Feb. 12, 2021

Keeping it in the family, an interview with Craig Embry

Keeping it in the family, an interview with Craig Embry

This week we talk to my cousin, Craig Embry. Craig is someone who knows how to get things done and he has helped his congregation in the Sarasota area use the tools of digital discipleship to cope with Coronavirus and spread Christianity. I'm impressed with Craig, and I think you will be, too. You can see what they're trying at South Trail church of Christ.

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Transcript
Kenny Embry:

In this episode of balancing the Christian life, we talked to my cousin Craig Embry about how his congregation uses the tools of digital discipleship. Welcome to balancing the Christian life. We'll talk about how to be better Christians and people in the digital age. Let's go. Welcome to the program. So how has your congregation been using the internet during Coronavirus? Your church may or may not be doing a lot of things differently. One of the passions behind starting my podcast was to look at this idea of digital discipleship. I've said in the past, many people are nervous about using the internet to help spread Christianity. And I've said early on, I think these are tools which can be used well in the cause of Christ. My cousin Craig Embry is someone who knows this firsthand. He worked with a church in the Sarasota area, which has recently adopted these tools in a big way. I have known Craig his entire life. He is kind and gets things done. When I hear the rural Kentucky drawl in his voice, it reminds me of home. Another word I think of immediately is impressive. Craig has helped his church go from very little use of digital tools to some truly innovative ideas, and both what to use and how to measure what's working. I know few churches that are using these tools as effectively. Craig, welcome to the program, man.

Craig Embry:

Thank you, Kenny, appreciate you having me on today.

Kenny Embry:

You work with a congregation? What do you do there. And what's happened within the last 10 months, Craig?

Craig Embry:

You know, a few years ago, the congregation where I'm at here in Sarasota, their congregation that in season or run about 275 members. They've had some issues in the past with youth ministry, and they kind of wanted to get away from that. CONGREGATION had been fractured because of that. And they had actually had several interviews, but we had worship here before when we lived in Inglewood, Florida, we'd relocated back to Kentucky. And they were just looking and I was not looking. But an elder called and said, We need your personality down here. I said, I don't have any skills. And my grammar is not good. And they said yeah, but your people skills. I am focusing on young families and fathers are focusing to try to make fathers stronger and to make our families stronger, are certainly trying to outreach to the community and just improve that within our own congregation.

Kenny Embry:

Take me back 10 months. I don't know if this happened at your congregation. My congregation started noticing something called COVID. And we started having a lot of things that we had to deal with suddenly, why did that happen at your congregation as well?

Craig Embry:

Oh, Kenny, listen, number one, at some point in time, I hope to never have to hear that C word ever again. You know, COVID has fractured our country. And so the church is certainly not exempt from what COVID and politics have done to the rest of the country 10 months ago COVID shut us down. In my mind. The young families are gone for now, what do I do? I begin to pivot. Luckily, there is kind of a gap, which we have now turned digital discipleship. So I've kind of worked my way into that gap and actually trying to work my way out of it in a sense by hiring someone just for that you say

Kenny Embry:

that y'all have gone to digital discipleship. What are some of the things that you guys are doing?

Craig Embry:

Kenny well, course early on late March. Like most everybody, we shut down. We were facing something that we've never heard of never thought of never considered. And it was beyond us to shut down. It was such an odd feeling. We already had the capabilities to livestream and we were live streaming or morning services on YouTube. But it wasn't good quality. It's there was no thought process and it was there. And we sometimes average four to eight viewers. And six day time period. Yeah, our numbers just weren't there either. The minister I work with who's been here 22 years, Terry Chapman. He said to me, Craig, we need to put something out there. I said, Yeah, I agree with you. We began to record our services with an iPad. He and I had just done the entire process and just send it out there. There was no editing. We just recorded it and uploaded it and it if you go back and look at it. It wasn't pretty but our numbers Our numbers began to be around 300 views. Oh, wow, he and I both talked and he said, we've got something here. I said, Well, yes, we do. So we began to put out daily devotionals. And oh, man, they were rough. They were used the same iPad. You know, there's backgrounds where you can see traffic, sometimes you couldn't hardly hear what we were saying. So the content was great, but the quality was, was very poor. Is that important, though? Do you think it's important to have good quality? In the beginning, I don't think quality necessarily mattered because we were all experiencing something we had never experienced. So just to have something to continue to keep that close, family atmosphere, even digitally, or something everyone in the congregation needed that we were not aware of. But as time went on, numbers, again, don't lie. When we begin to have numbers back in the building, our numbers were still quite high, with devotionals, and online content. So that's when we began to make another shift.

