By: Christa Meland
How do I live stream in the best way possible? How do I host a Zoom webinar? What equipment should I invest in? What do I need to know about lighting and sound?
If you’ve asked yourself any of those questions, you should talk to Rev. Cullen Tanner. He recently stepped into a new role as the Minnesota Conference technology and ministry specialist, and he’s eager to help churches enhance their digital ministry.
“Part of my philosophy on technology in ministry is the technology should get out of the way so the message of God’s love can get through to the audience,” said Rev. Tanner, who also leads Roots and Branches church in Anoka on a quarter-time basis. “It’s not about the flash and sizzle of the big show. It’s what you can manage with the people and the resources that you have.”
One aspect of his new role is helping churches improve their digital ministry and serving as somewhat of a Geek squad to troubleshoot problems. Another is developing systems and teams that move us forward with technology as an annual conference.
Rev. Tanner has consulted with dozens of church leaders in conjunction with the Dare to Reach grants of up to $1,000 that the conference has distributed to help congregations reach people in a virtual church world. He said the gaps leaders identified were largely resource-oriented. They didn’t have the money to get the equipment they needed or they didn’t know where to begin in terms of creating a digital ministry. While the grants provided assistance with the financial challenges, Tanner sought to fill in knowledge gaps—and aims to do much more of that in the coming months.
One thing he wants church leaders to know: Technology is becoming more advanced, but it’s also becoming easier to use.
“I think lots of churches are scared about engaging in new technology because of a perceived learning curve but there are so many ways you can get on board, even if it feels scary,” he said.
Rev. Tanner has long been interested in technology, and in recent months he’s taught himself new skills to up his game. He hopes to create videos and written materials to train churches on how to successfully use some of the technologies they might be struggling with. He’ll also lead the process of creating complete worship services and digital worship resources that the conference creates for churches.
Earlier this year, Tanner was part of a small team of conference staff that participated in a 10-week “Innovation Accelerator” to explore creative new ways to equip clergy and churches and meet their most vital needs. The major idea that emerged out of that experience, which included dozens of interviews with clergy, is an online platform that allows churches to share resources with each other and provides on-demand training for leaders. That idea is now in a prototyping phase, and will eventually provide one more avenue for churches to move forward with their digital efforts.
Meanwhile, Rev. Tanner is here to assist and would love for churches to contact him with questions and challenges.
“I want to help churches of every size thrive with digital ministry to help them reach their missional goals,” he said.
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church