WELSTech's Gospel Outreach Discoveries

Sallie Draper (New Ulm, Minnesota USA)

Archived discussion

About the presenter

Sallie Draper, with WELS CTO Martin Spriggs, has co-hosted WELSTech since its debut online in 2008, learning and sharing ministry technology resources with WELSTech-ers. Sallie graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi, is a Google for Education Certified Trainer, and performs system analysis and testing of synod software for the WELS Technology team. She is married and mom to three sons and two lovely daughters-in-law, enjoys playing hand bells at St Paul’s, New Ulm, and serves on the Board of Directors of the Treasure Haus resale shop there.

What did technology in ministry look like in 2007? Many churches didn't have a website, and social media giants of today were simply toddlers at the time. There was a digital frontier, of sorts, full of potential for outreach to the largest audience any church could hope to reach, the world, with the gospel of full and free salvation through Jesus Christ.

It was in this environment that my boss, WELS Chief Technology Officer Martin Spriggs, envisioned WELSTech, a weekly podcast with a relevant mission –

WELSTech exists to explore the use of technology to further the spread of the gospel.

I've been blessed to co-host WELSTech with Martin since our launch on January 9, 2008. Little did we know when we started 9+ years ago that we'd still be going in 2017! Over all those years, we've witnessed firsthand the countless creative ways God's people have used the full complement of technology tools available to them to spread the good news, from verse images to online and mobile Bible study tools to live video and much, much more. Just like the printing press facilitated the Lutheran Reformation, the advent of the digital age is affording the church unprecedented opportunities for outreach.

Let's explore a few tools for outreach we've shared over the years on WELSTech.

Get To Know Them

First things first! Before all the the bells and whistles of shiny technology kick in, at its most basic level, digital outreach is about making and fostering connections and trust as real people with real people, one at a time. The items in this section can help with that process.

  • The social Christian - After reading an eBook on this topic, I recently penned a short blog post with 5 Ways To Let Your Light Shine Online.

  • Welcome transplants to your community - The New Mover Church Postcards service automatically sends church invitation postcards to people who move near your church. The cost is currently 79 cents per postcard, including postage. Grace in Kenai, AK shared their design as an example.

  • Website visitor guide - Church shopping is becoming more and more of a digital process. According to Pew Research, 59% of adults under 30 say they have incorporated online searches when looking for a new congregation. Is your church website inviting to visitors? In this example from Cross of Christ in Liverpool, NY, you'll see an excellent online visitor's guide which offers insight into what someone can expect when visiting the congregation. There's also a prominent link to the guide on the church home page.

  • Spanish-speaking outreach - Do you have Spanish speaking prospects and a lack of Spanish speakers in your congregation? WELS Latin America World Missions encourages everyone to share these resources with Spanish speakers:

Digital Communication Platforms

Probably the biggest impact of the digital age is the ability to self-publish all types of content via many electronic communication channels.

  • Church website - In contrast to 2007, it's hard to find a church today that doesn't have a website. I like to think of the church website as the communication hub, and the various communication channels, such as social media and e-news, as spokes sending content out from the church website hub and leading people back to the church website for in-depth discovery of the gospel nuggets which are served there. But all websites are not created equal, and even the best of them can continually innovate and improve. Tools like WordPress and Finalweb have emerged as favorites for church sites. And there's a WELSTech eBook on Church & School Website Content to guide your site development.

  • Social Media - Facebook Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, are hard to ignore in outreach planning because of the number of people who frequent the sites. This Social Media Cheat Sheet lists frequency and best times to post on each network, as well as ideas for things to post.

  • Stick to a schedule - Hootsuite is a social media coordinator's best friend because it allows posts for all of the social media sites to be scheduled for future release at a desired date and time. And, speaking of schedules, Martin shared a Sample Social Media Content Schedule in "Chapter Five – Scheduling" of the the WELSTech book, With All Your Heart.

