When churches traditionally want to go online, they normally take the approach of trying to figure out how to get an online stream setup for the website, and by website I mean a desktop website. But once the online stream is set up, that’s just the beginning of connecting with your online audience. When you get your church online stream setup and have some people watching, it’s inevitable that you want to take it to the next level and build additional ways for your online viewers to not only watch your broadcasts but stay connected to your church, online. Thus the question is, “how do you go from streaming only to the on-boarding process of creating members, volunteers, church online and other processes that make it more of a campus and not just a broadcast”, well i’m glad you asked.
In order to build a full online campus that is innovative, immersive, engaging and customized to your audience there are some specific steps that you can take. First, above anything else, always make sure anything you do is focused on ministry, make sure it’s about connecting with people and make sure it’s about uplifting their lives. Technology is a great method to reach millions but if the focus is on the method and not the life changing gospel message, then we will never be as effective as we desire to me. Remember, the method will continue to evolve with time but the message, that’s the focus, the message, the people, the gospel that impacts and uplifts us all. Now, let’s get started on building an online church campus.
1. What are your online goals? - This question can be answered in a variety of ways, whether it’s the number of people you want to come to your online campus, how many people do you want to lead to Christ, how many e-members you want to join your church as well as what platforms you want to utilize to connect with them. When you are developing your online goals, consider a timeframe to assess your progress as well as what are attainable goals to measure your success. Once these goals are set, let’s look at ways to achieve them.
2. What platforms do you want to utilize to connect with your online audience? - When developing your online campus you need to consider what all it encompasses. A good example of an online campus consist of the following:
a. An internet campus streaming page (desktop and mobile compatible) from churchonlineplatform.com,
b. A mobile app
c. A Roku and/or AppleTV internet channel
d. Social media Ministry channels (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) and Facebook Online groups to help build community.
These multiple platforms listed above can be built out over a year or two so do not be overwhelmed. The key point is not to try and do everything listed previously, but at least do something.
3. What processes are in place to develop online users once they join your online campus? - When people join your internet church campus as an emember and become a part of your online community, they want to stay connected with your church and feel like part of the family. This is easy for churches to do with offline members they can see but sometimes churches struggle building online communities. Here are the key steps:
a. An email sign up for online members
b. An online process that welcomes them to the ministry and introduces them to the key things about the church
c. An introduction to salvation if they are not saved.
d. An explanation of what they will get for joining the church to validate the process.
e. Once they are done with the initial process, explain to them how can they help serve in the online church arena. Good examples of places they can serve are online prayer, managing social media pages, collecting online analytics and leading online groups.
f. COMMUNICATE WITH THEM - I cannot stress this enough! Send your online emembers emails, social media updates, SMS updates and other digital communication to let them know they are a part of your church.
4. How will your online campus transition people from an online connection to an offline connection at a church location? - This is a valid question that many churches are facing these days. They really want people to gather in church buildings but they know that connecting with them online is an important first step. 75% of new visitors check out the church online before they step foot in the building. This makes the online presence of the church one of the most important welcoming ministries of the entire organization. Once they have established an online connection, there needs to be processes in place to connect them with a local church where they can gather amongst believers if they choose. A great example of this I have seen is with Saddleback Church and Lakewood Church where they provide directories of local churches they are connected with. This gives online users a place to put in their local city or zip code and see churches in the area they can attend.
5. How will your online campus reach people that never want to step foot into your church? - There are places where going to church is a life and death situation. Places where Christians are being persecuted and the only church they can get is online. Likewise, there are people that are shut in, working or have life situations where they cannot physically attend a church building, but with the technology we have today, we can take church to them. With emember programs, online streaming, podcasts and numerous digital platforms, we can continue to take church to the people, all around the world.
Hopefully these key points listed above will help your church in deciding what goals to set and steps to take in developing their online presence. The church has a great opportunity to reach people in a variety of ways these days and it’s up to us to make sure they are aware and take advantage.