Making 100 TikToks as Ministry

This article first appeared on Church Anew.

It’s remarkable how many transformative words stay locked within the walls of our churches. Our messages are beautiful, life-changing, and somehow secret. Our ideas are available only to those who know our addresses and trust us enough to step inside.

As part of the preaching team at New City Church, I felt this. As a church led by queer people of color in South Minneapolis, I heard and gave powerful messages. I saw God’s liberation experienced and expressed – with one condition.

You had to be there. Whether in-person or online, attendance was mandatory.

That’s why I started making TikToks
Culture is having a conversation. Will the Church be a part of it?

We all have different relationships to social media. For you, is it a distraction to avoid? A danger to reject? Another type of noise?

Is it a mystery? An algorithm that rewards some content while punishing others? So complex and changing that it can’t be learned or used?

Or maybe it’s simpler – is it a chore? Is it something you have to do? Is it something you make someone else do?

At some point, I’ve answered yes to each of these questions. Maybe you have, too. But as a speaker and storyteller, I felt compelled to extend my ministry online.

My first reason is geographical. To love my neighbor, I must ask, “Where is my neighbor?”

If my neighbors spent three hours every single day by the river, I would have a river ministry. It just so happens that the river is TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube Shorts.

My second reason is theological. I worship a Jesus who preached in synagogues and in streets. His message could not be contained in a temple; it spilled over into towns, rivers, hills, and fields. His best work was outside – where the people were.

For those reasons, I began to experiment with short-form videos. I tried lots of things – posting clips of sermons, making original content, filming video responses to others, scheduling on different platforms, and much more. I was surprised by what worked and what didn’t.

I’m by no means an expert on TikTok. God knows I watched a bunch of videos from people who say they are. Like many of you, I’m just doing ministry and learning every day. But by taking this journey, I’ve grown as a leader and I’ve grown my community. On average, I reach 10x more people per post (TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube combined) than I do in person.

After making 100 TikToks as part of my ministry, here’s what I’ve learned

1. TikTok Never Ends. You Do.

Social media is an endless source of content, but I am a limited, beautiful child of God.

Content that never ends can mean creators that never stop. This type of content is never content.

When I started, the advice online said to create one to three TikToks a day! With a full-time job in marketing and a ministry role at my church, that was not going to happen. But when you start an account with zero followers, there’s this constant temptation to do more.

To do healthy ministry online, we must reject never-ending, never-stopping, never-enough content.

God has taught me that frequency determines fun. The ideal frequency is the point where something is both presently enjoyable and potentially expandable. It’s the place where you feel like you could do more, but you chose not to. Giving 100% sounds great, but it is actually exhausting and unsustainable. I’ve learned there is something beautiful about giving 70%.

In this season, making three TikToks a week is fun. Five was too many. Seven was a non-starter. Sustainable ministry is more important than super-sized growth.

2. TikTok is Always Available. You Aren’t.

Healthy ministry requires healthy boundaries. This is true whether you’re serving others in-person, online, at church, or on TikTok. These guardrails look different from person to person and even from season to season. While some may reject social media altogether, I think healthy boundaries can make social media a joy and a gift.

First, I protect my time. I want to be fully present in life. This includes my ministry but goes beyond it. I enjoy limiting social media to after 5 PM on weekdays. I turn off notifications so I don’t see likes or comments until a designated time. All of this enables me to engage with my life and work during the day while enjoying great content and community at night. Your life is different than mine, but designated times to be on and off are essential.

Second, I protect my process. I tried so many different ways to create videos – on my phone, on my laptop, in my car, in my house, the day before, a month out, and more. I’m currently making three TikToks a week – two are originals and one is a sermon clip. They are filmed on weekdays and scheduled by Sunday for the following week. I don’t make videos for the same day/week anymore. I have a spot in my house and a time on my calendar for making videos. I schedule my videos for 8 AM on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and I don’t see those videos myself until after 5 PM. I don’t post on weekends because those days are for me. Last year, I edited everything myself and now I have the support of a talented video editor. My process protects my life and my ministry.

3. TikTok is A Place of Discovery. Be Discoverable!

On TikTok, people are constantly discovering new content and creators. It’s a place where people who would never walk into your church or end up on your website can discover your message. Let’s make ourselves discoverable!

Making a 30-minute sermon is an art form – making a 60-second video is, too. Hashtags, subtitles, location, camera, lighting, and sound are all just ways to help people discover you.

I didn’t know sharing an idea from the front seat of a car was more engaging than hearing the same thing from a pulpit. I didn’t realize responding to another video, called a stitch, was more captivating than hearing the same thought in a sermon.

In His ministry, Jesus would say, “You have heard it said,” and then he would add, “But I tell you the truth.” Who knew Jesus was really good at TikTok stitches?

@jeancarlosnow #stitch @allyyost Homophobia isn't love. God loves all of me. <a title="gay" target="blank" href="">#gay #queer #lgbtq #faith #spirituality ♬ original sound - Jean Carlos