In case you haven’t heard, the church has officially left the building!
Over the past decade, new and intuitive technologies have enabled organizations, businesses, and churches to do far more and reach more people than ever before.
The entire worldwide web has been opened up to us in a brand new way as we have explored interacting on social media, meeting with others through video calls, and consuming content like never before.
The internet is no longer your granny’s chat rooms and low-resolution GIFS. There is an entire world of possibilities when it comes to online communication.
One of the greatest recent revolutions for churches specifically has been the integration of live streaming and recording church services. Online church has allowed us to reach people that we truly were unable to reach before.
Here are a few examples of people you can now reach that you possibly couldn’t before:
- People from other countries
- Former church members that have moved away
- Families looking for a new church
- Curious truth seekers
- People with a chronic illness that prevents them from leaving home
- Those who work Sunday/the day or time you hold church service
- Many many more
Online church busts open the walls of our brick and mortar locations and allows the Gospel to travel the Internet highway with unlimited destinations. It truly is a marvel that we can take the Gospel to the very ends of the earth with a click of a button!
The Push Back
When it comes to online church, we have all had hesitations in some way or another.
This isn’t how it’s supposed to be.
Church online isn’t real church.
This can’t replace the real thing.
We as humans resist change. When our set ways, habits, and routines are interrupted, we experience extreme discomfort and resistance. We don’t like change because it requires us to give up something we hold tightly to.
What we must remember is that God never changes. His message is constant, stands the test of time, and applies to every creed, tribe, and tongue. While the message of Jesus never changes, often our methods must.
There was a time when playing a flute or singing in church was ridiculed and deemed “worldly” and equivalent to paganism in some people’s minds. There are still people splitting hairs over whether or not we should use electric instruments in churches!
We must not conform to the culture, but we must become culture creators who radically transform the world around us. We can take the things that are common and set them apart as holy in Jesus’ name.
We cannot just drown in the waves of change, but instead, create our own current in which we sanctify popular culture to Christ.
While many may push back on the integration of digital church, we must be willing to embrace new methods of worshipping our unchanging God.
The New Campus
When we begin utilizing digital church, we can then actually become (or grow) a multi-site church.
Because the restrictions of physical location do not apply to digital church experiences, you can have an unlimited amount of “campuses” in your church.
You can deem your online church experience not as just an insignificant add on ministry but as an actual campus branch of your church.
Many churches have already transitioned to this model of hybrid church and have begun to marry physical experiences with digital experiences.
We have seen throughout the year 2020 specifically the impact of implementing an entirely online experience. Not only does it help reach people you never could before, but it also helps your community to stay connected to one another when they cannot physically gather.
This new campus is composed of people all over who, although they have different backgrounds, are beautifully united under the banner of Jesus. This is truly an incredible season to be a part of the Body of Christ!
The question many churches are still unpacking is how exactly these online churches should operate, how to lead them well, and ways to maintain engagement.
We want to give you 5 simple ways to engage people in online services as you begin or continue to make the best of your online campus.
- Make your online community feel known
The first way you to practically initiate engagement with your online campus is by taking the time to directly address them. This sets your service apart from just being another video that your faceless followers watch.
The gap that can be difficult to close is the one between your physical community and online one, but when you choose to address online viewers as equally important in your community, it changes the game. The good news is that when you do this, it also reminds your in-person community about the value of their online brothers and sisters.
A great practical thing you can do to address your community online is to learn more about their stories. Where are they watching from, why did they choose your church, and how has God moved in their life since they started tuning in.
- Consistently interact with them
The biggest failure we could have in hosting online communities is pushing out our live stream, hoping people watch, and then just waiting for them to tune in the next week.
The reality is, there is a lot of content fighting for your viewers’ attention. For some reason or another, they chose your church to join. However, they may need to be given a reason to return to your church regardless of how great your service was.
The best way you can encourage retention in first-time guests is by intentionally interacting with them. This could be as simple as introducing yourself, asking them about their life, and praying for them. While a first-time guest card is a great idea, putting a real voice behind those questions can leave a lasting impression.
For those who are already a part of your church, do not forget about them. They are just as valuable as your first-time guests, and they, too, need encouraging voices in their own life. Interacting with your church members consistently takes a lot of time and work, but when you remember the love Jesus has for them and their faith journey, it is all worth it.
- Open an invitation to get them involved
When interacting with your church online members there comes a natural tendency to invite them into your community. Some people just want to attend church, log off, and move on with their week. But for the most part, people want to have a place where they can belong.
The truth remains that people’s deepest desire is to be known and to be loved. Community is where people can truly let their hair down, get real, and grow in their relationship with Christ and others. It is where they can truly be known by those who care and bask in the love of Jesus.
We must remember that we should never say “no” for anyone. Inviting people to small groups, prayer sessions, and other community events should be something we do constantly. This isn’t to grow numbers, but it is to allow people the spaces and opportunities to be a part of something bigger than themselves.
It’s simple: invite people to join a community group!
- Encourage community within the online campus
One of the other challenges of engaging people in online services is to make sure they have continued engagement amongst themselves. This is something that, if facilitated well, can truly grow the digital community in a deep and meaningful way.
While this kind of engagement doesn’t directly happen during a service, it is something your live MC (or online community leader!) can mention to the group and encourage them to get involved in.
A great way to do this is to create online Facebook groups, GroupMe group chats, or Zoom meetups. Churchome does this extremely well and has digital meetups based upon the community member's specific region.
Facilitating community for your online campus can truly unite their unique experiences and make them feel like even more a part of your church.
- Be yourself & love well
Only your specific church knows how to speak to your specific people! God has called your church to reach the people you reach, so you do not need to feel the pressure of becoming someone you’re not.
While you can certainly draw inspiration from other churches, how you handle engaging your church is something unique to you. You may need to implement more segmented small groups, make prayer a priority (shouldn’t we all!?), or offer support groups and community resources.
However you engage with your community, may it always be covered in grace and love. Make your online community feel known, loved, accepted, and invited and you can’t lose.