  • E-news - When it comes to outreach, Mailchimp's Marketing Automation can be programmed to automatically send one or more welcoming e-mails to new subscribers who sign up for e-mail delivery of your devotional or newsletter content.

  • Video - It almost goes without saying that YouTube and Vimeo are the frontrunners in video hosting. Both now offer live streaming capabilities as well. Plus many are making use of Facebook Live and similar services on other social media platforms to share events.

  • Write a book on it - Perhaps your outreach strategy includes sharing written content via eBook, print book or audiobook format. CreateSpace is the site for you! A subsidiary of Amazon, the site walks authors through the process of creating and offering your own books for sale on Amazon. WELSTech episode 458 – CreateSpace lifts the curtain on the process so you can see how it all works. Plus, hear from Pastor Rob Guenther about his experience self-publishing a sermon series on WELSTech 278 – Author! Author!

Create Image & Video Content

I'm sure you've heard the phrase "content is king" when describing the internet. It refers to the thought that the key to success on the internet is having just what people are looking for on your website — a message, a product, training, etc. — and not only having it once, but keeping that great material fresh regularly so they come back for more.

In this digital age I'd modify the phrase slightly to say "visual content is king" because images and video are expectations in online communication today. On WELSTech, we've shared tons of resources to help with the creation of visual content.

  • Stock Photography - The Internet is a great place to turn to find the perfect photo to supplement your outreach communication. Stock photography sites exist that curate photo content to make it easy for users to find that perfect photo using just a few search terms.
    • Homegrown happiness - The WELSTech Challenge Album is a collection of 1,000+ royalty-free, high-resolution photos which were donated by WELSTech listeners for use in ministry. The album is hosted on Flickr and searchable using the term welstechphotochallenge coupled with other specific search terms. The album includes images representing all parts of the church year (Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, Confirmation and more), school, outreach, food, and seasons of the year.
    • Christian photos - Two sites which offer Christian stock photos are Freely Photos and Lightstock (fee-based).
    • And many more ... - For general photo needs, there are some amazing fee-based stock photography sites, but I am rarely disappointed with my search of these free sites: Pexels, Pixabay, Unsplash, and Morguefile.

  • Work with images - Finding the image is just half the battle, though. Often images need to be sized, filtered and finessed before they are ready for prime time outreach work. Sharing images on social media means they need to be certain dimensions for optimal display. Check out this article on social media image sizes for up-to-date details on this. And try out these image editors to achieve the look you want with your images.
    • Editing - My all time favorite (fun, easy, intuitive, versatile … you get the idea) online image editor, PicMonkey , recently announced they are no longer free. I'm still on the fence about paying for the service so in the interim I'm checking out other free options with Pixlr and Fotor.
    • Design - For design, Canva , has the most professional templates I've found online. Some imagery on their site is fee-based, but you can upload your own (from the stock imagery sites listed above) and use the templates for free! On my phone, I love to experiment with images using mobile apps Prisma and WordSwag.

  • Stock Video - I'm guessing much of what you want to share via video would be footage recorded at your congregation, but I thought it was worth a mention that Pexels has a great (and free) stock video library as well.

  • Video Creation/Editing - My go-to video editor is Camtasia . It's powerful and easy to learn. Plus you can try it free for 30 days, which I'm guessing is plenty long enough to produce several great video projects.

Track Prospects

The topic of outreach and technology can't be discussed without a mention of the great help a record management system of some sort is for keeping up with prospects contact information.

  • Spreadsheets - Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets can easily serve as a starting point for recording contact information.

  • WELS discounts - Shepherd's Staff & Church360 Members from Concordia Technology Solutions are part of the ShopWELS program so congregations who purchase get a discount.

  • Morphing a sales contact database solution - Salesforce is an online database designed to track sales prospects. Many congregations have begun using it for prospect management, and the non-profit pricing makes it affordable. Fair warning, however - you'll need to be a bit techie to take this on. Pastor Dan Bondow presented on Salesforce during the WELSTech Conference 2015 IGNITE event (video archive) beginning at 30:25 in the video.

