Is online church for real? Yes, and here are a few of the myths surrounding online church.
Myths vs. Reality
Myth – Online church can’t build community.
Reality – Communities exist all over the internet. Community springs from communication, and every minute of the day community happens on message boards, blogs, websites, and social networks. People all over the world share their hopes, fears, humor, and lives with others on the internet. It works for churches too. I know one pastor who had hundreds of internet members every week viewing his church services. When God called Him to leave his church and plant a new one in another state, they came with him.
Myth – People are fake online, and real authenticity only happens in person.
Reality – People are just as fake online as they are in person. The same people who plaster their profiles with only their best “selfies” plaster on their Sunday best every week at church. The internet’s anonymity creates the atmosphere for people to be more of who they already are. Some people will be faker, but some will be more honest as and let you know what’s really on their minds.
Myth – Online Church is the church of the future.
Reality – It’s here today; get on board or be left behind. As your eyes scan these letters, people’s fingers are searching for sermons, songs, teachings, and prayer groups. They’re seeking for and building church online. It will never fully replace flesh and bone meetings, but it supplements and augments church as we know it.
Myth – Discipleship doesn’t happen online.
Reality – Discipleship can happen, but discipleship demands intention. The most powerful part of discipleship happens during life on life moments. Disciple can happen online if you’re intentional. The internet can support your discipleship plan. Webinars are great for teaching, video conferencing can supplement accountability, group messaging keeps people connected and praying, and online resources help people learn and grow.
So, how can you do this online church thing? Here are a few things you must do.
Get a Good Website. Someone can build one for a small price that will look great and be easy to update.
Upload your Media. Put your sermons online. If someone is out of town, they will listen. Have your leaders blog regularly. Sermons share your theology, but blogs give people insight into the heart of your leadership team.
Update Often. People will only get used to looking at your website after you get used to updating it.
Over Communicate. Find multiple ways to get information out.
Be on Social Media. It’s a community building tool. Use it, but don’t just beg people to come to your church.
Give Things Away. Give away free eBooks or teachings, but require them to sign up with an email address. You can use this information to build your communication networks.
Use a Church Management System. Have some way for the members of your groups to keep in touch and handle church business.
Webcast your Service. This costs some money, but it’s a lot cheaper than it used to be. When you do it, do it right, and don’t buy cheap equipment that provides poor audio or video quality.
Announcement Reels and Giving Opportunities. Don’t forget to put an announcement reel in your webcast so members are aware of the opportunities coming up. If your members are watching and reading online, be sure to create ways for people to give safely online. Donations don’t just happen in person.
Don’t Forget about your Live Worship Services. Live worship matters. People need personal contact. Make Sundays special. Give things away. Involve people, and create an experience that makes them glad they came to the building.
What other methods have you seen successful in online churches?