‘We want to provide community’: Southern students take their ministries online

Theology majors' videos (Bryan Arvelo) (1)

As social media and online platforms continue to gain traction in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, some people have started to use their social media platforms as a way to share their faith. 

Students at Southern are no different, with many of them taking to platforms such as Instagram to share motivational thoughts or sermons and even host Bible studies. 

One example of this is senior theology major Bryan Arvelo who regularly shares his sermons on YouTube and invites his Instagram followers to watch them. Since he was nine-years-old, Arvelo has had a strong passion for content creation and media, which he combines with his passion for ministry. 

“I’ve always had a desire to create content. [I] changed my major [from film], but the desire was still there,” said Arvelo. “Social media allows me to distribute my message to everyone.” 

Arvelo, whose primary social media platform is YouTube, says he gets most of his content by reposting sermons he already preached. People usually contact him to preach at different churches and services using various mediums such as Instagram Live or video livestreams. He then uses the recordings to share them on his personal social media account. 

“I had a spiritual awakening,” Arvelo said. “And I couldn’t help but share with other people. 

Arvelo’s online ministry took off during quarantine after he posted a video montage of himself reacting to an Elevation Worship video. 

Since gaining viewers, followers and preaching requests, Arvelo is more intentional about his social media usage. Arvelo encourages everyone with a passion for ministry to utilize social media to spread the gospel. 

“The goal is not to become a local celebrity,” Arvelo said. “This is an opportunity to witness to more people.” 

Because his passion overlaps with his professional aspirations, Arvelo has found different ways to balance his life in order to avoid burnout. 

“I don’t say yes to everything even if I have time to do it,” said Arvelo. “And I make sure that my spiritual tank is filled every day.” 

Another example of someone doing ministry online is recent Southern graduate Connor Yonkers. 

Yonkers graduated from Southern in 2020 with a B.A. in theology and currently works as the youth pastor for Markham Woods SDA Church in Orlando, Florida.

Unlike Arvelo, Yonkers started his ministry during quarantine when his church first shut down. Because Sabbath programs were pre-recorded on Thursdays, Yonkers decided to start a virtual Bible study on Friday nights. 

Yonkers began hosting the Bible study via Zoom along with two of his friends, Nic Morrison and Zach Owen, who both work at AdventHealth.

“I genuinely enjoy doing ministry aside from [my] desire to share the gospel with people my age that’ve had a poor representation of God,” Yonkers said. “This just seemed like the right opportunity to share the true revelation of the love of God.” 

Yonkers, who is currently co-leading a group studying Ephesians, said there are usually between 20 to 25 people who regularly attend the Bible study. 

“Everyone who comes is pretty regular,” Yonkers said. “And it’s cool because we have people tune in from different time zones, and we all get along super well.” 

According to Yonkers, although most attendees are Seventh-day Adventist, not all of them practice the faith, and all have had different experiences with the church, with one of them being completely unrelated to Adventism and even Christianity. 

“[We] want to provide a time and place for people to come and experience true transformation through learning about God,” Yonkers said. “We want to provide community.”

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