Bring the Word Online
Dec 01, 2012 (The Brunswick News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
With just a few clicks of a keyboard, one Glynn County church is expanding its evangelical mission to spread Christ's love by broadcasting his message across the globe.
Family Life Church, 140 Blythe Island Highway, has been incorporating an online worship program in addition to its Sunday services for the past four years under the care and direction of a woman whose passion for the church extends all the way to her home in Houston, Texas.
Bernadine Young, the Internet campus minister for Family Life, attended the church years ago when she and her family lived in Brunswick. Her husband's job requires the family to move frequently -- the Youngs have had 17 addresses in 28 years -- but with technological advancements, Young is able to keep in contact with her Brunswick church family and lend a hand from wherever she is living.
When Pastor Chris Foster got in touch with Young to discuss an online ministry four years ago, she was living in Bogota, Colombia.
"I knew that they knew where I was living at the time, but I thought, 'How is this going to work ' Working remotely does have its challenges, but it is exciting," Young said, adding that her current residence in Houston allows her to travel to Brunswick several times a year.
She also joins weekly staff meetings, either by telephone or through Skype video conferencing. Her son is also a staff minister at Family Life.
Foster is quick to point out that Young is not only a highly valued member of Family Life, but sets an example for all Internet campus ministries.
"We had to think outside the box, but with everything being Web-based, we could utilize her time and talents back when she was living in Bogota and now in Houston," he said.
Family Life's online campus, designed to reach people with alternative schedules or who don't have a home church, streams at 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. Tuesdays with video from Sunday's sermons, including praise worship and the sermon, as well as a list of announcements by Young.
But the website is designed to go beyond simply watching video. The forum incorporates several interactive techniques, including an electronic Bible index, a place to write sermon notes, a chat room to connect with others watching and a prayer "room" that sends participants into a private chat room for one-on-one prayer sessions.
Young says the private prayer chats have been where she has experienced the most touching moments of her ministry.
"People really open up and share specific concerns, as if you are sitting face to face. At first, I thought people would just ask general prayers, such as 'please pray for my family,' but these chats can turn into whole conversations that amaze me. It's really wonderful, and I am not sure it would happen otherwise in person. There's something safe about sharing online that allows people to open up," she said.
An unexpected surprise for Foster, who has been the lead pastor for more than two decades at Family Life, was the addition of an international congregation watching the Tuesday morning broadcasts, which air at 6:30 p.m. in India.
"A church in India first watched us and started logging in every week. We asked if they would like a projector and they said, 'yes,' so we sent them one. They are an extension of our service. That's been the biggest surprise, to have a whole other church emerge from this, " he said. Foster traveled to visit the congregation in Bangalore, India, in May, when he spoke at a leadership conference.
Foster says he hopes to see the Internet campus continue to grow.
"We want to add more service times, eventually," he added. "I think it's surprising how several people, because of their work schedule, depend on our Internet campus. People have moved away and continue to be part of our community.
As for Young, she doesn't plan to stop anytime soon.
"I am so excited about doing the Internet campus. It brings a light to the Internet, which is often seen so negatively," Young said.
"I am so content now, doing what I do."
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