Principles for Doing Ministry Online

June 10, 2011 — 3 Comments

Part 2 of a discussion on doing more ministry online.
Read Part 1 (and the great discussion in the comments) here.

Think about what you would say to a brand new staff on your college campus:

“Here’s what you need to think through in order to be effective in doing ministry online . . .”


When it comes to doing college ministry online, there at least three different areas to think through:

  1. How does your ministry as a whole interact online with students (Facebook page, website, ministry Twitter account, etc)?
  2. How does your ministry interact beyond your local focus (generate/share resources with others, etc)?
  3. How does each staff do ministry online?

I’m passionate about all three.

But for this post, lets just focus on the third.


This is something I know many of us have wrestled with over the last few years and,

I’d love for us (tapping into the wisdom of the crowd) to compile a set of guiding principles on how to do (more) college ministry online.

I’ll get us started with a few:

1) Make it easy/quick for yourself to interact with students online:

  • Get on Facebook AND Twitter
  • Follow/Friend as many students on Twitter and Facebook as possible
  • Get a smart phone – I do 90% of my connecting with students online in just 5 minute gaps during my day, in between appointments or sitting at a stop light.

2) Only do online ministry during cold hours

  • I can’t say it any better than Andrew Wise in his comments on the previous post:

“It seems to me that a face to face interaction would be the best kind of ministry. So, given a limited number of hours, I’m going to fill as many of those hours as I can with face to face ministry. Judging by my experiences in the past, I am not going to be able to fill up all of those hours for various reasons (before lunch is usually no good, students in class, etc…). In those hours, perhaps I could be figuring out better ways to be an online ministry presence. I would not use hot hours (by definition the hours when students are most likely to meet face to face) for online ministry unless something doesn’t go as planned and I can’t fill those hours.”

3) Use social media to move toward or reinforce face to face ministry.

“The best way to take advantage of social media is to be savvy about using social media to move toward or reinforce face to face ministry” – Andrew Wise


Do you agree or disagree with those first few? What would you change?

How would you finish the sentence: “Here’s what you need to think through in order to be effective in online (and on-campus) ministry . . .”

What guiding principles would you add to the list?


photo courtesy of x-ray delta one


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  • Tim, I think you’re on the way to some good principles.

    I would caution about making too much of a dichotomy between face-to-face and online ministry. I’m not sure that today’s generation sees much of a difference.

    I think the point is that we go where the students are, if that means being in a chat where I’m sharing Christ with students on my campus, then I’m not sure I need to worry about “hot hours”.

    Perhaps the best thing you could do in your ministry would be to train all your students to be able to use their social streams to share Christ in relevant ways, even during “hot hours”.

    I would finish your sentence… here’s what you need to think through in order to be effective in online (and on-campus) ministry… **what will bring the gospel to today’s student in the most relevant way.**

    I’d be keeping track of what methods are connecting best with students, not how many hours I’m spending doing what activity.

    • timcasteel

      Hmmm. Definitely good thoughts. Thanks for kickstarting the discussion Russ! I always appreciate your insights as I know you’ve probably given this 10x more thought than I have.

      I think I tend to operate in that way – just flowing between face-to-face and online. I don’t think, “OK – it’s 2. Now it is time to spend time with students on the internet”. I do online ministry in gaps in my day. It’s more fluid.

      And I agree we go where students are. But in an established movement where there are more than enough students available for face to face ministry, don’t you think you’d always encourage your staff to choose face to face? If I was in a launching phase where we are trying to connect with more students, I would probably consider more time spent online.
      I don’t know. I may still be dichotomizing 🙂

      And “hot hours” would only apply to staff. Since most of us don’t work after 5pm we’re limited, and need to make the most of those afternoon hours. Students live in “hot hours” 24/7!

      Have you blogged on ways to train students to better use their social streams to share Christ? We definitely do quite a bit on Facebook. But no intentional gospel sharing, per se. And I wonder if it’s even necessary, because students don’t need us old people telling them how to use texting, social media, etc for gospel purposes because they translate what we’re saying into those terms already?

      • Re: In an established movement, should you always choose face to face?
        I think this is a question of purpose. Is your purpose to meet with students face to face or is it to build a movement that reaches every student in your missional team’s scope? If the latter, that might mean spending time online to best coordinate your movement’s cause. I’ve noticed that many of today’s influential causes coordinate strongly online. That is actually more likely in a larger movement since you have a lid on the number of people you can physically meet. Sending a video, writing a blog post might get the job done better and have a greater reach on the internal side.

        I’m definitely not saying that we don’t do face-to-face is bad. I’m actually a pretty big face to face guy, hence why I travel so much. I think the two are actually more complimentary than competing. Many of the richest online interactions I have are with people I have a strong, albeit, not always frequent, face to face relationship with.

        Re: Training students
        We have experimented with some stuff here in Canada, on campus, in weekly meetings and at conferences, but I have not blogged much on this. I won’t claim any large expertise on this. We simply need to try things that connect people’s current realities to God and learn together on this.

        Great discussion.