10 Tips For Online Church, Community & Discipleship!

OK Pastors and church leaders, we're all a few weeks in now to holding our church services online. If you're like me, there has been a ton of challenges that came with this season, but we're also learning a ton and I believe when this "online only" season has finished, we'll all be stronger and healthier because of it. One thing is for sure, and I've loved the way many have phrased it, "The Church Has Left The Building." Now, in many ways most churches were already thinking outward and city impact, but I think for all of us, it stirred up a fresh reminder that we gather to equip and prepare the church to GO AND BE THE CHURCH out in our city!

So, with that in mind, I've compiled a few keys to creating great online church services and creating community beyond the stream that I've observed from a ton of conversations with great churches around the world as well as my own experience right here at Awaken Church.

Before we launch into the full list of best practices, here are 3 key resources to help your church if you're not already using them:

KEYS TO ONLINE CHURCH, COMMUNITY & DISCIPLESHIP

  1. Be Authentic
    • Overall, no matter the approach you're taking, make sure it's still you and it's still the culture of your church. Functionally you may have to adjust your set up and your stage may no longer be there, but do your best to bring a consistent and familiar culture to your church family. Sometimes you may want to have more of a sit down convo on these online services, but don't be afraid to stand up and bring a bold word if you're feeling it.
    • You're church will connect and continue to engage with the culture of the church that they first came to, and when services transition back to a local building, you'll want those people to continue with you and not be shocked that you're completely a different church than they fell in love with online.
  2. Do Less—better
    • I'm a fan of the "less is more" approach to many things, but in this setting it applies. Don't settle for less if you have the ability to bring something strong, but don't try to pretend that you have a set up that you don't have. Get someone with a fresh and creative eye and design a nice, simple and quality backdrop for your filming if you aren't able to do a stage.
    • And if we're at this for a few more weeks, there's time to improve on what you have, but make sure things are as excellent as possible since this is a massive front door now to your church.
    • Also, don't feel the need to "keep doing everything" you were doing before. This might be a good to time to strip back all the programs a bit and be able to decide what you really want to major on when you are back on location.
  3. Bring Faith & Life!
    • This is one of the keys you're seeing out there with great churches (mine included) that are really moving forward is bringing faith. This isn't a time for passive, group hug moments that rehearse the social fear narrative, rather we need to be calling people to hope and faith and victory in the name of Jesus!
  4. Stay Connected with Your Staff/Team
    • ZOOM is your friend for this. I'm sure you're already connecting heavily with your creative and production teams, but keep the whole team engaged and connected. Keep them leaning in and praying for your city and for the strength of the church. Keep them prioritized on connecting with people.
    • Keeping teaching them and imparting wisdom, faith, leadership and vision.
  5. Create Online Small Groups (Zoom)
    • Back again with a ZOOM promotion :) // but for real, this is a massive way that churches are creating small groups online. Zoom is simple and easy to use and you can get people up and running quickly.
    • We also recently launched the Online Following Jesus Course for new believers. It's also great to strengthen your church on the fundamentals. Learn more: Online Discipleship Course
    • A few notes: Either you can have all current groups switch over to zoom groups and start promoting the current groups online or identify a specific number of people that you know could quickly move to host online zoom groups and start with that number and then multiply when the groups are growing.
    • Here's a link to a zoom call I had on this topic where we talk this out more at length: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qUAkl-byPhI&feature=youtu.be
  6. Connecting with guests (Live Video)
    • I know most of us are engaging with the guests online in the chat features on our live stream or in Facebook Watch parties, but have you thought about creating basically a Live, online lounge.
    • I've seen this work in churches and we're working on the concept ourselves. But basically, instead of just sending people to a online form or to downloads/links, you invite people to say hi to one of your leaders and team live. Maybe after they indicate their a guest or indicate they just made a decision to follow Jesus.
    • This allows you to establish a connection even if you can't be in person. When you do this, the likelihood of them staying connected drastically increases when there's a specific connection.
    • That live person can also try and get them into one of your online small groups.
  7. Mobilize Your Church To Share
    • This is a simple but important note. One of the massive opportunities with this online season is that most everyone is on a phone or computer watching the services during this season. So they can all share and invite people to watch with them at a greater level.
    • So, be sure that your church has quick ways to share your Online Church link. make sure its very visible on the website as well as on social media channels.
    • Also, create good content with your church branding so that your church family with share it and ultimately call them back to your stream for the weekend.
    • This is also a great way to keep all of the volunteers engaged in this season.. Call them to be the street team for getting the word out about Sunday!
  8. Midweek Social Connects
    • This is something many churches are doing, as well as our church, which is to create a "program" schedule for the midweek connects during this season. These are quick touch base moments during the week for your church family to connect. We use Instagram and Facebook for these. We'll do online prayer, Bible studies and short kids devotionals and craft times. These can be done less professional. Empower different people on the team to own different elements during the week. Like an acoustic worship set or a fun evening chat. But, all done live from the main Church Instagram account.
  9. They Need The Shepherd's Voice
    • When asking my pastor, what was one key thing that he felt right when this all happened, and I loved his response. He referenced when Jesus said, "my sheep know my voice." And noted that in times of fear, difficulty and in all kinds of areas, what your church needs to hear is the voice of their pastors/shepherd.
    • Find a good steady flow of staying engaged with your church. Whether it's through social media, email or other formats, keep connecting and speaking faith into your people!
  10. Keep Vision Forward!
    • This is a key one, because if we're not careful we'll see this season as a time to "wait out the storm", but the Church grows and advances no matter the season.
    • While functionally things in your church may have changed, that doesn't mean that the vision has changed. Keep your eyes and the eyes of your church thinking forward advancement and vision!
    • This is not a time to shrink back, but to advance!

Hoping those few things would be helpful in your process of reaching your city and making disciples in this season! Leave comments below on any other helpful tips you've discovered in your church!

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