Kenny Embry:

What was that shift?

Craig Embry:

That shift was this young father that works here, and we happen to be pretty good friends. Now. He's, he loves podcast. He now listens to your podcast, his name is Justin. And he said to me one day, Craig, you know, the numbers that you're doing is good. And the effort you're putting forth is great. And no, it takes effort. And there's things that we can improve on. And in fact, we are improving each time we record He's like, but if you were to create some kind of production schedule, he said, on the podcast that I love, if I know there's a new one coming out every other Thursday, I'm waiting for it. I'm waiting for that content. Yeah. And you should do that. That is the first thing we did is we created a production schedule for a five day workweek. And that's what we stuck with the numbers tripled, in fact, within that month, so he was right.

Kenny Embry:

What kind of feedback Are you getting? And what do you guys call success?

Craig Embry:

Everybody in this congregation as well as other congregations has their own thought of success. I'm a person of immediate gratification. I've learned some things here that this process doesn't always Garner immediate gratification. But I tell you what we have done here at this congregation, we've have made better quality. we've converted one of our classrooms that hadn't been used, we converted into a studio. We're shooting on a green screen. I've purchased better video equipment, learn to edit. We've stuck to a schedule. And that has really worked well. We've taken suggestions from our congregation. Some of them are unsolicited. Nonetheless, for viewership, it's great. Some of our devotionals we were getting back down into the 60s maintaining in the mid to high 60s on our viewership. But we have some in the three hundreds now and why that may not seem like a lot of use for congregation that average that at their peak in attendance. Hmm, well, that's pretty good. Yeah, we're doing something and people all over the country are watching it when it's content they want to see. And now we're having other congregations around us. How are you doing that? What can we do so others that have never live streamed are realizing the importance of that and are trying to learn that process.

Kenny Embry:

So it sounds like you all are doing a lot of live streaming. And I'm guessing that you're probably doing that on YouTube. And maybe Facebook, is that correct?

Craig Embry:

Well, we are live streaming and all of our devotionals are recorded. You know, Kenny, our viewership? I actually looked at numbers earlier this week. In a six day period, we're averaging about 260 views. And we're averaging about 150 in attendance. So, you know, I realize some of those may be multiple views, or there may be multiple people in the room viewing. But if you look at the numbers, it's worth the effort.

Kenny Embry:

It sounds like y'all are having some success, just based on numbers. What kind of feedback have you gotten? You said, You've gotten some feedback, what kind of feedback have you gotten from your members?

Craig Embry:

The first thing I faced and other churches will face maybe even from their leadership, one of your podcast, covered some of this and I sent it directly to our leadership is if we livestream our services that may keep people from coming to the building. Well, a couple of things is we've never faced a pandemic. Everyone feels a certain way about it. certain risk. It's hard for us to make that COMM I was told one time back in the 70s, when radio was already very popular with churches, some churches decided they were going to put out Bible study and worship type services over the radio, there was a tremendous pushback. The pushback was, well, that will keep people from coming into our church building. And you know, in fact, maybe there was a low percentage, but that percentage already was looking for a way out. What it ended up doing was introducing people to the gospel. Yeah, not only did local radio stations begin to transmit Bible messages, ham radio setups were established and push to all over the world. And of course, now the Internet has done that, and churches have found themselves not embracing that.

Kenny Embry:

I think one of the things that's happened is we keep on thinking that people are coming for the content. But really, what happens is people are coming for the relationships. Oh, absolutely. And those relationships are not easily fostered in an online environment. I think one of the things that's the most important for any congregation to do, is to show how much they care for their members and an easy way to show that you care. Give them things that they can consume, that helps make them stronger.

Craig Embry:

You're right, Kenny, our grandmother consumed the Bible by picking that book up and reading it, and maybe picking up some tracks along the way. But you know, our youth and our young people and, you know, savvy adults, they're consuming the Bible differently by looking at their computer screens or pulling up YouTube on their TV. And we've got to embrace that consumption, any way that we can get people to consume the Bible, and maintain that relationship with each other. Yeah, I have to embrace it.

