I’ve worked in online ministry for more than a decade now. I’ve met so many incredible people along the way, but there is one leader that stands out more than any other. This leader impacted thousands of people’s lives online, but not in a surface way. This leader built deep and meaningful relationships with individuals all over the world impacting so many lives through the Internet. This person is likely not who you might expect to be pioneering online ministry.
Her name is Ruthi Crockett.
Ruthi is a widow in her 70s. I met Ruthi about 6 years ago at a ministry fair in the lobby of Community Bible Church. She was looking to connect with a different ministry, but our Online Church booth had no visitors. Ruthi is the friendliest person in the world and came over to meet us and learn what we were doing. As a former missionary with a global mindset Ruthi instantly was attracted to online ministry, but admitted that she wasn’t a techie. She said she had an iPad and was available and willing to serve.
I began meeting with Ruthi on a weekly basis in my office at the church where I would teach her about the basics around Facebook and online interaction. Our time discussing technology was probably only 10% of our conversations as the conversations quickly turned to her speaking into my life and becoming the greatest encourager into my life and the ministry God had called me to lead.
Ruthi diligently served the ministry on a daily basis and has continued to do so for the past 6 years. She once heard that midnight was the peak time that people looked at pornography on the Internet, so she committed to host an online church service EVERY NIGHT at midnight to make sure that there was another option with real people available to connect. She did this every single night for more than a year. She also met a pastor from Nepal in one of our online services and became his women’s pastor. I’m not joking. She would wake up at 4am on Saturday mornings and lead a women’s Bible study in Nepal where 20 women gathered around a computer all sitting on the floor to have Ruthi speak into their lives via Skype and a translator. Here is a picture of Ruthi leading one of these Bible studies in Nepal:
I could share story after story of the lives that Ruthi impacted and my name being at the top of that list of lives changed because of Ruthi’s online ministry.
As you look to build your online ministry and you are looking for a great leader, I want to encourage you to look for a Ruthi. Here are a few key reasons that I believe Ruthi’s online ministry was so successful:
- She was available – Ruthi dedicated significant time to the ministry and the people she was ministering to
- She was relational – Ruthi really didn’t care about the technology, but prioritized the relationships that she was building online
- She was real – Ruthi dug in with people sharing from her life experiences and learning about theirs
- She genuinely cared– when people disengaged, Ruthi was persistent to follow up with them and make sure they knew she cared deeply
Here is an interview that I did with Ruthi on the Social Media Church podcast about a year ago:
Today, Ruthi is in her final days as she has been fighting cancer for several years now. I will never forget sitting in Ruthi’s hospital room about 4 years ago when a doctor walked in to tell her that she has cancer. I’m as emotional now as I was then where my jaw dropped. Ruthi’s didn’t. I’m embarrassed to admit that in that moment when I wanted to comfort Ruthi, she actually comforted me as she wasn’t afraid of cancer. She smiled and told me that it was going to be okay and that she wasn’t scared and trusted her doctors.
Ruthi is one of the most incredible people I have ever known. Her life has impacted countless lives of everyone who came in contact with her whether in the flesh or online. I can’t even begin to effectively describe how meaningful her relationship has been to me.
I love you and will miss you more than I can say. Thank you for trusting me and locking arms with me in serving the online ministry of Community Bible Church. Thank you for investing in me personally and for the countless hours of conversation around just about everything. Thank you for all the prayers, all the hugs, all the encouraging notes, all the phone call and just being who you are. I will miss you, but will celebrate your crossing the finish line and worshiping in Heaven.
Thank you and I love you,