Your church is closed this week, now what? How do members receive the blessings of weekly services and fellowship? How does the church reach the communities they serve?
If your church already has an established and robust online presence, you are well poised to continue providing a sense of community. If not, then now is the time to start. But how, and where do you start?
A strong community starts with effective communication. To support a digital community, there are several types of communication tools, each with their own strengths.
Church websites are an authoritative place for anybody, anywhere to see what the church is doing and find contact information. One benefit of using your website to share anything you want people to download such as:
- Bible study guides
- Activities for children
- Podcasts or other audio recordings by the pastor or other spiritual leader
Social Media Platforms*
- Instagram: Ages 13-30
- Facebook: Ages 18+
Social Media channels like Facebook and Instagram are great ways to connect with not only your members but also the community. Not only can you post content and information, these platforms also provide a way to listen to what people are saying. Maybe you’ll even discover a need that your church can help with.
Community apps like Nextdoor are ideal for connecting with your immediate community. While these apps already cater to sharing information about what is happening in the community, they also provide a way for church pastors and members to offer assistance to any person in the community. These apps will also help you stay in touch with issues affecting people in your community. The value of a pastor or church leader reaching out to citizens in this way is immeasurable.
Email Providers with Free Tiers*
Email has the advantage that the communication is typically more private and not shared with unintended recipients. While your church website and social media channels are great at sharing information to a broad audience, this isn’t always the best way to share information meant only for church members. A common use for email is for weekly newsletters and church business matters.
While the members are unable to attend services at your physical location, provide a way for them to still receive a service at home. If you’re new to streaming or not sure where to start, see the article Help! I need to stream my service and don’t know where to start.
Some ways you can put together an online only service include:
- Regular worship service but with no in-person congregation
- Reuse previous services
- Repackage segments from multiple previous services
- Reuse some segments from previous services and include new content such as a sermon
Streaming doesn’t need to be limited to church services. Maybe your members and community would be blessed by a mid-week service or other type of service during the week.
ADDITIONAL WAYS to Build Community
Video Conferencing is one way you can still conduct small groups and Sabbath School. These platforms provide for real-time conversation and viewing of all the participants. Some platforms have options for allowing people to call-in to a video conference, which can be helpful for members who don’t have computers, tablets or smartphones, or may be technologically challenged.
Online Giving allows for members to maintain their habits of supporting the church’s mission, both locally and around the world. If your church isn’t setup for online giving, contact your conference treasury department for assistance.
Engage with others to learn from them and receive inspiration yourself. There are several networks of Christian leaders willing to share with others while also providing encouragement and spiritual rejuvenation. Having this type of support network will help you discover new and unique ministry ideas that may be applicable to your situation.
If you are apprehensive about technology or just want someone else to help with the responsibility, find a young person in your congregation. There’s a good chance they are already comfortable using many of the online tools mentioned, and with a little leadership will be a valuable asset in your church’s online community.
Developing and growing an online community can be a rewarding experience. As you look for ways to provide a little normalcy to the chaos, we can be encouraged by Jesus’ example of continually finding ways to serve those he came to minister to. In Luke 5 we read about Jesus speaking with religious leaders in a packed house. Suddenly, a hole forms in the roof and a paralytic man is lowered. Even among this chaos, Jesus saw an opportunity to serve, healing the man and sending him home.
While the world around you may seem like chaos right now, what opportunities will you find to serve your members and local community?
* The Southern Tidings or Southern Union Conference does not endorse any products or services mentioned in this article. Churches and individuals should evaluate each product or service for themselves. The options presented are not exhaustive and are only provided to help readers know about some the options available.