Kenny Embry:

It's easy for us to recreate a sermon online. But what we can't do, we can't easily recreate that conversation in the parking lot. And it's really those conversations that we have after services that make us community, do you look forward to a time when people can come back into the building?

Craig Embry:

Kenny, some people really, really look forward to that. And especially when we opened the back up, you know, there were tears shed. And some of the tears that were shed is because we didn't know whether to hug or to shake or fist bump or to stay 20 feet away. We didn't know what was comfortable for each other. Yeah. And we're learning that. Certainly the online content in no way form or fashion replaces that. As I began to work on this, I noticed even our art, say for example, our Facebook, nobody here had ever touched our Facebook or taken ownership of it. Yeah. And I realized, boy, somebody could take that over. Yeah. So I made sure to do that. I cleaned it up, I pushed our live stream after that every time we have a live stream, I updated our hours, put good pictures on there. We done that with all of our social media, I cleaned up our YouTube. And we're also developing a website that will be live here soon. I think the church is afraid of this word marketing. The scripture told us to adorn the doctrine. Yeah, I want to use the word marketing. Not only should we market our local congregation, we marketing the gospel. And we're doing that with online content, our social media, YouTube, and even our websites, all of that is designed to not only teach the gospel, but to funnel people to our building. Yeah, you know, we want them in our building, we want them to be part of our family and then part of a larger family.

Kenny Embry:

Marketing is not a bad word. We don't usually think in those terms. And I think it's prime time for us to start thinking about how can we better serve our audiences?

Craig Embry:

Oh, absolutely.

Kenny Embry:

You mentioned that you're using Facebook, that you are working on a website, and that you're using YouTube? What are the platforms that you guys are using? And what do you kind of consider the most important platforms YouTube?

Craig Embry:

Personally, for me, it works so well. I mean, you can view it on any device, virtually any smart TV. I know there are many congregations that are using Facebook Live. And I'm not discouraging that. I am encouraging any platform you can use use it. But YouTube is much more versatile and what you can can do with it and it's worked well for us. It's easy to teach, it's easy to use. It's just easy to push that content out there or pull it back if you need to do something with it.

Kenny Embry:

What do you think the importance of the website is .

Craig Embry:

Kenny. Well, I had a young family, they said, Craig, you can get stuff done. And I thought, where are they headed with this? They said, our website looks like it was something from the 70s. And I said the internet really wasn't big enough. They said, Well, you know what we mean, it was not good. So it's taken a couple years to make an investment in that. And nowadays, when people travel, when I was growing up, my parents had, would borrow a book from the church library. Yeah, look up what churches, we're going to attend and plan on that when we vacation. Nowadays, people Google it. And then they'll click and go to their website. You and I both are here in Florida, which many people love to move to. And vacation, especially in these areas, the website is so important to show people what you're doing. And as you mentioned, the target audience, your website should have a target audience. Our website hadn't been updated in many, many years. It was so important we have, I think it was 2.4 million people, they come here to vacation so much year. So if we just had half a percent of those, click on our website, we've certainly had success. One of the things that I think is really important with the website, it's the property that you own, Facebook, YouTube, Google, they're all basically dictated by an algorithm. You're right. But you have complete control on what goes on your website. You're right. And I had somebody tell me, and I think he's exactly right, which is really the front step of your church building is the website. For many people, it's their first introduction to you, to your congregation, to your building, to what your message is, unfortunately, many churches are not seeing that, or they may not even have a website, they're afraid of it. We decided to use a local company, we want to make sure we can change this easily. If we can't do it, they can do it with just a simple email. And that was the fear before nobody wanted to touch it. They were scared. Listen, it's a marketing tool.

Kenny Embry:

You kind of made a reference to this, that these things aren't free. Do you mind talking about any of the numbers for these things?

Craig Embry:

Absolutely. You have to be realistic. Our elders are open minded, they sometimes are a little bit behind the curve. But with a pandemic. Now, they've even said to me, let's always stay ahead of the curve. For now. Everybody's going to be different for us, Kenny, we budget about $10,000 a year for audio visual, for website content. And now for this digital discipleship. And that's more usually more than enough. But now we have made a major investment here locally and our audio visual this year. And equipment, we're pushing the 25 to $30,000 range this year, no less than churches do not have to spend that much right. To get into this. I mean, realistically, you can take four or $500 and start as it progresses. Just plan on investing more. For some reason, we've gotten comfortable with sending money all over the world to teach the gospel, but we're scared to death to spend it locally. And many times people say well, we don't get any response. Well, you know, you've got to keep trying, you've got to try other things. You've got to try other avenues to make that work. Because there are souls right at your front door that you've got to reach somehow. And I think due to the pandemic, door knocking might be no longer an option. People are looking at online content. If they're searching for the gospel.

