Over the last few years I have been watching the Internet Church phenomenon and how it is evolving and taking shape. Since I find Online Church/Internet Church as the inevitable next step in the evolution of The Church, I have been researching what new technologies and strategies are coming to the forefront and how churches can use these opportunities to advance their ministries online. What I am starting to see are more options for Online Church/Internet Church as well as younger people migrating towards digital ways of connecting to ministries instead of the traditional church interaction of weekly attendance.
Now don’t get me wrong, virtual church attendance will never supplant actual church attendance in terms of importance but I do believe that there are some churches that will need to address the fact that there will be people that will support their ministries, watch their streaming services and consider themselves members of the church and never step foot inside the church. I have seen churches address this with examples of Internet Churches setup by Lifechurch.tv, SaddlebackChurch.com and TDJakes.org. Another great example of this was the Church on Facebook experiment conducted by Liberty University. I won’t recite the entire article but to sum it up, Liberty University conducted their weekly church service online because the location they were supposed to use was not available. They used Facebook as the main tool of communication and streamed the services online and interacted with the online audience. Here is a quote “What is Facebook, after all? It’s a community. What is church, after all? It’s a community. For us, doing church on Facebook isn’t innovative. It’s intuitive,” Moore wrote. The experiment was a success and a great step for Liberty University to further develop their online church audience, which was more than 61,000 people last year.
There have been a few companies that have arisen to help churches take that next step and create their own online campuses. Companies such as Streaming Faith and Streaming Church.tv have paid options that are available where a ministry can select a package and these companies provide the entire solution from streaming to social media integration. But the best option may be coming January 9, 2011 when the most innovative and technologically advanced church, LifeChurch.tv releases their Online Church product for FREE. This software will allow churches to utilize their own streaming software and integrate it into their online campus software and create that full online campus experience. The only addition that churches will have to supply on their own will be live streaming services and this can be done with FREE websites like www.ustream.tv or www.livestream.com.
Overall, I believe that many of the larger churches with the resources will adopt these Internet Church/Online Church options within the next year or two but it will take up to five years for it to trickle down to the smaller churches.