So there you have it - the best of the best for outreach from WELSTech. I hope you find a nugget or two to assist in your efforts of sharing the saving Word with the world!

WELStech hosts Sallie Draper and Martin Spriggs

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Paul Grubbs (Martin Luther College) 2017-10-24 7:59:17pm
This session was rich in practical resources - I especially appreciated the linked blog "5 Ways To Let Your Light Shine Online." That piece should be required reading for every Christian contemplating how to develop a digital identity that reflects our eternal purpose.

Our congregation started posting weekly services and sermons on Vimeo two years ago - during that time we've built a collection of over 250 videos, but most of them remain at less than ten plays. Although we intended to make them available for home-bound or out-of-town members, do you think these types of service-based resources have potential beyond those limited audiences? If so, how might you tackle helping a congregation begin to promote/share these resources?
Sallie Draper (WELS Technology) 2017-10-25 8:21:03am
Thanks for your comments and questions, Paul. Regarding the potential of your archived sermon videos, I have a few thoughts.

1. As part of your congregation communication plan, regularly promote your video content - both live and archived. This can take the form of regular bulletin and newsletter reminders about the resources encouraging members to use and share them. Post the videos on your church web site. Regularly share the videos via your social media channels. Provide an introductory "teaser" to the content, and include an encouragement for people to like and share them with friends.

2. Devise a tagging system for your archived video content to easily find videos by Bible reference, theme, topic, etc. This will allow you to quickly identify historic videos for sharing at appropriate times such as in response to a news event, holiday, or crisis.

3. Consider cutting out short portions of the sermons for social sharing. People are much more likely to watch a 3 minute short than a full 15-20 minute sermon.

Some of these ideas were spurred by this month's (October 2017) WELSTech focus on all things video in ministry. In this week's episode we interview Steve and Beth Zambo from SaltyEarth Pictures and pick up some great tips for video production and distribution. https://welstech.wels.net

Travis Barcalow (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2017-11-13 1:13:32am
I agree with you the blog "5 Ways To Let Your Light Shine Online" is very helpful. Everything else was helpful to from this Outreach article. it is very amazing that your congregation has put that many videos online to share with people.
Sallie Draper (WELS Technology) 2017-11-13 8:18:25am
Thanks for your comments, Travis! I pray you let your light shine today!!
Julia 2017-10-28 11:04:17pm
Sallie - Awesome summary of resources! God's continued blessings to Martin and your efforts with WELSTech! I learn something new on every episode! :)
Sallie Draper (WELS Technology) 2017-10-30 8:00:56am
Thanks, Julia! We appreciate our WELSTech family, including you, for sharing their knowledge. I learn something new each episode as well, and I was thrilled to put this presentation together and revisit some of these great resources.
Justin Wilkens (Martin Luther College) 2017-11-01 7:59:54pm
This article was very informative about ways to reach out to the local community, and also to peoples all over. One section of your article that I really enjoyed was your comment on "Spanish-speaking outreach", and how we have webistes like academia cristo that will reach out to the Spanish-speaking population in an effective way. I feel that this website is vitally important as we move forward, because Hispanic outreach is becoming more important as the number of Spanish-speakers continues to increase near our congregations, and around the world. One question I have is that with how much of a shift we have had these past couple of years with technology how long will it be until people feel as though actually going to church is no longer necessary, because they can just watch a service on youtube or the church's website? Thank you for this insightful article!
Mike Hartman (academiacristo.com) 2017-11-02 1:59:46pm
Hi Justin, This is a good question. Allow me to answer it with a story.

This past summer my family and I were back in the States. As we were walking into church in the Upper Midwest one Sunday, I overheard my wife explain to our 6-year-old son that he would not need his water bottle, treats, soccer ball or other toys because we were going to a "fast church". Our first Sunday back in Mexico, after nearly 5 hours at church, my wife told our son it was time to go. I overheard him reply, "Already?!"