Kenny Embry:

They're online. How have you decided to redesign the website? What is it going to look like? What are you going to feature?

Craig Embry:

I tell you what this local company, I mean, they were right on it. We built a storyboard right up front, we branded our church and you know, some people is going to hear that and think you did what? Yeah, your brand. You in your community. People know your congregation for something. Yes. And hopefully, it's some positive things. But for here, we're, we actually wanted to move back to Sarasota because it was such a family atmosphere in this congregation. So that is how our website is geared towards the close knit family feeling that We have in this congregation. So every congregation will have to sit down and build their brand, and develop their website to show people who you are and what to expect.

Kenny Embry:

One of the things I think is really important is featured the people that you can, it's, it's nice to show the building and they need to read, they need to recognize the building so that they know that they're in the right place. But as much as you can show the people that go there, you're right,

Craig Embry:

we were having an online meeting with this company, not not too long ago, and we were at the end of the developing stages. And, and I love cameras. And we have several members that love cameras. So we had tons of pictures. Uh huh. And as we're looking at it, as we're looking at the content, the developer, I could tell he had something on his mind. And I said, Hey, what's up? He said, Listen, you know, you've made an investment here. We're trying to do something for you, you got an endpoint here? Why don't you spend a few $100 in hire a professional. So Kenny, when churches are doing these things, get a professional, you know, and the church is full of volunteers, I have volunteered basically, for the last 10 months giving up content. But as I have mentioned, we're trying to create a position for somebody that knows what they're doing, do it better attract people to the gospel? professional photographer might seem crazy. But if you're doing it, try to do it right. You and I both know a lot of people volunteer for different things at a church building, maybe to paint or to build or, and and usually it gets done. But it's not always right. So it never hurts to consult a professional.

Kenny Embry:

The beauty of many congregations is they have professionals as members, and if they're willing to volunteer that time. That makes sense. Absolutely. I've often said in my classes, if it takes you more than a day to do, you're probably the wrong person for the job, right? A professional knows how to do things. Well, they know how to do things quickly. You're right, I am happy to pay somebody. So for example, like my podcast, I didn't design the logo. I didn't do the music. I happily pay people who are smarter than I am and more talented than I am to do that for me.

Craig Embry:

Right. Well, even when you have volunteers at church, even when it comes to some of these things. There's been suggestions, you know, it takes a lot of time and effort, yeah, takes time to do these things. Even if it's just as simple as managing the website. That's wonderful. Sometimes we must consider people's time, they might not tell you. But as church leaders and servants, we have to take that into consideration. And maybe sometimes we have the budget offer to pay for their time.

Kenny Embry:

Well, and I think that you're harping on something else, which is, there's often this person who has a vested interest in getting something started, and they have a passion for it. And then they're going out of town, or they're tired. And they they just are dealing with a lot of criticism, or they're just get excited to the beginning and burn out about halfway through.

Craig Embry:

Right, right. And, you know, this is something you know, my mother, when I when I would get involved in things growing up, she'd say, if you start this, you're going to finish it. And we don't want church ministries to be that way. And we have plenty of manpower and volunteers here. Yeah. But at some point, you have to realize, you know, we need to have a professional do this, or we need to, we need for this member to have a vested interest in this. And maybe we need to pay them. I mean, there's just lots of depending on the situation. A congregation can spend a lot of time and effort on this.

Kenny Embry:

Yeah. You know, one of the main reasons why I hired somebody else to do my music was I wanted the ability to say, No, I don't like this. Right. And so I think that's that's valuable. You can't really tell it's hard to say that's exactly right. Right. Right. A volunteer feels it feels like they have a vested interest in versus somebody who's doing this professionally. And they don't take it personally.

Craig Embry:

Oh, Kenny. Absolutely. And this is why we've had the same website for 12 years. Yeah, with the content the same for 12 years, right. We did not want to hurt somebody's feelings.

