By Jason Caston
The digital age has brought about a revolution in communication. Never before have we been able to communicate so easily with people all over the world. The advancement of the web, email, social media, and mobile has played an enormous role in giving instant access to millions of people.
What will be the next big thing as digital communication continues to evolve?
When you talk to church leaders about digital communications, you can see a clear distinction in how they view their digital communication efforts. Let me explain.
The first group sees digital communication as a necessary supplement to traditional ministry communications. These leaders see digital communication as the evolution of the church’s communication strategy, providing more ways to reach people both within and outside the church.
There’s a second group of church leaders, though, that view digital communication as not nearly as necessary. A thought propels this view of digital ministry that the church will go back to “normal”—not just pre-pandemic, but often the person is thinking of the good ole days of how they used to “do” church, viewing history through rose-colored glasses.
Whichever camp you find yourself in, it’s critical to remember change is a constant throughout our lives, including in digital communications.
For some reason, many churches are not embracing this latest change by embracing digital communication as a tool for ministry. The new “normal” is just the continued progression of communication for humans, as it has been since the beginning of time.
Before we jump into the future of digital communications, let’s take a snapshot of the current digital communication landscape. When you think of digital media, you probably think of these things:
Web: Websites, Blogs, Microsites, Landing pages
Social: Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Linkedin, Snapchat
Mobile: Text, App notifications, Whats App, Facebook Messenger
Email: Eblasts, Newsletters
Video (short and long form): YouTube, Facebook and Instagram Stories, TikTok, Vimeo
These digital tools are the foundation of a great digital communication strategy and are quite effective in their usage.
Digital communications have come a long way since the early days of email and social media. We’ve seen the rise of new platforms, the fall of others, and the evolution of communication methods.
As digital platforms and tools progress, we need to prepare for the changes that will come, the continued technological evolution.
Let’s look at some critical digital communication platforms that will be very effective in helping us think forward about how we connect and engage with people.
- Augmented Reality (AR)
Augmented Reality places digital information over the real world. For example, you could be walking down the street and see a digital image of a friend appear in front of you, telling you they are nearby. Or you could look at a building and see digital information about the building overlayed next to it.
One potential ministry use for AR is to have digital signs that guide a person through the building to different areas. AR could help a new person find the children’s ministry, sanctuary, and other vital areas of the building.
Or imagine watching a sermon using AR glasses. While the pastor is preaching the story of Jesus on the mount, there’s a digital re-enactment next to them, helping you better visualize the story.
Some popular mobile games, like Pokemon Go, have already used AR. Augmented Reality is on the path to becoming even more popular in the coming years.
- Virtual Reality (VR)
Virtual Reality technology has the potential to change the way we communicate forever. Imagine being able to meet with someone in a virtual world, where you can see and hear them as if they were physically in the room. You could even shake their hand or hug them.
Imagine attending worship services all around the world while feeling like you’re actually in the sanctuary or visiting them without the need to travel—that may be possible in the metaverse using VR technology.
Virtual reality is still in its infancy, but some companies already use it for training and communication. It’s only a matter of time before virtual reality becomes mainstream.
- Voice Assistants (Alexa)
That’s right, the digital assistant you can talk to and ask questions is the future of digital communication. Alexa is constantly learning and evolving, which means it will continue to better understand and respond to our needs. With Alexa, we can easily communicate with people worldwide without ever having to leave our homes. So, if you’re looking for the future of digital communication, look no further than Amazon Alexa.
- Artificial Intelligence
Artificial Intelligence led by Google’s smarter Internet is communication between devices and humans. With the ever-growing popularity of digital communications, it’s no surprise that AI is becoming more involved in our lives.
We’re already seeing AI become more ubiquitous with things like Siri and Alexa, but there are many other ways people can use AI to improve communication. For example, imagine having a conversation with a digital assistant that can understand your emotions and give personalized recommendations based on your interactions.
This type of AI would be a huge step forward in digital communication and make connecting even easier for people. As digital communication continues to evolve, we can expect to see more and more AI being used to improve the experience for everyone involved.
Artificial intelligence is the key to all of these new digital communication platforms. AI is not only bridging the gap between humans and devices but also learning how humans communicate better. So why is AI so important? I’m glad you asked!
The key to the future of digital communication is not just the platforms we discussed above; it is personalization and customization. The rise of chatbots and digital assistants shows us the beginning of customizing digital messaging.
These digital tools can provide a more personalized experience for the user. They can learn your preferences and offer you tailored content and recommendations.
The key to engaging people on digital platforms is to reach them on the platform people are already using and give them the content they want when they want it.
So, what does all of this mean for your church?
The solution to engaging people outside your church is to take the life-saving gospel message to them—that mission has never changed. But let’s look at how people interact with technology today.
We understand that taking the gospel to unreached people means we must begin using an evolving method (digital communication) and personalize that life-saving message, so it helps them answer questions they’re asking today. The answers they receive help them live the best life that God has for them.
This is the great commission—and these digital communication platforms will help us in our mission.
Jason Caston is an international speaker, author and digital media director at Daystar TV. He has authored numerous books including The iChurch Method series, Social Connections and the upcoming Digital Connections. This article is courtesy of Church Juice, which provides congregations with free resources and opportunities for training and consulting on church communications, www.churchjuice.com.