My experience is that Sundays at churches run by our Hispanic brothers is more event oriented rather than activity or task oriented. When church becomes the primary Sunday event, people expect and enjoy spending hours together. This is very different than churches run by our Anglo brothers. Those of us who are of northern-European decent, tend to be extremely task and activity focused. I believe Saturday and Monday evening worship options reflect the task oriented reality of our culture.

I haven't seen any Hispanic yet express the feeling that the online service replaces an actual Sunday face-to-face worship and fellowship event. Rather, its completely the opposite. I see those who attend online grow in their desire and yearn to gather with others around the means of Grace. I've witnessed it push people to ask the question of how to start a physical church in their area. This is an understandable reaction. The person attending online is being strengthened by the means of grace. This strengthening makes them realize they want more. They want to gather in person with the body of Christ and worship their Savior.

It is my personal opinion that us Anglo Lutherans can learn a lot about the positive aspects of fellowship from our Latino Lutheran brothers and sisters.

Sallie Draper (WELS Technology) 2017-11-02 4:32:44pm
Hi Justin -

Thanks for the thought provoking question! And thanks also to Missionary Hartman for sharing with us his unique perspective. I believe the concern you raised about virtual worship potentially replacing face-to-face worship (and fellowship) experiences could be used to paralyze our efforts. When I think of how things might play out if we did reach that point at some time in the future, my thought is what a great problem it would be to have so many people engaged with God's Word online! We'd certainly want to encourage and nurture their Christian maturity and desire for face-to-face meetings, but on the up-side we could keep right on sharing the grace and mercy of our Savior Jesus with them using the means available to us.
Sallie Draper (WELS Technology) 2017-11-14 10:28:57am
Justin - I just came across this article featuring WELS Pastor Peter Hagen from Shepherd of the Lakes in Fairmont, MN discussing the blessings of live streamed worship as well as the need for the Christian to participate in face-to-face worship services. http://www.fairmontsentinel.com/news/local-news/2017/11/11/church-looks-to-implement-online-plans/
Justine Hanan (Martin Luther College) 2017-11-02 12:12:03pm
Thank you for all of the great resources! I enjoyed reading the blog on letting your light shine. In a time where technology use is growing and growing, it is great we can find ways to use it in a positive and beneficial way. I did appreciate the point you made about making connections with real people. Technology, though very useful, can be a distraction and even a hindrance to what we want to use it for. It is very easy to hide behind technology, so we need to make sure we are using it correctly. Do you think that as time goes on, more churches will have to implement technology for its members and for outreach? Also, what are the best ways to implement technology if you have a congregation that is split on using or not using technology?

Thank you again for your contribution!
Mike Hartman (academiacristo.com) 2017-11-02 2:35:36pm
Hi Justine, Interesting question. We're not the first group of Christians that needed to consider how to incorporate new technologies into the great commission our Lord gave us. Martin Luther dealt with similar issues. An extremely worthwhile read on Luther and the printing press is the book "Brand Luther" by Andrew Pettegree. I'll share the Amazon link below. It's an easy read, and definitely worthwhile for anyone considering technology and the church today. I think there's a lot of information in "Brand Luther" that would be valuable for church leaders considering this issue.

Sallie Draper (WELS Technology) 2017-11-02 5:04:47pm
Hi Justine -

As I reread your questions, the verse that is looping in my mind is 1 Corinthians 9:22b where Paul writes, "I have become all things to all people so that by all means I might save some." I'm guessing if you surveyed a cross-section of Pastors and Teachers in our fellowship, you'd find that they are wrestling with your exact questions and a desire to reach the lost with the life-giving Gospel in the way that best fits their circumstances. In the 21st century, that may take the form of regular church Facebook updates, live streamed worship and events, digital meeting minutes which are linked to in an electronic newsletter, online Bible study, screens in worship and announcement screens in the narthex, or prospect management software. OR it may take the form of printed newsletters sent via snail mail, continuing to recite the traditional version of the Lord's prayer, or coffee club with the pastor at the local Hardee's. My guess is you'd find in your survey that most everywhere is using a hybrid approach currently - a bit of old school with some shiny new tech in the mix.