Kenny Embry:

Yeah. And you know, I get that. You don't want to hurt anybody's feelings.

Craig Embry:

Whether we want to say this or not. Churches are like family, and sometimes we're more sensitive. When family says something. Yes. There's a lot of risk in that, especially in this digital discipleship model. I can tell you right now, when we have audio visual hiccup, those fellows that are working that, boy, they're the first to hear about it. They don't hear about it once they hear about it 15 times before they've had a chance to do anything. So and you know, and sometimes they're feeling they are feelings get hurt, yeah, hurt setting. They're working with that stuff away from their family. Yeah. And there's sensitivity there. And church, and its leadership needs to always try to be in tune with that.

Kenny Embry:

I talked to somebody the other day. And he said, the other thing is, it's usually the same people that are appearing on the screen all the time, or they're the ones that are behind the microphone. And those people are the ones who usually get the positive feedback. That's right. And you really need to start passing along the positive feedback to the people who are actually making this work.

Craig Embry:

Oh, boy, the positive feedback here is been overwhelming, I think, had it not been for the pandemic, maybe not so much. But people understands what what we've gone through to push this out. And you're right, that usually the person delivering the message is always getting the pat on the back. Yeah. You know, there's always a lot of people working in the background. And the same goes with any church. Any church, no matter what size size congregation, yeah, there's a lot of wheels turning in the background, and not all of them. Always get taken care of. And as a member of the congregation, he was always asking me, what what can I do to help? Yeah, well, you know what, this go around? I think so. And so for this, and, and you're right. I mean, it's just just one of those things, Kenny, rather, it's our live stream, or devotionals, or whatever we're offering, you have to follow the numbers. Every week, I would look at YouTube and see what content was good. What wasn't? Well, you know, we were doing five days a week in devotionals. And I sit down and realize, for us, Tuesdays and Thursdays was by far, our peak days far out numbered. No matter what I put on Tuesday, Tuesdays and Thursdays, our viewership was up. So we began to focus a little more on Tuesdays and Thursdays. And we pivoted away from the other days, eventually. There's something you have to pay attention to. You know, the next thing you said earlier was people are looking, say at your website for what to expect? Well, Terry, the Minister here said, Hey, Terry, you know, there's a great book out called What to Expect When You're Expecting pregnant mothers. Yes, it's very popular. Yes. He's like, Oh, I know what you're talking about. I said, Every new parent has a copy of that. It seems like I said, Why don't we produce something for church? It's a people that's never been to church, or anything. I can understand how intimidating that is. Yes. I can only imagine walking into a church building, not knowing the building, not knowing the people not knowing what to expect, when I wouldn't go. Yeah. So that was one of the things we did we broke down the service, you know, basically into you know, what to expect when you walk in the door, why we sing the way we saying why we do the Lord separate, it's just was very basic. And that we're using that on our website, we use that on our Facebook information. It's on our YouTube, it's with all of our content, so that people can take a look. See who we are. Yeah, this is what you're gonna see when you come in. We take that for granted. Yeah, it's intimidating. Now, we have had success, Kenny, we've had one young man. And here's who you're trying to reach. If you don't know who your audience is. It's this guy. During the pandemic, he had some time on his hands. Very smart kid. He's headed to medical school. Yeah. He was kind of searching for the gospel, the way he was raised was not very Biblical, based and he was searching for the truth. And upon his search, he began to discover what the church was, what it look like, and just through a simple Facebook search, found us He attended. He had about for Bible studies, he was baptized and his whole family is tagged along with him the last couple months, so it does and it can work. Never give up. Never give up.

Kenny Embry:

You guys are reading feedback. And I think one of the things that has been difficult for churches for a long time, is that how do you gauge what a good message is? And I think you're really smart about this. What are people watching?

