As the leader of a growing and ever-changing ministry, Immersion (we attract mostly 20- and 30-somethings), the challenges of “tending the flock” (a highly mobile flock, at that) and finding out what’s going on in the lives of the people I care about can seemingly be insurmountable at times. With the majority of us strewn all over the city (okay, so Des Moines isn’t exactly a thriving metropolis, but it still takes time to get places!), I have found that the answer to the task of connecting with people isn’t necessarily geographical but technological.
I started thinking about how my professors in college used to have office hours. You know, they’d put on the syllabus things like, “Office Hours: 2-2:01 pm. Must call ahead for appointment.” (Something tells me they never liked having office hours.) Then I started thinking, “What if I had office hours, but if instead of being physically located in an office, I held ‘virtual office hours’? What would that look like?”
I am a huge advocate of social media. As such, the question for me became, “How do I leverage what I do have (technology, social media, a blog, etc.) against what I don’t have (extra hours in the week, for example)?” What if I had a set time during the week where I was accessible online to anyone who wanted to stop by?
* Prayer concern? Come visit me in my online “office” and we’ll pray.
* Want to know what the message is about this week? Come ask me in my virtual office.
* Have a friend who has a question about Jesus and you have no idea how to answer it? Ask Rhett. Then come to me with the easy questions (online, of course).
All that to say, I’ve commandeered TokBox and embedded a chat room on my blog. People can log onto Office.BeDeviant.com from the hours of 2-4pm CST on Wednesdays and there I’ll be: Writing emails, blogging, singing to myself, and talking with the people of Immersion.
Ask these questions of yourself and see if this would work for you: Would your people utilize “virtual office hours” if you had them? What if you blocked out a certain set of hours during the week to be “e-vailable” to your congregation? Would they “stop by” for a video chat over your lunch hour? What if you had a “group prayer” session online via webcam (a la OnePrayer 2009)? Would you benefit from something like this?
I’m not saying this is a perfect solution, but I feel it’s at least a start. If the essence of ministry is the “ministry of presence,” who’s to say that “presence” can’t be online?