Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of David T, Bourgeois' book, Ministry in the Digital Age: Strategies and Practices for a Post-Website World (IVP Books, 2013).

Since Jesus has called Christians to communicate the greatest message of all – the Gospel – to the world, it’s vital for all church ministries to do their best to spread the Gospel through the greatest worldwide communication tool: the Internet.

But it’s not easy to minister to people successfully online, since digital technologies are constantly changing, and so are the expectations of people who use the Internet. The key to success is developing a strategy for proceeding with online ministry and relying on God’s day-to-day guidance to carry it out.

Here’s how you can develop a successful strategy for your ministry in the digital age:

Go to where the people are rather than expecting them to come to you. It’s not enough to simply set up a website and hope people will find it online. While you do need a website as a basic place where people can get information about your ministry on the Internet, you need much more than that in order to reach lots of people online. That’s because, today, most people use the Internet to build relationships with others instead of just searching for information. Social media sites such as Facebook are immensely popular, and so are sites that allow people to broadcast messages, such as YouTube and Twitter. It’s important to do your research to find out where people in your ministry’s target audience are going online – and then to establish a presence for your ministry in those places by participating in the online communication taking place there.

Learn about the people in your ministry’s target audience. Get to know the people you’re trying to reach online by gathering demographic information about them (such as their age range and where they live), their current perspectives on faith and how mature their faith is or isn’t right now, and the ways they typically use the Internet. One free and thorough resource you can use to conduct research into people’s Internet usage is the Pew Internet & American Life Project at www.pewinternet.org.

Identify various content streams and their potential roles in your ministry’s overall digital strategy. Content streams are different types of digital content that flows into the lives of your target audience’s lives regularly. Some examples are: Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, email, text messages, search engine results, blogs, podcasts, photo sharing, and RSS news reader feeds. Ask God to give you the wisdom to figure out how your ministry can participate in each of those streams: what type of content to post there and how often, how to engage in conversations taking place there, etc.

Make your digital presence compatible with mobile devices. Since many people are now using mobile technology to get online, you should make sure that your ministry’s presence online is compatible with mobile devices. Design or change your ministry’s website so that it appears well on mobile devices, which display simple layouts the best. Consider whether or not your ministry should use a mobile app, keeping in mind that the cost of having one designed is expensive but may be worthwhile if the app would be especially effective for your ministry.

Identify your ministry’s functions and form. Pray and reflect on your ministry’s functions (what it does) and form (how it accomplishes that work). Make sure that everyone involved in creating your ministry’s digital strategy understands both the functions and form so they can keep them in mind when deciding how to invest time, money, and people’s effort into the strategy.