In recent months, the sudden shift of church events, discipleship meetings, and worship services to the digital plane was an adjustment that ministries around the world had to make. As the need for digital ministry increases over time, students in youth ministry can be prepared to use digital media as a tool to reach others for Christ.
Students in PCC’s youth ministry concentration gain a firm foundation in God’s Word with a focus on effective youth ministry; however, the program offers students the chance to choose an emphasis: church music, education, physical education, speech, and, introduced in 2014, digital media. The digital media emphasis prepares students for ministry and provides a background in creative software and design.
Youth pastor for eight years and now pastor of Bible Baptist Church in Kissimmee, Florida, Randall Jackson (’91) has seen how digital media has improved his church’s outreach by using digital signage, projection screens, social media platforms, and a church website. “Things have changed to becoming much more visual since I first went into ministry,” he said. “For instance, when I started here at BBC, we had pagers! It is becoming more challenging to be on the cutting edge of technology to engage a younger generation.”
It’s not uncommon for youth pastors to transition into a senior pastor position, and that was the case with Pastor Jackson. “When I was a youth pastor, my heart was ’changing the world one teen at a time.’ Now I just do that on a larger scale,” he said. “The more relational and personal I can be, the more of a difference I can make. Making a difference in individual lives is my favorite part of being in ministry.”
In the youth ministry program, students are trained in comprehensive Bible knowledge and sound doctrine, serve in local youth ministries, grow in God’s Word, and learn to communicate biblical truths. “The preaching classes and chapel messages were fantastic, and the hands-on portions of my academics (practicum, Christian service opportunities) were ones that helped the most,” said Pastor Jackson. “The most valuable training was [from] the personal, approachable professors who were available both inside and outside the classroom. They modeled a type of personal interaction that has been something I have tried to carry over to my own ministry.”
The digital media emphasis provides additional training to help meet the communication needs of a church. Classes provide training in digital typography and layout, mass media, Adobe Creative Cloud applications, audio and video equipment, and the fundamentals of webpage design and creation. Students develop a philosophy of media use in ministry that remains even as technology changes.
Shawn Thayer (’04, M.F.A. ’07), administrative pastor and communications director at West Florida Baptist Church in Milton, Florida, understands the need for more digital media training. “The primary objective for study in communication methods and tools is to assist ministries in building positive relationships with individuals that will allow for the spread of the gospel. Instead of focusing on how to use the tools to build notoriety and/or popularity, ministries would be most effective by focusing on the people they are trying to reach and what message it is that they are trying to share with them,” he said. “Most individuals in our culture can be expected to respond better to content that is professional, consistent, clear, relevant, and even creative.”
As a more recent youth ministry graduate, Bryce Copeland (’19) has been glad to serve as student pastor at Fellowship Baptist Church in Columbus, Ohio. The digital media classes Bryce took allow him to help the church in multiple areas. “I have been able to help Fellowship with their bulletins and weekly e-mails using my knowledge in digital media,” he said. “I think [the digital media emphasis] is a great addition to teach the students how to do things that smaller churches really need—running a soundboard or light board, using microphones, or using ProPresenter.”
As a student pastor, Bryce’s responsibilities include sermon preparation, sermon PowerPoint design, planning events along with the setup and teardown, managing the leadership team for the student ministry, and communicating with parents and students about student ministry. “More than anything, I learned the value of hard work and a good work ethic [at PCC],” he said. “Both my job with stage crew and my studies helped me prepare for the hard work that was coming my way.”
Graduates like Pastor Jackson are glad to see their alma mater strive to suitably equip its students for their careers and ministries. “PCC is still standing on the Bible principles it was founded on, while striving to be on the cutting edge for future generations,” he said. “I am excited about the direction the College is headed, even nearly 30 years after I graduated.”