Craig Embry:

And the beauty of that is start looking at the videos that have zero views. What we sometimes don't do at church is we don't ask for feedback, right? And what you're doing when you're putting out your message on social media, or you're asking for feedback, yeah, we've asked our members specifically, give us some feedback. And then we have to define our audience. Well, some videos are for this age group. And they liked the message delivered a certain way in a certain time length. And so this meant this group. One of the things somebody said to me is, I began to have devotionals and sit down and interview people. We we had conversations with Craig about different topics. Yeah. Well, we done mostly families. And I had one lady here from church sit down and talk to me early on in the pandemic, and that viewership was through the roof. And I sat down and thought what has happened here? What the group we missed out on was the ladies. So immediately in the production schedule, we done on Tuesdays for in this particular instance, we did a ladies Bible study, several different ladies came in and recorded a Bible study with me, and the viewership was through the roof. Yeah. And I had missed out on that audience. And then our Listen, our kids are cute. My kids, your kid, every kid is staring at a screen. And if you think they're going to watch a 30 minute devotional, an eight minute devotional, you've got to kind of question that, and I get it, I was that age wants to our children are consuming different things today in spurts of 30 6090 seconds. Yeah. So you have to reach that particular audience. And that particular time length and not only that, we are starting to use what youth will work with us here and film different things with them, let them edit. They know this. One of my sons taught me early on. I'm like, son, I just can't figure out how to do this thumbnail stuff on here and eat a few clicks. And dad, that's all it is. And I'm like, What? Well, that was easy. So if I don't have a good thumbnail, he notices. You know what? I don't care. I'm glad he's looking at it. I'm glad he's clicking on it. If I wouldn't have asked him, he wouldn't have bothered.

Kenny Embry:

Yeah, your exact so

Craig Embry:

we have to engage our youth. And if you're struggling with youth, and young people at your church, well put them to work in digital discipleship. They know how to do that.

Kenny Embry:

They are digital natives. I think one of the other things. I'm a college professor, one of the things that we have thought for a long time, the attention span of your audience has gone way down. Except you look at the Joe Rogan Experience. That is a three hour podcast. Right? It is the most listened to podcast in the world.

Craig Embry:

I know it. I know.

Kenny Embry:

Look, it's not that our attention span has gotten any shorter. It depends on what you're talking about. That's the beauty of these tools, was that you can start getting feedback. And not only are they listening, when are they tuning out?

Craig Embry:

there? Oh, that's right. That's right. If churches are using YouTube, that is certainly a tool that you'll see is you know what, we were losing a lot of people at three minutes and 18 seconds. And we were having 1215 minute devotionals. And so we sat down and I said, you know, we're getting three minutes. 18 seconds. We need to do something. Yeah. So wait, we cut it back to five minutes or less. And our views begin to double. And so you have to understand your audience and understand what they're willing to accept and how how long they are willing to stick around. Yeah, I mean, it's, it's simple. If you're not paying attention to that, you're going to lose them. You're just gonna, the the digital discipleship audience can be fickle.

Kenny Embry:

If you don't know if it's gonna work or not try it anyway. Yeah. And if it didn't cost you any more to try it, and your audience will absolutely tell you, is this gonna work or not?

Craig Embry:

That's right, Kenny. Here's one more great thing about digital discipleship. Unlike back in the day, when we were pushing the message out through radio, or maybe through Bible tracks, and our front for years, yeah. A lot of people though Bible tracks disappeared, they would end up in their trash, they would, you know, or maybe you'd want to go back and reference something. Yeah. And you couldn't find it. When you push online content out there as long as you are organized. And there's a centralized For your content is always there. Yeah, always there. I mean, I can tell people today Hey, you know, I'm gonna send you a link to this this video, you're, you're gonna love it. Oh, you're thinking about visiting, but let me send you a link and kind of give you an ideal and right. It's always there. It's always there, for better or for worse. Yeah.

Kenny Embry:

Well, and again, I think one of the things that's nice about a website is, and now you can organize it exactly the way you want to present it. That's right. So I mean, I think that that is so smart. I feel certain this takes a small army to get something off the ground there about how many people are involved in what you're doing, Kenny boy,

Craig Embry:

