For most churches who have an online presence, online services began as an alternative for attendees who could not make it in-person to weekend services. However, because of what is going on in our world today, for most churches, online services are no longer an alternative; instead, online services are the primary means that people gather on weekends.
While we may be tempted to think that this new and temporary “normal” is not good enough, it has become clear over the past few weeks that hosting online church services actually works extremely well for keeping people engaged. We would always prefer to gather in-person, but through the miracle of technology, in times like this, it is possible to gather, connect with, and minister with people effectively online.
Whether you have had an online presence for years or are just now getting started, we want to help you navigate the world of online ministry. Here are a few tips for getting started:
1. Start Small
Don’t think you have to have everything planned out before you take your ministry efforts online. Instead of first investing in equipment and paid accounts and platforms, we encourage you to utilize the free social media platforms that are available to you, such as Instagram, Facebook, and more.
Don’t underestimate the power of a post, comment, or like. The goal at this stage is to simply appear on people’s timelines so that they can see you and engage with you. This is the best way to start small and begin establishing an online presence.
2. Make Improvements Along the Way
Once you’ve begun establishing an online presence through social media and feel comfortable with it, feel free to take it up a notch. This is the point when you can start investing more time and resources in the production and quality of what you are posting, as well as increasing the amount of content you produce. We also encourage you to begin experimenting with the live-streaming features that most social media platforms offer. However, please note that if you are looking for a way to connect with your congregation for weekend services coming up, feel free to utilize the live-streaming features as a part of step one. That feature can be learned and mastered along the way.
3. Create a Platform for Ministry
After your online presence has been established and you feel comfortable with the content you are creating and publishing, begin to focus on creating an online weekend experience rather than solely a devotional or word of encouragement. By making an experience, you are giving your attendees the opportunity to engage with you like they normally would on a Sunday morning. Here are a couple ways that you can make an online service feel like an in-person experience:
• Virtual Connection Cards. Give people an option to feel out a virtual card or online form (Google Forms and Survey Monkey are free options) asking them about themselves, where they are in their walk with Christ, and how you can help them. Have someone from your team analyze the responses and respond to each person via email. This will create an excellent personal touch to an online experience.
• Online Giving Features. Many churches have begun to put these features into place and allow members to give online or via text message if they prefer those methods. By offering this option, there is always an opportunity for people to participate in giving tithes and offerings.
• Live Chats and Prayer Requests. Having a place for people to connect with one another and team members during the service provide a sense of community. This can occur through comments or live-chat options on some platforms. You can also consider direct messaging for certain social sites for people who would like to ask for prayer or talk through a situation privately with a staff member.
We encourage you to test some different platforms out and find the one that works best for you and your church family. While there are many options to choose from, here are a few that the team at Highlands has found successful:
Implementing these steps in building an online presence and finding a platform that works for you may take some time to perfect, but it is something that you can start right away. Given the current circumstances, chances are nothing will be perfect the first go-around; however, the important thing is that you start building your presence and give your congregation a way to stay connected during this time.
For more resources on building an online presence, copyright limitations, and more, checkout more COVID-19 trainings on Grow Online.
In the end, know that the goal is keeping people connected, and if people are connected and engaged, then you’re winning.
We believe that this is one of the greatest opportunities that the Church has ever been presented with, and we’re in this together!