3 Insights COVID-19 Has Revealed about Online Church

August 28, 2020

If you’re like most churches during this pandemic, you’ve been thrust in the world of Online Church. Now “Online Church” has many different names, flavors, and forms. For some it means just streaming the worship service to Facebook, for others, it means Zoom small groups or new ways to give online. Either way, this pandemic has forced most churches to figure out how they can exist in an online-only environment. 

However, now that we’re about five months into this pandemic, there are online patterns that we can see are starting to emerge. These patterns were not self-evident at first, but with each passing day, it’s more apparent that Online Church is here to stay and we need to grapple with some it’s consequences. 

Today, I’m going to walk you through key insights that these patterns reveal and how the church should respond. 

 

  • Online Church Should Represent the Whole Church

 

We’ve all heard the phrase “A church is more than just a building.” The same logic applies to Online Church. Online Church is more than just streaming a worship service. 

We all agree that our worship services serve as a vital component in the ministry of our churches, and we would also say the same thing about small groups, missions, and congregational care. This means that churches need to present the full expression of who they are and not just one aspect. We need to find ways to foster online small groups, digital evangelism, and caring for others who are quarantined. While it is true that we cannot make every aspect of church life happen online, nor should we try to, we need to at least have a digital presence for those ministries when possible. 

 

  • It’s Now Easy to Switch Churches with a Click

 

We know that when a church member is actively engaged in a small group, the church as a whole becomes a vital part of their life. Small groups have a way of making church “sticky” so that it’s difficult for someone to leave because of the relationships they’ve built.

When the church is only online, the church can lose some of that stickiness. Since we are no longer in person on Sundays we’re not bumping into friends in the church hallways or finding ways to eat lunch together after the service is over. Sunday routines are being transformed. 

So now the church is at a place where someone could easily switch churches by starting to watch another church online. Location and time do not matter. If they live in San Diego but want to “attend” a church in Atlanta, they can do so with the click of a button. Since we’re no longer physically present with each other, the only way most churches would know when people like this leave is when they stop giving online. 

The key to making churches become “sticky” online is to maintain those key one on one relationships. This does not have to be “high tech” but instead “high touch.” It can be a phone call, a FaceTime chat, or a simple handwritten note. This can be done through the work of your deacons, small group leaders, and staff. These relationship touchpoints are vital to keeping people engaged with your church.

 

  • We Have to Equip Our People for Online Ministry

 

One of the mistakes that churches made early on during the pandemic was to feel the need to control all aspects of online ministry. Every social media post, video, podcast, or email had to be vetted and approved. However, after a while, it became too much for most churches to handle. 

If we assume that Online Church is not going to go away anytime soon, then we’re going to need to learn to scale online ministry in such a way that it doesn’t fall solely on the church staff’s shoulders. 

This will require us to set up guidelines and then let go of ministry so that we can maintain a long term view of what needs to be done. If this sounds overwhelming, this is not different than how you would train your small group leaders, student ministry volunteers, etc. The difference is that you’re not training them for a brick and mortar environment, but an online one. 

For some churches, there’s a hope that COVID-19 goes away and we can return to normal. However, we need to prepare ourselves for the possibility that for some people Online Church will be the new normal and we have to find new ways to reach and disciple those people. 

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5 Comments

  • I disgree with church on line it is ok for time but the churches need open so prayer warriors and intercessors those are people who God has anointed to stand in the cap and prayer about different situation around if every like this the chruches have come out of the four walls including online service it should be the chruches go out to streets and go reach lost soul no more time to keep preaching having on line service when soul are dying every day it time for chruches stop doing one line service go preach gospel of Jesus Christ in streets to the poor needy broken heart those that on drugs addicts the the prostitute all type people from every walk life need no about the gospel of Jesus I understand this might be the new normal for chruches on line service but what is God saying about how does he feel now that we are in month of. August things have calm down little bite with this coronavirus I understand the chruches have do this for a time season but time not keep doing all line the time is now for the chruches to wake see we are in the last evil days upon Earth if churches going do on line service gospel of Jesus Christ need to be mention when service on line are live tell the people truth it not about just be comfortable and watch service the ministry job make sure people are born of spirt fill with holy spirit not living sin teaching them the word so people will have personal relationship with God for them self serving God is serious serious

  • You are exactly right. Our church pastor began ‘teching’ us and lost touch. No calls, notes or greetings from the sidewalk, just email links and newsletters about his many staff meetings.
    He told us that he expects to lose 30 percent of the fellowship. Unfortunately, so many people have already left without a shepherd trying to find them.
    Pray for Salt Creek Baptist, Dallas, Oregon.

    • This really hit home this morning as I was reading about the leaders of Israel in Ezekiel 34:1-10. “So my sheep have been scattered without a shepherd.” (vs5) I am currently the Director of Children’s Ministry at my church, but have now been given an additional role of Facebook Campus Director. We are very excited about taking “social media to social ministry!”

    • Thanks for the comment Dale. I pray that you will find ways to navigate this season as a church.