December 2021 News Perspective Online

Digital Ministries

Congregations are slowly returning to in-person worship, but digital ministry is here to stay. And Perkins is taking steps to ensure students are prepared.

A new course in Digitally Mediated Ministry, launched during the pandemic, has become part of Perkins’ academic curriculum. And a new Digitally Mediated Ministries Lab will open in January.

“Digitally mediated ministry is going to be a permanent feature of the Christian landscape,” said Dr. Robert Hunt, Director of the Global Theological Education Program at Perkins. “We hope to make Perkins a center of active learning and research in the best forms of digitally mediated ministry.”

Hunt co-teaches the Digitally Mediated Ministry course with Dr. Marcell Silva Steuernagel, Assistant Professor of Church Music and Director of the Master of Sacred Music degree program. The course was taught in the fall of 2020 and again in the summer of 2021, and will be continue to be offered on an ongoing basis.

Acquiring proficiency in digital media is no longer optional for preachers and pastors, according to Hunt.

“Seminaries would never consider teaching preaching without showing students how to use a microphone,” he said.  “Now, they need to learn to preach while looking into a video camera.”

Through his work with the Global Theological Education program, Hunt recognized the need for the lab.

“We needed a place where our faculty and students could create the highest quality video instruction, do podcast recording and even experiment with virtual reality (VR),” Hunt said. “We needed to center that work and consolidate the equipment we’d begun to accumulate.”

A room in Kirby was set aside for the new Digitally Mediated Ministries Lab. Working with Bart Patton, Hunt set up a podcasting studio and a video recording studio, along with VR tools. A green screen is also under construction. New equipment will be added as new projects unfold. The lab will be primarily available to faculty but will also eventually become a center where students and local church staff can try new forms of digital ministry.

“Ultimately we hope it can become a place where smaller local churches can create digital content and experiment, without investing in a lot of equipment,” he said.

Hunt noted that digital platforms offer unprecedented opportunities to broaden the church’s outreach.  The largest YouTube channel currently attracts 3 million viewers every week for video Bible lessons. Many churches discovered new constituencies and recovered old members when they went online during Covid.

Perkins is poised to lead the way in this emerging field – and has an important role to play.

“Our Perkins faculty are thought leaders in worship, preaching and evangelism,” said Hunt.

“The technology changes every year, and the tools use digital platforms are already out there. What Perkins can do is engage our students in the serious theological questions that digital ministry raises; questions about what kind of ministry we’re doing and in the future, and how to do them not only effectively, but ethically.”