My best advice for introducing technology in the church or school setting is to have a solid communication plan in place that regularly reminds, educates and encourages those who are affected by the change of the what, why and how the new technology is used and beneficial.
Elise Sloey (Wisconsin Lutheran College.) 2017-11-06 10:33:35am
It is refreshing and interesting to read about the tech side of outreach/engagement! This is not something typically discussed, so it is great to think about what is being done, and what more can be done as our society becomes more and more tech savy. The upcoming generation will certainly use these techniques, as well as countless more to continue spreading God's Word!
Sallie Draper (WELS Technology) 2017-11-06 3:16:41pm
Thanks for your comments, Elise. I agree that the future will see the use of "countless more" tech tools for outreach. That's what has been so exciting about our WELSTech journey - we never run out of things to talk about because technology is moving so quickly! I think it is wise for God's people to continue to stay up to date on the latest in technology and consider how it can be used in ministry.
Judy Kuster 2017-11-07 1:52:27am
Sally, All I can say is thank you for the continuing explanation of valuable resources and direction to them. You and Martin continue to amaze me with all the new things and changes/updates in old things you keep up with!! How much time do you devote to this work? Do you have favorite resources that you rely on to assist in the task?
Sallie Draper (WELS Technology) 2017-11-07 8:49:32am
Thanks for your kind words, Judy! It has certainly been a blessing to me to have a front row seat to the coming-of-age of digital ministry. As far as how much time we spend, the easy answer to that is "not enough" because there would always be more to share if we took the time. Our weekly production - including planning, recording, audio/video, show notes, and ministry resources - takes us each perhaps 4 hours. Our individual "prep" happens organically throughout the week as we read and explore various resources. We currently use OneNote to gather notes and outline our show. And our favorite resource, hands-down, is the WELSTech community who graciously share their experiences and expertise with us and others. We definitely couldn't do it without them!
Quan Hang (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2017-11-08 2:16:12pm
Media now plays an important role of reaching out to the community about the church and what type of congregation is like. One of the local churches near where I live, whom I think does a tremendous job at media in Elmbrook Church. There flyers and notes for the services are simple but catchy. And also their website is very self-explanatory, simple but presentable. I found their services can be streamed at home and it has as much as quality as being in the church. That doesn't mean people should stay home and stream online. But it certainly helps for those people can't make it to church still sense the atmosphere that they can possibly at least have.
Sallie Draper (WELS Technology) 2017-11-08 5:29:00pm
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on media, Quan. I looked up Elmbrook Church and found their site (I think) at http://www.elmbrook.org. It's great to have examples of design and content that we think is well done. I often look at sites like these to get ideas for my own church website development.

It's great that you mentioned their live streamed services as well. More and more churches are adding live streaming. In the Wisconsin Synod, I am aware of 55 congregations currently offering live streamed services. You can find the list here - https://yearbook.wels.net/streaming - in the WELS online yearbook.

Ellyn, Riley, Emily (Wisconsin Lutheran College ) 2017-11-13 9:49:50pm
I think that having and keeping up with social media platforms is so important these days because of the world that we live in now these days and to read such a positive article about it was nice and new. I liked the blog "5 Ways to Let Your Light Shine Online" because that shined on positive light on how to practice your christian values in the media world that we are in.
Sallie Draper (WELS Technology) 2017-11-14 7:07:26am
Thanks very much for your comments! I agree that social media is a definite "player" in 21st century communication. Perhaps a challenge for each of us individuallyd is to add to that "5 Ways to Let Your Light Shine Online" list with our own creative ideas for sharing the good news online!