Part One of this article described the rapid digital transformation happening around us.  When in-person church is safe again, we will feel like Rip Van Winkle.  We will awake to the online world of 2030.  Let’s consider some steps you can start today in order to address the resulting challenges facing your congregation.

Emotional Whiplash

  • Survey leaders about digital changes they have made since March. Which ones are most convenient?  Which ones will they NOT give up when we feel safe once again?  How many watch your streaming broadcast on Sunday?  How many have met with family or taken a trip – then watched worship late in the week?  Make them aware of their own changing patterns.
  • Ask them how they see these trends affecting church participation in the future?
  • Track worship viewers on Sunday at noon, then again at the end of the week. Show these numbers and let the group interpret their meaning.    
  • Use their own experiences to begin discussions about the changes you face.
  • Start measuring and reporting digital participation. How many people participated in remote Bible Study or other opportunities. 
  • Mention these changes in columns, blog posts, or sermons. Share or retweet helpful illustrations.   Use every means possible to inform and create discussion. 

Simply raising he subject will create anxiety for some people.  Waiting until the changes are perceived as a crisis will only create more anxiety.   Start now.

On-Demand Worship

  • No longer think or speak as if current worship broadcasts are an interim tool. The future is here and streaming worship is a part of it.
  • Understand that you no longer compete with other churches for members. You now compete with the internet for their attention.  Mediocre quality in your broadcast will result in viewers dropping out during the service.  They will look for more interesting content.  If you use a delivery system like YouTube to stream, you can watch the numbers come and go for the entire service.   Have someone track where numbers rise and where they fall. 
  • For most of us, in-person worship has always been primary and the broadcast audience secondary. The streaming audience is now equally important. Therefore, invest in training and skills to produce a quality product. You don’t need $30,000 of production equipment to improve.  A good computer will edit and add graphics quite well until you determine what you need.  NO broadcast should be less than HD quality.
  • A broadcast is more intimate than standing fifteen yards from the congregation in the worship space. This intimacy changes communication. 
  • You are no longer preaching to an audience; rather, you are speaking to a friend, represented by the camera. Would you read a prayer or sermon to a friend.? No, you would have a conversation.  Therefore, if you read or memorize your content, stop immediately.  Strive for a polished, extemporaneous feel to your communication.  Watch news anchors and see if any of them sound like they are reading or offering a memorized story.   Remember, all streaming content is your “competition.”  You must engage the audience. A wooden delivery is death.   Eye contact is critical.
  • Musical interludes come across as “dead space” in a broadcast. Consider pre-recording short, personal messages to be played to the streaming audience at these times.  You will need elements of a variety show, a fireside chat, and your customary worship style.  Find your own balance.

Groups:

  • Brainstorm with specific small groups how they might combine digital and in-person fellowship.
  • Recruit or assign someone to help group leaders set up and learn the technology to include digital participants.
  • Create and publicize a calendar of digital opportunities, just as with physical activities.
  • You will need a digital invitation and inclusion strategy. Brainstorm how to we invite people to “visit” our digital opportunities?  How do we engage and follow up?

Facilities:

  • If you are considering new building plans, postpone them long enough to secure professional help evaluating your space needs in the new normal. What do changes in the “work-from-home” world say about your future needs?
  • Consider whether or not you have “bi-vocational” facilities. What other uses are there for your physical plant? 

What if you could increase worship or Bible study participation by 20%, or more?  If you think about participation instead of attendance, it’s more possible through digital offerings than it has been through the standard, “come to us” model.  Maybe technology revolution is an opportunity, not a problem.  The steps outlined here are far from a digital master plan, but they can help get started with discussions and planning for the possibilities that are available now.

 

Joel Snider
Joel Snider is the former pastor of FBC, Rome, Georgia, where he has served for more than eighteen years. Joel has been actively involved in coaching for seven years, serving ministers, small business owners, academic professionals and financial planners. He is a coach for CHC.