Pandemic jumpstarts new contemporary service, social media boom for Brookland UMC

By Jessica Brodie

WEST COLUMBIA—COVID-19 slowed down ministry efforts in many local churches across the nation. But at Brookland United Methodist Church, it served as a jumpstart for a brand-new alternative contemporary service.

Now, their efforts are becoming a conduit for Holy Spirit-inspired momentum and change, launching a church-wide social media transformation that has taken the ministries of the church to the community in a bold new way.

The Rev. Mark Payne said that before the pandemic, Brookland members had been toying with the idea of starting a casual evening service, but the idea never took off.

“Like a lot of things in church, it just kind of died,” Payne said. “People appeared to be interested, but not really, and there were a lot more questions than answers, so we said we will let this go for now and just kind of backburner-ed it.”

All that changed with the pandemic.

Joseph Yandle, a lifelong member of the church, began feeling a Holy Spirit nudge that soon became a call. Yandle had volunteered to lead the church’s nascent social media effort, though at the time he had little experience and didn’t even have a personal Facebook account—nor did his pastor.

“I really didn’t know anything about Facebook, and I didn’t like it because of all the drama, and our church never had social media,” Yandle said.

They bought a tripod and began learning the basics of recording so they could begin offering their Sunday morning traditional service online.

Then, in April, Yandle approached Payne, asking whether they could go ahead and start that contemporary service they’d been talking about. It would be in the evenings, on Sundays. They’d keep it casual, relaxed and try to offer a fresh take on what it means to be a follower of Christ.

Payne said yes, and the very next weekend, they decided to go for it.

“I think our very first service we had 157 watching,” Payne said—quite a lot for a small church.

“It was awesome,” Yandle said.

They had even more the next week, and it took off from there.

Payne and Yandle soon discovered their Sunday evening contemporary service was reaching a different demographic than those who watched their morning traditional service. A lot of the people who watched were shift workers, such as the women who work at the Hospice House with his wife and don’t have every Sunday morning off, or others who prefer to sleep late on Sundays or who don’t enjoy the formal format of traditional church.

“We call it ‘contemporary,’ but it’s really just alternative,’ Payne said. “It’s still God’s word—just a different means.”

Payne said he’s especially excited about the opportunity to reach people who may have been hurt by the church previously, or been disconnected by things going on in church.

“It gives them a platform to come into a relaxed environment, sit a few minutes and hear someone share their heart in a relaxed atmosphere and encourage dialogue,” Payne said.

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