Church looks to implement online plans
FAIRMONT — After so many years of online access, it’s almost unfathomable for younger generations to imagine life without the internet.
There’s no denying it has affected how we live our lives, from media consumption to socialization. And like anything else in life, it can be both a blessing and a curse.
Pastor Peter Hagen of Shepherd of the Lakes Lutheran Church in Fairmont this week shared how some churches are using more media while holding on to the things that don’t change.
“With the 500th anniversary of the Reformation this year, that was really made possible by the technology of movable type,” he said. “I think that, throughout history, Christians have used media as well as possible. God himself gave the New Testament in Greek, which was the common language of the whole world.
“Then in the modern day, you have Billy Graham, and even before him all the radio televangelists. Now, the interesting thing for me as a pastor has been the advent of social media. E-mail has really been the go-to for about 20 years now.”
Hagen pointed out that most people younger than 40 don’t really get their news from TV and newspapers. With that in mind, he says the question becomes how to use technology to communicate with people where they’re at.
“At our church, we just started a podcast at the beginning of this year, which is one of fastest-growing segments of media,” he said. “We’ve had a Facebook page for a while, and we just got on Instagram, though I’m still pretty rough at it. Then in the next year we’ll probably talk about live streaming from our church.
“There’s different groups of people who are attached to different kinds of media. The average Facebook user is in their 30s to 40s. Instagram has been kind of the hot thing for the past couple of years, along with Twitter.”
Hagen said one of his long-term goals is to provide streaming of services to satellite locations where people may not have a pastor available.
“Our church draws people from about 45 minutes away,” he said. “One of our churches in Wyoming is working on doing a live simulcast to a second site. They don’t have a pastor there, but they can have a called elder there to oversee things and then they participate in the same worship service at the exact same time.
“The big thing is finding a way to reach people where they’re at and communicate with them there, and then multiply the manpower so you don’t waste hours and miles just driving back and forth when you can accomplish nearly the same thing with the use of the internet.
“Also, various web-based programs have really helped to streamline the administrative side of things, such as membership tracking, worship scheduling, church calendar keeping, and finding a suitable meeting time or date. It’s really nice that those let me schedule and forget the boring administrative stuff so that I can move on to teaching and telling people about Jesus.”
Hagen went on to note that while utilizing communication tools is important, worship is essential to the church, and he believes God builds the church through His Word and sacraments.
“As much as you try to replicate things through YouTube or an online church broadcast, you can’t replicate that personal touch,” he said. “We’re a Lutheran church so we practice Holy Communion, but if people tune in from their living rooms, they can’t sit there and say they’ve got their bread and their wine to have communion, because by its nature it’s a communal thing.
“The biggest challenge, and the biggest selling point for a Sunday morning service and a family kind of church is that you can’t get that personal touch. That’s the irony of technology today, we seem to be so connected but even though there’s so much connection there, there’s even more of a disconnect. That heightens the call and the need to gather together.”
Hagen went on to note that technology can’t give you a hug during the loss of a loved one, and can’t provide people with personal fellowship or allow them to enjoy a meal together.
“That’s where I think that church and worship services still have a place, because it’s not just a membership to tune into but you are a member of the body of Christ,” he said. “God gives us a unique set of skills and attributes to serve one another. I think that’s probably part of a bigger discussion, because in our culture we’re more on the consumer side of things than we are on the producer side of things.
“Music is a perfect example,” he continued. “Everybody will tune in to the radio or download from Amazon or iTunes, but by and large we don’t sing or play instruments beyond high school. Church is one of the few places where all of us sing and we can have that fellowship together.”
Shepherd of the Lakes Lutheran Church is located at 323 E. First St. in Fairmont, and can be reached by phone at (507) 236-9572 or (507) 238-9663.
The church can also be found online at www.shepherdofthelakes.net or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/shepherdofthelakes, as well as on Instagram by following Shepherdofthelakes. The name of the podcast is “Green Pastures with Jesus.”