak that language that really know how to utilize those tools and that was kind of part of my burden was I was that on staff, the churches that was at, and I wanted to try to make that more available to other pastors whether that’s through the networks that I have and to help them because they’ve got enough on their plate I mean the reality is we all know being a pastor is an impossible job most of the time there’s so many things that are demanded of you much less now to stay on top of live-streaming trends and things of that nature you know it’s just this is so much and so the reality is you have to have a team around you and there are pastors out there who don’t really have really have the team and so we come alongside them, to really help with whether it’s to consult or to coach or build websites or branding or marketing and things of that nature, social media, just to really help them get things going in that arena, but yeah that is the main thing that we do.

Clint: So your company’s called one eighty digital and so you kind of work as I understand it almost exclusively with churches and Ministries that are doing this kind of work and so your work sort of tailored to that so things like websites and give me the scope.

Wes: One of the things I enjoy doing most is just getting to know the pastors and their Ministries and so really trying to Tailor our services to meet their goals so whether that’s you know building a website for them or creating new branding or new logo for them one of the biggest things that we do is offer support and that’s on-going whether we help manage and run websites but we offer this as a service to pastors because we know that their time is limited and they have other things that are really more important they need to be doing and so we kind of come alongside them to help them run and maintain their site but also do a lot of Consulting and I just really talking to pastors and help giving them ideas and trying to make sure that they have the right perspective that can really help them make the best steps forward if they’re trying to start something new.

Clint: So social media is part of that equation?

Wes: Social media is part of that equation, whether it’s setting up pages or posting content things of that nature we kind of help with a lot of different things in that arena so we do a lot graphic design and designing posts but marketing wise specifically most churches don’t really utilize that like they should on Facebook to really target specific people for specific events and even just a little bit going into that with the right targeting and you can see a big difference in really what happens with an event, the success of an event.

Clint: So let’s talk about tools for just a second. So we’re all utilizing the same tools, for live streaming there’s a few livestream platforms out there that we’re all using Zoom to some level and to some extent what other tools out there do you think are relevant for right now and that we should know about?

Wes: Yeah I would just say you know if you’re not using some sort of social media planning tool I mean that is a lifesaver in and of itself if you can plan and execute a good social media strategy which is sometimes easier to do in one meeting that it is to do in constant meetings over and over again but if you have the ability whether it’s a buffer there’s lots of them out there later HootSuite and even others to be able to use those to go to plan out your social media posts and kind of help manage those platforms that’s a really a really great way to kind of get your get your leg up on on getting that done well in as far as kind of video platforms I definitely think there are opportunities and there will be other platforms that will be created I mean Zoom is a great platform it does have its kind of limitations or whether you’re using your Google meet or even go to meeting and some of these other platforms that are used for these meeting purposes I feel like there are there will be additional ones that might even be tailored for churches after this is over with because there’s a really unique opportunity here and then the challenges that come with churches are different than what the needs are for businesses and things like that so I really think some other platforms are really come out of this that will help kind of achieved what churches want to do better.

Clint: well Wes tell us how a pastor might get in touch with you and maybe just a sense of what those initial Communications with you might look like if they needed some of your help

Wes: Yeah, so the best way is to visit our website and that spelled out that’s o n e e i g h t y. Digital and reach out to us you know we we do a lots of free consultations you can kind of book one of those on there and we’ll be glad to talk through or talk over your ideas and just give some free input and it really is free you know for them who just want to reach out and get our just our opinion on some things so we’re happy to do as much as we can and then if there are some people out there maybe we are looking to create a new website or help need help with running the website or social media or graphic design things of that nature they were glad to help out with those things too

Clint: Well so you heard Wes oneeighty.digital. Well thanks very much for your for the conversation today and for helping us understand some of those things and so interesting just to think about how you know over the past few years God shifted you to focus on this and now the situation happened and you’re already set for it so excited to see how it goes

Wes: I really feel like I was kind of made for made for this time and god kind of put me in the right place at the right time to build a help as many churches as I can kind of help make that transition

Clint: That’s awesome thanks Wes appreciate talking to you .

Wes: Thanks, glad to be here

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