Now that we are about a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, most churches have adapted to the “new normal.” This means nearly every church has started offering online services. Perhaps you feel like online services are not making enough of an impact. Or maybe you’re looking for ways to get more out of online worship, to distinguish it from in-person services, and keep viewers engaged. Here are three strategies to use.
Consider Whether to Live Stream or Prerecord
Many churches initially live-streamed their services during the pandemic. It made the most sense to create something as close to in-person worship as possible. However, now that we’ve been doing this for months, it might be time to evaluate whether live stream is still the best option. While there are many pros to a live stream, there are also some cons.
- Gives viewers the feeling of being “part of the service”
- Allows your congregation to stick to a normal worship routine, if desired
- Less room for creativity
- Creates “duplicate content”
- May be hindered by technical difficulties
While a live stream does give the closest feeling to being in the church without actually being able to gather in the building, this can ultimately be a con for your viewers. They may be looking for your live stream to offer something different. For example, with a prerecorded service you can add extra features and effects and offer a message tailored specifically to online viewers. Consider if you want your online service to simply be a duplicate of in-person services, or if you want to distinguish it in some way.
Determine Where You Get the Most Viewers
Now that you have several months of data, try to determine which social platform is performing the best for your church. Consider putting more resources into engaging with viewers on that platform. You might even switch exclusively to one platform if you find a significant majority of viewers tune in there.
For churches that have only used one platform all this time, consider branching out to other platforms to see if you can increase your viewership or better engage your audience.
Evaluate Your Engagement Strategy
Getting more viewers is only half the battle. You must also engage with your audience or else you risk losing their interest. This is especially true for guests who are watching your services for the first time. Consider this an opportunity to evangelize and bring in new members. Even people who haven’t gone to church in the past may be open to online services as a first step.
Think about how you’re currently engaging with online audiences. Are you taking the time to monitor your social media accounts for comments and questions? Have you reached out to any viewers to formally invite them to join your church? Is there a way you can gather contact information from viewers to help you stay in touch? What other content are you putting out there between each week’s worship services?
While some are still hoping we will go back to the way things “used to be,” others are predicting that this new normal is here to stay. It’s important for your church to engage members online as well as in-person. Use these three strategies to take a deeper look at your current online services and see how you can get more out of them.
Dr. Tom McElheny has served as an elder and director of Christian education for three Sarasota, Florida, churches, holds advanced degrees in business and education, and is CEO of his company, ChurchPlaza (www.churchplaza.com).