Wi-Fi as Ministry | Part 2
Why use Wi-Fi as Outreach?
There are several reasons to consider using a local Wi-Fi hotspot as a ministry outreach:
- Commonality: Many people already own a mobile device that includes wireless networking capabilities. In the 2015 immigration crises facing Europe, the one object that people bring with them, regardless of difficulty or lack of space is their mobile device. This mobile device is their connection to the world, and they will not be parted from it. Even in detention centers, a mobile device is the constant companion of the immigrant.
- Availability: many parts of the world lack wireless connectivity. Although much great evangelistic and discipleship material is available online, people in remote areas of the world lack the connectivity to reach that content. Yet there are many smart devices around the world capable of receiving wireless content. In these places, a Wi-Fi hotspot provides the ability to share digital content (video, audio or electronic resources). Even in cultures with high Wi-Fi coverage, the use of Wi-Fi for outreach may be feasible to allow a ministry to distribute a select set of content to interested users.
- Distribution: in days past, if a speaker wanted to distribute lecture notes, s/he could have printed handouts for interested attendees. In the recent past, directing attendees to content on a website became an option (an option that continues to have some validity). In more recent days, speakers could make content available via a give-away CD, USB key or SD memory card. Now, with the advent of tablets that lack any input (CD drives, USB or SD card slots) other than wireless, the question arises: if a speaker wants to distribute materials, how can that be accomplished to devices that only receive content wirelessly? Using a Wi-Fi hotspot allows conference speakers/hosts to offer content to attendees wirelessly. The devices reviewed and tested here all possess the ability to distribute various types of media (PDF, video, ePub, etc.) to a number of devices simultaneously.
- Portability: many Wi-Fi devices are small enough to fit in the palm of one’s hand, or slip into a shirt pocket, or into the pockets of cargo pants. The physical size of these devices means that they are convenient to carry around, yet allow the user to have great freedom to distribute a wide range of content to people through a mobile device. As we will demonstrate, a user needs to choose a Wi-Fi platform based on the local considerations and needs that s/he has in his/her local context for Wi-Fi outreach.
- Security: many parts of the world prohibit or restrict religious or Christian websites. In such places, the use of a discreet Wi-Fi hotspot can provide opportunities for distribution of evangelistic or discipleship material. The Wi-Fi hotspot solutions that we suggest provide discretion and ease of use so that with the flip of a switch, the unit can be disabled and easily disguised/dismantled or discarded as the case may be.
If you missed it, be sure to check out Part 1 of the “Wi-Fi as Ministry” series
Cloud Services for Outreach
There may be ministry cases that would benefit from the use of a cloud service such as Google Drive (and other such services) to host content to share with a group. If a group will be meeting in the vicinity of a secure wireless internet connection, use of a cloud-based service such as Google Drive may be a preferred option. For this article, the assumption is that reliable, secure connections to cloud-based services are either not available or are not cost-effective. This article recommends both Wi-Fi devices and content sources that can be used in outreach. The intent of these devices is to reach people with content when either:
- There is no internet connection (or that connection is not fast enough) to host the intended content.
- There is not enough security available on an existing internet connection to risk hosting content.
In these cases, using one of the solutions given here will enable a ministry to have outreach using Wi-Fi.
Use Cases for Wi-Fi as Outreach
When and how can Wi-Fi be used as an outreach? To answer this question in your ministry context, ask if having content available for distribution via a Wi-Fi network would reach the intended audience better than other distribution possibilities. If a majority of your intended audience have mobile devices and prefer to receive content through that mobile device then there may be good rationale for considering a Wi-Fi hotspot solution. Here are several examples of using Wi-Fi for ministry. Each of these examples are drawn from real-world experience. In considering these examples, ask yourself if there are situations in your own ministry that could benefit from having a Wi-Fi hotspot to distribute content to the mobile devices of your audience.
- An evangelistic outreach: A church hosts an outreach event in local parks, choosing strategic and popular recreation areas around the church. To draw people, the church sets up a coffee stand and information kiosk, has food and snacks available, and enlists volunteers to interact and engage lost people. Because most of the people visiting the outreach kiosk have a smart device with them, the church also desires to have electronic resources available in the form of short, evangelistic video clips, recordings of the pastor’s sermons, and electronic tracts or resources for people who desire to know more about the Gospel. The church has a website housing these resources, but there is no publicly available Wi-Fi reaching this park, and the church desires for these resources to be available at every outreach around the church. How can the church make these resources available for outreach in multiple locations (even simultaneously)?
- A short-term ministry trip: A small group from a local church in the States will be traveling to countries in Africa to partake in a short-term missions trip. It is likely (yes, even in Africa) that the national peoples will have devices capable of playing audio and video, and will be eager to receive content that you recommend.
- A commuter: While traveling to and from work each day, a Christian commuter recognizes that he/she has a captive audience who are heavily involved on their mobile devices. The believer desires to take advantage of the opportunities the mobile devices offer to evangelize these commuters using video or electronic tracts.
- A weekly discipleship meeting: On occasion, the discipleship leader desires to distribute reading material for the disciples to read, reflect on and then engage in discussion. The leader is frustrated because the disciples don’t keep track of paper handouts. Then the leader notices that most of the disciples have a mobile device, and he wonders if it would be possible to distribute the material to this group through their mobile devices. If there is a church wireless network, it frequently is either not strong enough to handle the number of users, does not cover the meeting room, or is limited to use by church staff only.
- A pilgrimage: While on a pilgrimage trail, a believer desires to have electronic Gospel resources available to share with fellow hikers. The pilgrimage trail is popular with hikers, but traverses through remote territory lacking Wi-Fi access. However, the hiker knows that many hikers will bring a mobile device on their hike, using that device for many purposes including a GPS device, a camera, eBook reader and for other purposes. Knowing that these devices will be available, our hiker desires to be a witness using the mobile devices that will be encountered during the hike. How can the hiker make use of the mobile devices that will be available during the hike?
- Closed countries: Living in a country that is hostile to traditional evangelism techniques, a Christian has a deep desire to be faithful to present the Gospel to those around him. This believer has noticed that many people in the culture use mobile devices and eagerly log into available wireless networks. This Christian would ideally also like to have an anonymous chat feature that allows people with questions about Christianity and faith in Christ to post questions and receive immediate feedback. This Christian wonders how s/he might be able to distribute content using these mobile devices.
Each of these examples presents a possibility of using Wi-Fi hotspots to meet ministry needs, both to do evangelism and to promote discipleship. Each situation will dictate a unique use of Wi-Fi, but using Wi-Fi presents the opportunity to enhance the ministry effectiveness in each situation.
THE CONVERSATION CONTINUES
On Tuesday we will discuss the many types of media content to share as you use Wi-Fi in your outreach.
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 View the infographic prepared by Renew Outreach on the issue of access to smart devices: http://www.renewoutreach.com/lightstream-infographic/.
 The smallest possible distribution device is currently the micro SD card. Even compared to a AirStash, which will be examined later, the micro SD card is currently the most portable media delivery device. Yet it has limited capabilities, being unusable for a person owning an iDevice (iPod, iPad or iPhone) and lacking the ability to be used by more than one person at a time. Additionally, to change the content stored on the card requires a larger device.
 Resources made available are either owned by the ministry or constitute "fair use." In other words, the ministry outreach uses materials only in compliance with acceptable usage of copyright.
 For this type of ministry, make sure that your content is available in a language understood by the people in that location. Several sources of language-specific outreach resources will be suggested throughout this article.