I have personally in the last 10 months witnessed many congregations trying to do this in all different forms fashion, different styles of equipment, different formats. In my thing is, like you said, Great, just do it. Back home, I noticed they're doing. They're doing a lot of Facebook, because they're using your phone as the equipment they have in your hand. Yeah, that's, that's the only way they have their internet, they do not have internet at the church building so that YouTube is not necessarily an option for them unless they record it and upload it. But it's working. And they have one or two other youth and middle aged men that are doing that. And they're loving it. It's working for them. Right. And they're not necessarily worried about their numbers. But those that can't make it, or should they get shut down? They've already established that. Yeah, for us. It can be quite an army, sometimes, depending on your content. Your people don't want to see the same face every time. Right. And I take the hardest part was to get people to come and record a message. Some of our elders immediately seen. Wow, this is a powerful tool. Yeah. So they're a little more willing to come spread the message. The ladies Oh, you had one or two that enjoyed it. But they're, they're difficult. They want to see what you're going to put on the internet before you put it. Yeah, that's fine. You have to understand, you know, they're a little more particular about it, maybe than we are, and they know what the ladies want to see and hear. And that's great. We have people dedicated in this building to our audio visual needs. We have slideshow, presentations with announcements, different things. It does take manpower to do these things. Now you can have one person, but hopefully, it just grows and grows. And don't be afraid. Don't be afraid. There's just make a phone call make a phone call. Yeah, we had a local congregation that they were trying to upload content and they couldn't hear. And we had a preachers meeting last week. And I showed some of the things they were using. So they spent $60 got a wireless lapel system. And now their contents great. They can hear it. And that's right now what they need, and it's working for their shotgun. Right. And they hate that they've waited this long to invest so little. Yeah,

Kenny Embry:

I understand. Let me ask you again, though, about how many people are working on what you guys are doing.

Craig Embry:

I'd say a total of four of us are pushing pretty hard. Okay.

Kenny Embry:

That's a lot of work there. My friend.

Craig Embry:

alias it is and it's a it all somehow goes through my desk. And it is a lot of responsibility. And, and I've made mistakes along the way Kenny Korean as as many of us will. But you learn and you pivot and you change. And as I mentioned earlier, we're in a good spot here in this congregation. The elders realized it's worth the investment. Yeah. And it's worth having somebody that can take it to the next level. I'm I'm as far as Craig Embry can get where I'm going to be without any more education. And I was hired to do a particular job. And we're transitioning back to that. So we're trying to hand this off to somebody that can market this and can produce this and push this on to what it should and can be. Yeah.

Kenny Embry:

Now I understand. I understand. That's a lot of responsibility. COVID is done. We're all Well, again, nobody's having to worry about the virus. What is your church still doing with these tools?

Craig Embry:

Well, if you want my hopes and wishes, I'm hoping we can get more and more professional with it. And you know, we had a funeral service here last week and a family member come up to me and they were from Michigan. She said, you know, my entire family has viewed your content the last several months there in COVID. So I'm hoping when COVID is gone, we have more members that want to be involved in this, especially our youth. And target those audiences more specifically. You know, the youth, my kids for some reason, they'll get on and they'll watch other kids play games. Yeah. And one thing my sons and I did early on was, I would sit down and play games with my kids ps4 games in their case, son, Ethan loves basketball. So we'd play a game of basketball. And I'd film that. And Mike is up. And we would talk about, in this case, we talked about baptism. Yeah. So as we play the game, and boy, it was hard, we had to do several takes, yeah. But you know, he could not wait to share that content with everybody from church, all of his classmates. So I'm hoping when the pandemic is over, we'll engage more people, they'll be willing to share that more readily with everybody else, and it will grow. It will just grow. And I'm hoping our more churches, it'll be like a different infection, they will catch on. And the gospel will just spread. People need it right now. Yeah, more than ever. And in my generation,

Kenny Embry:

yeah. Are you doing anything with email?

Craig Embry:

Kenny, we're just actually working on that I tell you, we had internet service here in this building, we got to have a pretty good sized building, it's older, but early on upgraded our internet speed put in access points. So now with our website being developed, we have a device that we will share our internet with anybody that's within the vicinity of the building, or it comes in the building, if you just give us your email, you'll have access to that, like a lot of restaurants do. Yeah. And we will direct market to those emails, whether you're a member or a visitor, or somebody working on work in the parking lot. We just want your email, you know, and and if we can get just reach one person, yeah, one person. Yeah. It was worth anything we invested in that. And Kenny, not my dad. Yeah. And literal Kentucky, made a suggestion. And we're, we're considering this as well. We do the mass calling here we have a software that will call people if we have an announcement, and but we're starting to consider using texting. So we'll have that method and texting. But people, members, visitors or people that visit our website will also be able to text our number, you don't have to change your number, right? They'll be able to text our number for information or if they have Bible questions. They can text that number, and it will go to me or the other minister, and we'll be able to reach back out to them. So a lot of people are texting today. And it's so these digital tools are so useful. And one thing I didn't mention Kenny, right before the pandemic hit, a member came to me and said, you know, it'd be nice if we could do some kind of digital offering here. And I said, Yeah, I'm not for sure that apply. That's a pretty big change. Well, I did present that and an elders meeting, as they, you know, asked me if I had any thoughts or comments, and they were not totally against it. It just wasn't something that was going to be done right then. Yeah. But I presented it, I worked up everything and handed out sheets, whatever. Do you know our generation? Many of us, my wife never has cash never had to check. We had price plan ahead. And I tell you what, within three weeks we were closed for the pandemic. And guess what happened? On day two? We had digital offering. Yeah. So our offering is up about 15% or so this last year, even with a pandemic. And many people use that. And it has been a very good tool. And I personally recommend congregations to look into that, especially if you're trying to attract younger members. They love that. They love that instead of writing a check. They can just use the app and it's it's so handy.

