As we continue into the second month of our battle to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus by staying away from each other; many of you have gotten the hang of this online worship deal. Some of you have even gone further out on the limb by offering Bible Study on Zoom. Kudos to all of you that have burst out of your comfort zones and into the digital world.
But as we continue deeper into the social distancing and stay-at-home mandates and begin to peer into the future, I think it is time we dig a little deeper. A question I challenge all of you to wrestle with concerning our online church is where is the endzone? What I mean is what is the end result or desired outcome for going through the exercise of putting your service online on Sunday?
Is our desired outcome just to get the content published for our congregation to consume? For a lot of you, those first two weeks were all about “figuring this deal out,” am I right? And getting content out is absolutely an objective because we want our people to continue to engage with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So, I am glad you expended the energy and effort to figure this deal out; sharing a Gospel message with folks will help us all get through this strange time.
But what if we dig a little deeper and ask the question: is our end result connecting people with Jesus’ Gospel and his church? I know what you are thinking, that has always been the goal of the Church, the local church, my church! But that is not what I am asking; the question is in this environment of an online church, are you actively pursuing the goal to connect with people or are you just trying to survive until you can gather in the building again?
If your answer is we want to continue to connect with people online during this pandemic experience but I am not sure how, then please keep reading. There are three keys to unlock the opportunities to connect with people online.
Invite people to connect
Just like when we are in person, we have to extend the invitation to our people to join us, multiple times. But in these unusual times, we not only have to invite, we have to give them a valid, personal reason to engage with the church online.
We are bombarded with millions of hours of video content at our fingertips for us to consume or binge-watch, how does the church wiggle into the mix? Connection with others, a message of hope, continued spiritual growth, and a way to help others are all reasons people need the church, and they are all magnified now. Phrase your invitations into one of these personal, felt needs so people will still see the gaps that the local church can bridge particularly in times of pandemic.
The invitation should not only come from the pastor on Sunday in the worship video. We have to equip our people to invite others into the online connection. Sharing posts and hosting Facebook Watch Parties are great ways to share the worship content, but we really need our people to make sure they are staying in touch with their small groups of people. We can’t assume that all the church members in our Sunday School class are engaged with the online opportunities to connect. Nor can we assume that others in our Sunday School class know that we are struggling with an issue. Make sure our people know why they need to stay in touch and keep the church informed as well. Give them the tools to “stay in touch” with others, like emails that can be forwarded, social posts that can be shared, videos that can be watched. Keeping people informed goes a long way in keeping people engaged.
Create Connecting Points
If we want to connect with our people, then we have to give them points where they can make a connection. For example, do you have a means for your congregation to make prayer requests during or between your online services? Some churches use an online platform that has this capability baked in, other churches share a link to a simple Google form that goes to the staff or prayer team. What about visitors, hopefully new people are visiting your services online, maybe for the first time? How do you connect people to volunteer or service opportunities?
Your website now and going forward has got to be a hub for making connections with your congregation, guests and visitors, and your community. It is the place where you can direct people to make these connections and many more. And, make it easy and specific for people to find, for example for service opportunities, direct your people to xyzchurch.com/serve (or if you are familiar with sub-domains – serve.xyzchurch.com). Your homepage should clearly present the key connecting points for your people during this time of social distancing, make it easy for your community to help or get help!
In ordinary times, the number one way to live out the Great Commission, vis-a-vis baptizing and growing disciples, is building relationships with people. During these strange days we are in, it is now more important than ever to develop authentic and genuine relationships with hurting and hopeless people in our communities. It is one thing to have connecting points deployed throughout your content and positioning your website as a hub, but if they aren’t backed by a process to connect people with other people, one-to-one, then why bother.
Using the above example that you are directing people to a Google form to volunteer at xyzchurch.com/serve; who helps onboard them into their volunteer role and makes sure they get the training they need without falling through the cracks? Or, what is the follow-up process with persons that request prayers. For all of our connecting points, our objective should be to create a process that starts a conversation immediately and gets them connected to a person as soon as possible.
Back to the original question: are you pumping out content to compete with Netflix and Disney+ for consumer consumption by your folks? Or are you creating content that will facilitate connections that lead to relationships with humans looking for Jesus? In my humble opinion, if our goal is to create content that is connecting and relational, then it will attract more people from binging Ozark anyway. Stay home, stay safe, and stay connected church!!!
For more help in making connections online now and going forward, click here to get a free eBook, 4 Keys to Connecting with Guests Online today!