Chances are you, or someone you know, has listened to Taylor Swift’s newest album, Midnights. But aside from these songs being the soundtrack behind your work for the next few weeks, what can we learn about digital ministry from this release and Taylor’s ever-evolving career? Let’s find out!
1. It’s ok, perhaps even necessary, to try something different.
WIth a music career spanning almost two decades, Taylor Swift has found continued success, not by doing the same thing over and over again but by diving into new genres and allowing herself to grow and change. But when it comes to church, trying something new can feel difficult. We tend to do what we’ve always done (tradition!) and scratch our heads when it leads to diminishing impact or engagement. And while we might think that digital ministry is the big new thing that churches are trying — and it is! — it can be easy to find one approach to digital ministry that works for a moment and just keep doing it, no matter how things might change.
We must remember that it is ok, perhaps even necessary, to try something different. This has been true for Taylor Swift, from her self-titled country debut to a shift towards pop with 1989 to the ongoing experiments with genre and style and storytelling with Folklore, Evermore, and most recently, Midnights. And it must be true for your digital ministry. Learn from what you’ve done, and most importantly why you’ve done it. And keep trying new things. Throw the spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks. Fail fast so you can learn as quickly as possible and then try and try again with new ideas and new ways to cultivate your community and their spiritual formation.
2. Tell Your Story
Midnights is a return to an intensely autobiographical Taylor. This comes after two albums of fictional storytelling and a rerelease of Red that she originally recorded a decade ago. And it’s not to say that these other approaches didn’t work, but Taylor — and Digital Ministry — is at its best when it tells an authentic story. While your digital ministry can learn from others, it must be an expression of who you are. Your tone, your voice, your community, your context are essential for what you do.
How can you use digital platforms to tell the story of your community? How can you show up as your authentic self in the videos you make and the emails you send? Pay attention to the story you are telling and the ways you are cultivating stories from your unique community. Because all of ministry, including digital ministry, should be memoir more than nonfiction, prioritizing authenticity over production value and your unique community over whatever the big church down the street is doing.
3. Don’t Do It All Alone
Lana Del Ray. Bon Iver. Ed Sheeran. Kendrick Lamar. Shawn Mendes. And now a rumor of a potential collaboration with Bono. While we often attribute ten albums to Taylor Swift, her career has been filled with intentional collaborations. And digital ministry, much like a Taylor Swift album, is better when done together. It can be easy to feel isolated behind a screen, editing for hours, managing social media accounts, responding to emails, never-ending updates to your church’s website. But you don’t have to do this work alone.
How can you cultivate a Digital Ministry team among your congregation? What parts of this work can someone else hold or help carry? And who else is diving into these same digital waters? Look around at the other digital ministry content you see online and reach out to say hello. Chances are they will be just as eager to connect and collaborate. Because ministry is never about you, but about the community we serve and the connections we share.
If you have more ideas for digital ministry lessons that we can learn from Taylor Swift, I would love to hear them. And if you are looking for a community of digital ministry leaders, that is exactly what we hope to help support. Send us an email and let us know that you are interested. But for now I’m off to see when I can pre-order tickets for Taylor’s upcoming tour. That counts as digital ministry research, right?