Beginning the Journey to Planting a Digital Church
My family and I are planting City Center Church in Berkeley, CA. We have been called by God to help the city of Berkeley experience the life-changing love of God. Our vision is to impact the Bay Area one Community, one Family and one Person at a time. Although many would say Berkeley is a very hard place, people are amazing and currently, they just can’t see Jesus. We were planning to launch September 13, 2020.
Then, the week of March 8, everything in the world had changed. We had a Launch Party scheduled for March 15 and all that week we were trying to figure out if we were still going to meet in person. We decided to meet over zoom instead for our March 15 Launch Party. During that week I prayed and asked God what we should do in the middle of this pandemic. After praying for two days, I felt God say,
“Don’t shrink back in this season, I am calling you to push forward and innovate.” He said He called us out for this very moment to bring hope to the hopeless.
Following that, I wrote up a new strategic plan so that I could prepare our leadership team before our launch team meeting. In that plan, God gave me five areas of focus. Not just to prepare for launch but to be more of an influence and resource to our city. He said He wanted us to:
- Pastor our Leadership Team
- Equip our Leadership Team to pastor our Launch Team
- Launch Online Campus: (March 22, March 29, April 5 preview; launch April 12)
- Launch CityGroups: Midweek small groups over Zoom
- Launch CityCares: Financial Help, Parenting Resources, City Partnerships
It was easy to get our team on mission and excited, because for 6 months straight that’s what all our meetings were about. Along with having meetings, we as a team served the city or Berkeley so it was training in action. We challenged our team to live on mission by choosing God’s Kingdom over their personal preferences. Delynn & Christine Burkhalter are a couple on our leadership team and they are helping fulfill the needs of their neighbors at their complex. Ryan & Nancy Gullum purchase groceries for families and deliver them. Our team partnered with the Berkeley School district to wipe down and package computers for needy families.
For those looking to launch a digital church, there are a few things that are keys to beginning this journey.
1. Make sure you have a God call to lead and plant a church online or in-person. Planting a church is not easy and not just a cool thing to do. You want to know that God has called you and He has confirmed it with mentors and leaders in your life.
2. Just because you are pastoring online does not mean you don’t need training. Don’t allow the ease of online have you abort the process. Work with great church planting organizations in order to plant successfully.
3. Discover the unique people and space God is calling you to pastor. Just because you are online, does not mean that God has not created you uniquely for a specific space. Take the time to really pray and search out your specific space of ministry.
4. Build a three-tier funding approach: 8-12 Strategic Partners, Leadership Team Of Tithers and Church Partners. Make time to come up with a sustainability plan so that what you are doing is not a fad.
5. Invest, develop, empower and equip your leadership team and launch team. Don’t launch a church in any space without a great leadership team behind you. People should be willing to follow you before you try to lead new people. Take time to build & train a team to help you build the church. Jesus exemplified the importance of having a team.
6. Develop a strategic plan for engagement, follow-up and community building. A digital church can’t just be about a service that you broadcast. The church is about doing life together. It’s about being faithful with all the people God gives you. Just having a service is not good enough.
7. Build your online presence through the coaching of marketing companies. Build a team that truly understands and has experience in the space you are called to. There are great companies that can provide you with best practices for being truly effective.
8. Engage with the launch team weekly. Digital services are not engaging with people. Digital churches will have the obstacle of balancing building a digital presence and building a team of people. When we build the launch team they go out and do the work of living out the gospel. Both are important, but one is more important.
9. Work with a partner church to record your weekend services and do music differently than you would in person. So many people right now are buying a lot of equipment in order to cast from home. However, when you build strong partnerships with churches in your area, they are for you. They also, have the experience & equipment to produce a way better service than you. Also, worship online has to look totally different then what we do in person. Learning and innovating the way worship is done in a digital church can’t be overlooked.
10. Pray a lot!!!
Raymond Hudson along with his family are planting City Center Church in Berkeley, CA. His wife, Rachel, and him have 4 children: Gabriella 9, Zeke 7, Bella 5, and Leo 18 months. They have been called by God to help the city of Berkeley experience the life-changing love of God. Their vision is to impact the Bay Area one Community, one Family and one Person at a time.