4 New Challenges for the Digital Influencer

I so appreciate how my friend Shannon Popkin is showing leaders how to navigate the digital ministry world so that we’re lifting high the name of Jesus, not our own. Her article helps us guard our hearts from the temptations of the digital universe. Whether you minister to one, ten, or to hundreds or thousands, our responsibility to Jesus is the same: to love Him as our supreme Treasure then love others by pointing them to Christ as we serve sacrificially. We’re championing you and are thankful for your faithfulness to your calling! Leslie Bennett, Women’s Ministry Initiatives

Over the past decade, a digital universe seems to have sprung up around us. As women in ministry, though we might prefer to engage women only in face-to-face settings, it’s nearly impossible to influence them deeply without also operating online, since that’s where most women are choosing to connect.

Whether you’ve dragged yourself into the digital universe or burst on-screen with digital confetti, ministering to women digitally creates new challenges. For those of us who aim to lift Jesus high, here are four things to guard against as we minister online:

1. The Boomerang Effect

The digital world is full of links. Click here. Sign in there. Like or “love” everywhere. And as a Christian influencer, every bit of Truth I toss out links back to me. My bio. My social profile. My (or my church’s) ministry page. All of these boomeranging links make great fodder for self-centeredness and self-focus. The more my audience clicks and likes, the more temptation there is for me to turn this ministry into a celebration of me.

I may have begun with completely pure motives, but oh how the boomerang effect can shift my focus. Suddenly, rather than freely offering my gifts I want to get admiration. Rather than giving my service I want to gain admiration. Rather than sharing Truth I want to receive positive feedback.

Jesus said it is more blessed to give than receive (Acts 20:35), and this includes giving versus receiving feedback online. As you seek to influence women digitally, consider the influence your stats and social feedback is having on you.

2. Clicks Not People

In decades past, there were only limited ways to measure your ministry’s influence. You might count the women who attended a Bible study or tally up the number of visitors on a Sunday. Today there are exponential ways to measure our ministry’s influence.

Every time someone clicks a link, it becomes a tally mark. “Follows” and “likes” are a way of keeping score. Our growing audience and rising number of views only create more temptation to check the score. But when we prioritize the “click” over the woman who is clicking, we become consumers instead of influencers. Rather than prioritizing the souls of these women, we have prioritized the affirmation we receive from them.

Remember how Jesus overthrew the temple tables when sacrificing became a for-profit operation (Matt. 21:12)? I recognize that we aren’t often gaining anything financially when women click on our links and raise our stats, but consider this: If your online ministry presence with all of its backlogged stats and registered followers were suddenly swallowed up in an online glitch, would you experience a sense of personal loss?

We are called to approach the women in our groups, audiences, and churches as devoted servants, not consumers hoping to gather affirmation and clicks.

3. False Discouragement

Because we have become so accustomed to tallying up our influence with a digital “score,” it can be very discouraging when the feedback is minimal.

Suppose I labor over this very blog post for many hours, prayerfully considering its content and stewarding my gifts well for the sake of my sisters in ministry. Suppose I write exactly what God leads me to with excellence, and five women are greatly impacted by its message.

But what happens if I never hear about those five women? What if there is little or no response online? I might reasonably assume that my writing has had no spiritual effect. I might become deflated or even devastated when actually I should be rejoicing—for I finished my task, I pleased the Lord, and He used it in the lives of five women!

Do you see how our digital tally system creates opportunities for false discouragement? We must guard against measuring our influence only based on what can be seen (Matt. 6:1), for our Father sees both the public and secret ways we serve (Matt. 6:18). He also knows exactly how our ministry seeds will multiply in the lives of others and future generations (Matt. 13:23).

Of course He’s the One doing the multiplying and growing the fruit, but I’m guessing that if we could see how God is using us, we would be encouraged not discouraged! Sisters, let’s guard against the false discouragement glaring at us from a screen and lift our eyes to the One who sees our service and is well pleased.

4. Busywork

If you’re drawn to digital beauty and creativity like I am, there is no shortage of ways to spend your time. I sometimes wonder how I filled my time before there was Canva or Snappa or Wordpress with a Divi theme! There are endless digital options for promoting Truth and spreading light in beautiful, creative ways.

But these digital opportunities have great potential to keep me from my non-virtual assignments from God, staring me in the face—if only I’ll look up from my computer screen.

Remember Martha, with all of her dinner preparations? Luke 10:40 says, “But Martha was distracted with much serving.” Could your name be inserted into that verse? Mine could! But Shannon was distracted with much serving, as she created beautiful, God-honoring Instagram posts and lovely Bible verse memes.

When I come to Jesus, irritated over my stress level and endless lists, I imagine He might say to me what He said to Martha. Shannon, Shannon, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. And what is that one thing? To sit at the feet of Jesus like Mary had and to be taught by Him and know Him. If we are too busy to do that, then we are too busy.

The Internet and social media provide more opportunities than ever before to reach out to women with Truth and light. But as we grow our online presence and serve women in digital ways, let’s each guard our heart with vigilance, “for from it flow the springs of life” (Prov. 4:23).

As a woman who influences others, which of these four things is most challenging for you? How can you guard your heart against self-centeredness and selfishness, false discouragement or distracting busywork? Make a response plan for this week. How might God be inviting you to trust Him by changing your online ministry habits?

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