A Hybrid Church:
Totally Familiar. Entirely Different.
In the last 20 years, the Church has been throwing around the phrase “Both/And” ad nauseam. The Church has appropriately realized its call to all while corporate books and personal improvement topics concentrate on focus, on specialization, on the niche.
Amid a global pandemic, anxiety, and polarization, Church leaders must manage the tension between in-person gatherings and virtual connections. We must manage that tension well to provide a healthy environment of spiritual growth and relationship when people need it most.
It’s time to take an assessment of the tactics and approaches to ministry that have always yielded results in the past to see if they still have application for today. What has worked that is now struggling? What was your “main thing” but now seems like an impossible task? What defined your ministry and how does it need to be redefined?
To create a successful hybrid approach to ministry, you’ll need to be okay with diverting some focus from the tried and true and allocating some energy to the entirely new.
A change in approach is not a change in purpose.
In fact, right now your people need you to press into the things that have given them growth, comfort, and hope. The reasons they’re part of your church in the first place. They need to be reassured that even though the world around them may seem like it’s falling apart, their church is still there for them, God is still moving, and the familiar things they’ve come to know and love aren’t going anywhere.
As you think through all the ways your church can adapt, hold onto the non-negotiables. Then, re-envision how those principles and values can be expressed in ways you’ve never imagined. You don’t need to change who you are. You simply need to adapt how you are to reach the people around you in an ever-changing world.
Before you get into the particulars that will really help your church shift to a hybrid approach in particular areas, you’ve got to think holistically. What structural changes must you make to spend the right resources in the right areas?
Start by asking the questions:
- What ministries or practices are holding us back?
- What efforts aren’t producing results?
- What teams seem too big or too small to be effective?
- What functions do our facilities serve?
Be careful to tweak and retool before you discard and remove. Remember, your people need a sense of security. Try to improve and reshape your structures without pulling the rug out from under your leaders and people.
After you’ve determined what’s essential to your ministry, let your leaders and people know that the reason you’re making these changes is to support what’s most important, not to detract from it. Make changes that support your core convictions, communicate them well, and see how people will mobilize around what’s different to recapture what’s familiar.
Since the advent of modern digital technology, people have become increasingly disconnected. People have more information and less common sense. People have more communication and less connection. We live in a world where you can talk to a thousand people at once and feel totally isolated at the same time.
Let’s be clear. Developing community in our present reality requires a hybrid in-person and online approach. You can’t neglect either. Nothing will replace a group of people being in each other’s presence. But it can be supplemented.
In-person groups are made up of those people who think the benefits of being together outweigh the current risks. You’ll want to encourage these groups to maintain social distancing, follow local mandates, and consider the safety and concerns of new visitors and guests. Beyond that, it’s business as usual.
Online-only groups need to be designed differently. They need to have content and materials that can be consumed by participants in digital formats. There are two ways to let people engage in these groups when they meet: 1) Livestream to groups that are more teaching-oriented so people who aren’t as comfortable with the camera on them can still learn and grow, and 2) use a video meeting software (Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, Hangouts) to allow people to talk and engage with one another as you would in an in-person group.
Hybrid groups with in-person and online attendees might be the hardest to manage but also the most sought out. They are harder to manage because group leaders and attendees have to be conscientious of including the online participants. Also, they need technology solutions that allow online participants to have a view and a voice during group interactions.
All Things to All People
Taking a hybrid approach is not about changing who you are. It’s about adapting for who you reach. It’s about taking a verse from the Apostle Paul and being willing to become all things to all people so that by all possible means, you might save some. You do this for the sake of the Gospel…and for the sake of your church and community. We trust that God will give you strength and creativity to become what He’s destined you to be in your city!