Whether it’s worship services, prayer meetings, Bible studies, or youth group gatherings, 2021 will continue to see church gatherings continue with online offerings. While vaccines for COVID-19 give us some hope that in-person gatherings may become more possible, some people still feel uneasy about coming together in large groups. Churches will need to prepare to keep people connected virtually.
Keeping people connected is a challenge. But one way to increase the connection quotient is by having live interaction during streaming or replayed events. Online pastors or service hosts can act as connection coaches to spur the online congregation toward conversation. The simplest way? Live Question and Answer opportunities.
Here are eight easy and meaningful tips for using live Q&A sessions during digital church experiences to make personal connection with your online congregation possible:
- Have a variety of people ready to answer questions. Train several people from the church staff or church volunteers to be prepared to answer questions from those watching online. Questions could range from spiritual questions about the sermon to technical questions about how to run their computer more effectively…be ready for anything.
- Be personal! Remember that you’re not a Call Center representative reading from a script! You are a pastor or a church volunteer who cares deeply about the person on the other side of the screen. They have personal, emotional, and spiritual issues that concern them, and you may be their only source of hope in a dark world. Use words filled with love and compassion. Be friendly and transparent. Do everything you can to develop a relationship.
- Make sure people know you’re a pastor. People may have some theological questions they need answered and want an expert! Make sure they know you are prepared and have the proper training and seminary background to walk with them through their questions. Parishioners crave an authentic church experience, complete with a pastor, even online.
- Get the conversation going… and keep it going! Those participating in online events tend to be passive in their involvement. Get the conversation going by asking questions they will want to respond to. Answer their queries quickly and then ask follow-up questions. Make it a true back and forth, a conversation that they might even want to continue offline.
- Have some questions banked. In case the questions aren’t coming, have another staff member or volunteer get things going by asking some leading questions that will give others confidence to ask questions of their own. Sometimes, churchgoers don’t want to be the first ones to speak; after someone else asks a question, it’s a little easier to speak up and ask a question or share an observation.
- Know what is appropriate to answer online and what to take offline. We have a world of hurting people out there and sometimes people bring their tough issues to the online live Q&A session, but some issues are not for public consumption. If that happens, give your phone number or email address to that person and suggest you talk offline. That will give some privacy to the issue and room for deeper counseling.
- Point people to websites and online resources. Let’s face it: you won’t have all the answers! Therefore, don’t be afraid to point people to other sources of information for the questions they’re asking. Maybe the church has a preferred video library or there are free resources available to your community. Use whatever is at your disposal to help people online feel connected and get answers to their questions.
- Have one person there consistently to build relationship. Whenever possible, appoint one church staff person to be online every week so that there is a consistent presence in the online community. Church members will want to build some trust and will interact more freely when they feel they know the person responding on that screen. Whether it’s the online pastor or another talented staff person, their consistent presence will help people feel more comfortable responding.
An online presence may be more important than ever before for churches today. Make yours more interactive and personal by offering live Q&A sessions for every digital experience. People will feel more included and connected; as a result, they will ultimately benefit and grow closer to God.