Kenny Embry:

Craig, what did I miss?

Craig Embry:

A lot of congregations are struggling. Some may not survive the pandemic. For us. We're so very fortunate, but we are still down. You know, Wednesday nights were down almost 50% on on Sunday mornings were down about 20 to 25%. A lot of our young family and our youth are still having fears or hesitations for one reason or another or if They were weak. We've basically lost some of them. Yeah. When we think about on the other side of this pandemic, not just our digital discipleship, but as a congregation, listen, it's okay to admit we're fractured, even those that attend here regularly. We don't always agree. We are not requiring masking or services. But however, we originally we set up social distancing and separate areas for those that wanted to separate and, and we had a room wired for those that wanted to wear a mask and be on a separate heating and cooling system we provided for all the different types of groups or thoughts or feelings. That Listen, there's there's not agreement on that. And it's difficult times we have to be considerate of every member, and their thoughts and feelings on things in the church. Even though we may be a close family, I don't always agree with my family. And sometimes we've been upset with each other. Yeah, right now the church is not exempt from that. Right now is a tough time for our nation, and the Lord's church. And we must do everything we can to fix that. And love our brother in the best that we can.

Kenny Embry:

I could not have said that better myself. I and all my podcasts be good and do good. What's good,

Craig Embry:

Kenny, I love everything mechanical. I love cars, and motorcycles and planes. And if it has an engine or anything, I love it. And I have purchased or looked at cars that say was 15 2030 years old. And they weren't in perfect condition. You know what many times I would say as I thought about this, I said, Man, that is really good. It was a best it could be somebody one time said to me, Craig, you ought to write a book. I'm not like some of your other guests. My grammar and spelling. Nobody read it. But they said, Well, why would you write about Craig, if you wrote a book? And my answer was pretty simple. I said, you know, it wouldn't be about Craig have met some very good people along the way and good family, good friends. They're not without their flaws. But they're good. And you know, some people don't want to hear what you have to say about the Bible. But just by seeing that you are good and doing the best you can with what you have to work with. Maybe they too will be good. Yeah. And be the best they can.

Kenny Embry:

Yeah. Alrighty, Craig, if somebody wanted to get in, get in touch with you. How would they do that?

Craig Embry:

Kenny? It's going to be Craig at STC OC at Comcast. dotnet. Or you can find me on Facebook under Craig Embry are certainly here. Soon you'll be able to look up South trail Church of Christ.

Kenny Embry:

Alright, Greg, thanks so much for doing this man.

Craig Embry:

Kenny, I appreciate it. And I appreciate you thanking me But honestly, you know, in some ways, here's why digital discipleship is important. In some ways. Your podcast has changed my life, and it could change somebody else's. So there's no reason to stop. There's only reason to keep at it.

Kenny Embry:

Craig is impressive. He's not afraid to try new things. Abandon ideas that don't work, learn from mistakes, and try something else. Craig, I'm grateful for your courage. You can put as your cousin, I'm not a bit surprised. You do good work. I want to once again thank people who are supporting the podcast, including Kevin Hanson, George Sanchez, my mother and Barbara McElwain thing. It means a lot. Also, if you've learned something you think is worthwhile. Please do me a favor and share the show with people you think will profit from it. I'd truly appreciate. Next week, I'll be talking to one of my old students, Ryan Cummings, who just started his own podcast. Ryan is a good guy, and I'm so proud of what he's doing. I can't wait for you to meet him. So until next week, let's be good and do it.