Future of Online Church

The Future of Online Church

This is one of my favorite conversations to have. Can you even imagine what you would have thought of if you heard the term “Online Church” ten years ago? Today, there are 100+ churches that have an Online Church Campus and I expect that number to more than double this year. When it comes to what an Online Church looks like, it continues to morph significantly as web technologies continue to develop. Here are four trends that I expect to shape the near future of Online Churches:

  • Online Courses - as we continue to see Educational Institutions move online, so will discipleship resources and engagement opportunities.  Online Courses will become a core part of both Online Churches with On-Demand content engagement and live social interaction with course leaders and participants.  

  • House Church Development -  as local churches go global through their Online Church Campuses, people still desire face to face community. Utilizing connected TV devices and apps I see house churches popping up around the world around these Online Church experiences. I believe some will be very intentionally created and many others will be more organically or unintentionally formed.  

  • Multiple Platform Engagement Opportunities - when our Online Campus launched 5 years ago, there was one platform that could be used: a computer (laptop or desktop).  Now almost half of our audience is engaged via their mobile device and a growing number through Connected TV devices. I believe the future will engage multiple devices simultaneously where users can customize their experience and potentially chat with other participants on their mobile device while watching on their TV or divide their TV screen to show the video presentation, a live chat feed, a map of all participants, and sermon notes all at the same time.  

  • Virtual Reality - so, I’m really big on this technology! I genuinely believe that these experiences are so immersive that we will be able to create more engaging worship experiences feeling more connected to other believers during the worship experience.

What do you see ahead for the future? Do you agree or disagree with these predictions?

The Future of Online Church

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I'm always asking the question: What's Next?  Since the iMinistry Conference I especially have been asking this question in regards to the future of Online Church.  The vision that I had for 2 years ago looks much different today, and my guess is that it will look much different 2 years from now.  Technology moves fast and we must always keep looking ahead and never get comfortable.

2 years ago I constantly looked at what we do on our physical church campus and tried to figure out how that could translate to our online church.  These were healthy questions and we have done some great things offering Online Worship services and Online LifeGroups just like we do on our physical campus.

Here is the question we are beginning to ask: what can we do online that we can not do on our physical campus?  We don't necessarily have these answers yet, but in asking this question we have developed a new strategy to how we look at our Online Church platform that has been a foundational shift for us:

Our online video content should combine the principles of broadcast television with the purposes of the Church maximizing the interactivity of Social Media.

This is a big shift from what can we video tape on our physical church campus and broadcast on our online church platform?

Here are some of the adjustments we have made recently:

1) 30 minute worship services- our online attention span is shorter and tv networks have found a great system in 30 minute time slots.

2) Less music- we found that people like the worship music, but don't engage well online with a full worship set.

3) Preaching directly to the camera (and shorter messages)- this has probably been the biggest game-changer for us and I can't be more grateful to our preaching pastors for making this commitment to preach an additional (shorter) message directly to our online community.

4) Creating elements in our video content that encourages interaction/engagement via Social Media.  Using the Media Social platform that integrates seamlessly with Facebook has been key for us.

I would love to hear what you see ahead for the future of Online Church and where you might agree or disagree with what we are doing with OnlineChurch.com.