We are seeing the trends, and they are troubling.
As churches return to in-person gatherings, they are abandoning their digital and streaming services. At the very least, they are not giving them the attention they did during the quarantine.
It’s a mistake. It’s a big mistake. Here are seven reasons why we believe strongly your church must continue to emphasize and invest in digital and streaming services.
- It will grow slowly after it declines. One pastor wrote me: “We had 750 people view our online services the first week. Now it’s dropped to about five during the live streaming service. It’s really not worth our effort.” I get it. But the instant growth churches saw at the onset of the quarantine was an anomaly. Churches that are investing time and other resources in digital services are seeing slow but steady growth after the immediate declines.
- It is a great alternative for those who are physically unable to attend the in-person services. Some of your members and guests are homebound. Others are out of town. The digital service becomes their only alternative. And for those of you who are arguing that digital services will be an excuse for physically able persons not to attend, we are not seeing that reality take place. At most, any losses are more than offset by gains.
- It is a complement to the in-person service. Though it’s in its incipient stages, we are seeing digital services become a first step for people to come to the in-person services. They “test run” the church several weeks before they attend in-person. We are particularly seeing this trend among nominal Christians and non-Christians.
- It opens the door for ministry to the community. A church is not only supposed to be in a community, it should be a ministry to the community. Your church will have much greater visibility to the community with online services than most other alternatives. I am working with one church that is investing $20 per week on Facebook ads to send the services to those in the church’s zip code. It is beginning to show fruit.
- It is an incredible instrument for prayer. I am encouraged to see an increasing number of churches offer prayer lines through phone numbers and/or email addresses. A pastor recently told me that their email address ([email protected]<churchname.com>) was growing in the number of prayer requests sent by the week. The church puts that email address on the lower third of the stream several times during the services.
- It is truly an Acts 1:8 ministry. Church leaders and members are excited to discover their reach is beyond the community to other points in the nation and the world. The early Christians had to travel the Roman roads to get the gospel from town to town. The internet has become our Roman roads.
- It can provide cohesiveness to a multi-site church. More churches are becoming multisite and multi-venue. A number of churches are beginning to open micro-sites. The streaming service can be a place for everyone to get information on what is taking place at all sites. One church takes the first five minutes of the streaming service to give a monthly update for viewing to all sites. It has become a great way for the different sites, venues, and services to all be on the same page.
I am encouraged that more churches are resuming in-person services. Don’t let that be a reason or excuse to eliminate or minimize your digital services.
Your church would miss a great opportunity for ministry, gospel witness, and unity.
Let me hear your thoughts.
Posted on January 31, 2021
With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
More from Thom
This sounds a little bit rogue, but I think people who are not comfortable with technology worship the in-person aspect of church. How many letters did Paul write because he couldn’t be with his churches, even though he made many efforts to get there. There were reasons he didn’t, sometimes the Holy Spirit, but they simply didn’t have the technology we have now. I truly believe it has been a gift to grow the church, not cause it to decline. I think we are wasting a wonderful opportunity.
I sincerely don’t believe we’ve even begun to scratch the surface as to the use of technology in ministry. I would love to see/be a member of a think tank about potential uses of technology in ministry. We should be asking the question, ‘what CAN’T we do?’
It gives me such joy to be able to fellowship with my out to town children and grandchildren. I have never found a church like my family Church. I am grateful to have the opportunity to attend Sunday School, Worship and Bible Study regularly for the first time in years.