While a physical presence has always played a role in the way churches interact with communities, shelter-at-home orders present the unique challenge of taking church 100% online. Some churches already embrace technology and have a strong online following. Others need to relaunch their online church strategy. And many find themselves in uncharted waters when taking their church online.
Regardless where you are in the process, let’s unpack how to create the best experience for your congregation when you’re holding church solely online (especially with Easter happening this weekend!).
1. Identify Your Tech Tools
It’s easy to get overwhelmed as you begin creating an online atmosphere for worship and engagement. Take it one piece of technology at a time. Just like carpenters, what ministries put in their toolbox helps ensure they’re prepared for the job at hand. As you begin planning for online ministry, fill your toolbox with tech that makes the most sense for your church’s size and budget. Here’s a brief rundown of tech tools you can add as you begin.
Remember, you don’t need to adopt every tool to have a successful online church. Just start with a few and get familiar using them. Also, take an in-depth look at the tech tools you already have in place. You may find that your current platform has more capabilities than you realize, as well as add-ons like a church app and online giving.
2. Get active on social and your website
Online church happens beyond the brick and mortar walls of the church. Being active on social media is a huge part of that. Use social media to direct people to your church’s website and to stay connected in real time as you plan upcoming events like Easter and VBS.
Even if you aren’t big into using hashtags, you may decide to use them to expand your reach. Hashtags are a unique way of identifying a conversation in the social media world so that you can follow along and easily find similar content.
Use #churchflow or #churchlife in your posts to ensure that your church pops up when people search for that hashtag. This way, even individuals who aren’t following you but are following the conversation may still be exposed to your content to increase your message reach and help build your church’s audience. For a special touch, create hashtags that are specific to your mission.
3. Share engaging stories that emphasize how giving matters
Generosity is not only a part of maturing spiritually, but it’s also crucial for churches right now because you must continue providing your community support. Engage people in generosity by providing fresh content. Make sure the content has a clear purpose and is personal to your church. People often give more when they understand the cause and feel an emotional connection with it.
4. Measure results
Past year results provide information to set new goals, and they give you a better idea of which techniques work (and which don’t). Since this is the first time many churches are going online, it is important to collect data so that you can decide how to proceed with online church–even after the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
While people are eager to return to church, the online experience may inspire them to join while away on vacation, when the weather is bad, or when they’re unable to attend in person due to illness or other barriers.
5. Give everyone a big thank you!
Plan to thank those who donated and attended your online church whether it’s through email or a phone call. Also, thank volunteers and staff members that helped organize your online church experience. People will notice that you appreciate their contribution when you express heartfelt gratitude. They’ll remember that well into the future. Additionally, a follow-up thank you is one more opportunity to reach out and highlight the most meaningful aspects of your online church.
We stand beside you during this unprecedented time. Learn more by checking out our Free Guide to Online Ministry.