Through their Connect Through Tech grant with the Center, Valparaiso Nazarene Church of Valparaiso, Indiana, was able to upgrade their tech equipment to better keep up with the need for online ministry. However, this congregation’s grant journey would quickly evolve into so much more. After connecting other congregations in their area who needed help with their own technology, Valparaiso Nazarene Church took it upon themselves to walk alongside these churches and show them the way. These connections opened the doors to new friendships, community partnerships, and even the start of a new ministry and business.
Valparaiso Nazarene Church (VNC) of Valparaiso, Indiana, is a congregation of mission-minded Christ followers who believe in connecting with God by growing deeper in their faith and serving those around them. In 2020, VNC applied for the Center for Congregations’ Connect Through Tech (CTT) grant as a way to stay connected with their community, while continuing to empower them to lead and serve during the pandemic.
“We have been blessed to have some great tech gear over the years,” says Eric Wood, Outreach Pastor at VNC. “However, a lot of the gear that we were using was personal equipment provided by our staff members. To keep up with the pandemic, we needed something that would improve the image quality of our videos and ultimately create a better online experience for our church.”
Using the funds from their CTT grant, VNC invested in new equipment for their tech team. This included a portable, multipurpose follow camera, several different camera lenses, and a super-fast hard drive for storing and transferring video. The VNC tech team adjusted quickly to their new gear, experimenting with different techniques to improve their congregation’s online experience.
“Our livestream was no longer just one fixed camera,” says Pastor Eric. “The tech team did a lot of pre-recordings. They also used the portable camera to move around and get different shots to make it more of an experience– almost like you were there.”
The blessings from this grant did not stop there, however. During the process, Pastor Eric met a fellow CTT grant recipient from a congregation just 15 minutes away who acquired a collection of new tech gear, but was unsure of how to properly utilize it all. Seeing this as an opportunity to be a “sending church,” Pastor Eric, along with VNC’s Technical Director Jonathan Humrichouser, offered to help this congregation get started.
“We went to the church and helped them set up a livestream using their new camera and video switcher,” says Pastor Eric. “When we reported back to the Center, we told them that if there were other churches out there that needed some tech assistance, Jonathan and I would love to work alongside them.”
Soon after, Pastor Eric and Jonathan were connected with a second congregation that needed help building up their tech system. During a six-month long process, the two assisted this church in installing a brand-new system and trained the tech team on how to use all the gear. Pastor Eric describes working with these two congregations as valuable learning experiences for VNC, as they got to witness and be inspired by how different churches operate.
“While we have only helped a few churches so far, we have learned a lot about working in partnership with other congregations,” says Pastor Eric. “Each church is unique in their wants and needs. When it comes to tech support, we are learning how to recognize those needs and work with each church to meet them.”
Moving forward, Pastor Eric and Jonathan want to continue walking alongside other congregations to serve as a resource for them. The two are currently working on turning their tech services into an official business with the mission of helping other churches maximize technology to better present the Gospel.
“There are a lot of great tech companies out there, but they have a lot of overhead,” says Pastor Eric. “We know the Church. We’re a part of the Church, so we speak ‘church.’ We know how to work with a congregation’s budget and make suggestions based on what is or is not needed. We’re similar mission-minded and it helps that we all kind of speak the same language.”
In our media-driven culture, Pastor Eric explains that it is not uncommon for people today to check out a congregation before they even walk in the door. That’s why he encourages congregations to view technology as a tool for presenting themselves at their best and reaching their community.
“There is so much opportunity when it comes to technology,” says Pastor Eric. “It brings people together. If there are people who are still questioning, or they like the idea of church but don’t really have a relationship with Jesus, encourage them to work a camera or a sound board. Once they are a part of the community, they will be exposed to the message and surrounded by other believers who are talking like-minded.”