With the health crisis brought about by COVID-19, pastors across the United States are facing some significant questions right now. Questions like:
- How do navigate our church through this season of crisis?
- How should we respond?
- How can we keep people connected?
- How do we focus on the mission and keep momentum going?
And perhaps the biggest question for many pastors:
How do I take my church online?
Many large churches already have robust online platforms in place. But if you’re the pastor of a small or growing church, your church may not have a strong digital presence.
The good news: You don’t have to know technology well to have an online platform.
What you do need is a well-thought out action plan. Here are a few steps you can take to help your church community go digital:
TAKE YOUR CHURCH SERVICE ONLINE
Begin with your weekly large group gathering. Think through the important elements of that gathering. How you can provide those same elements digitally? Are there creative ways to accomplish the same objectives?
Here are six service components to consider:
Will you have a worship leader lead worship solo or can you bring a small worship team together? Will this be pre-recorded, or recorded live?
Will you include a time of prayer and reflection as part of your online service? Could you offer a weekly prayer guide for members?
Similar to your worship, will you pre-record a sermon or will you preach a sermon and stream it live? Could you offer digital sermon notes for people to download? Are there other resources you could provide to help them digest the sermon?
What percentage of your congregation currently gives online vs. in the plate on Sunday morning? What steps could you take to help more people to give online?
Make sure your congregation knows how to set up online giving or text-to-give. If possible, have an easy-to-click link to your giving page close to wherever you are encouraging people to to to watch your service online.
If you haven’t already done so, offer a guide or tutorial that explains how to give online and encourages people to set up reoccurring donations.
It is also crucial during this time that you explain to your members the how and why of giving. As more people become financially strapped, having an understanding of WHY we give and HOW those funds will be used becomes even more important.
For more ideas on how to do this, download our free guide to Building a Culture of Generosity at Your Church.
Let’s be honest, most churches usually offer separate activities for children during the main services. For many families, worshiping together at home can be a new (and somewhat distracting) experience. Think through how your service can become more family-friendly or how you can provide additional resources to engage families.
You may not physically be welcoming guests to a building, but that doesn’t mean you can’t connect with guests. Consider having a digital connection card for people to complete that watch your service online.
This moment in time is unlike any of us have experienced in our lifetime. Now, more than ever, anxiety is high, and people are searching for something that will bring them peace.
Encourage your members to invite their friends and family to watch your online service. And if someone does tune in for the first time, encourage them to complete the digital connect card. Then follow up with a text message or email thanking them for attending. Consider sending a letter or small welcome gift in the mail as well.
For more specific suggestions on the nuts and bolts of setting up a digital church service, check out this video.
KEEP YOUR COMMUNITY CONNECTED
As Hebrews 10:25 reminds us, “Do not neglect meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the day approaching.”
So how do we keep connection? How do we “meet together” digitally?
Consider additional ways you can foster community and discussion online via your church website or perhaps a church Facebook group.
If your small groups are not currently meeting in person, encourage those smaller groups to stay connected via email, Facebook or apps like GroupMe or WhatsApp.
Another benefit of having digital connect cards is that they can offer an opportunity for members to submit prayer requests and needs. Perhaps you can publish an anonymous list of requests and needs. Encourage your members to be praying over these requests and give members the opportunity to help meet one another’s needs.
Now more than ever, it’s important that your congregation knows how they will get information from you. Will you post updates to your church website? Will you communicate via email? Will you post via Facebook or Instagram? Whichever methods you choose to use, be consistent and communicate updates regularly.
BE A VOICE OF CALM IN A STORM
Almost every person that I’ve spoken with in the last several days has expressed feelings of heightened anxiety and uncertainty. As church leaders, we can either add to the noise and chaos or we can speak truth and joy into the void.
Be aware of how you interact with those you speak to. Do your words bring clarity or confusion? Do they add to people’s anxiety levels or do your words convey peace and hope?
In addition to official church communication, use your personal social feed (if you have one) to remind people of the source of our hope, peace, courage and joy. As leaders, people are watching and taking cues from how we respond to this situation.
This is an opportunity for the Church to be the Church in a moment of crisis. As a leader of your local church, you can help set the tone for this and role model the way.
This is a moment in history where churches have the opportunity to lean into the uncertainty and develop creative solutions to meet both the current and future needs of those in our congregations and our communities.
Regardless of the size of your church, this is an opportunity for your church to shine a light and spread life in the cloud of uncertainty and darkness. Now, more than ever, people are searching for comfort, for peace, for hope, for rest. All of these things are found in Jesus!
Will you step into this opportunity?
As we navigate the days, weeks and months ahead, it is our intent to provide you with as much relevant resources, tips and encouragement as we can.
In our next post, we’ll share more about the impact of going digital on the operational side of your church and what you need to consider from an administrative and financial perspective.
In the meantime, please reach out to us with any questions. We are here to be a resource to your church, and to help you navigate this unprecedented time in our history. We are praying for you. And we are here to help in whatever way we can.