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 Core Technologies that Enable our Online Church Campus

Our Online Church Campus at Community Bible Church is powered by the Gospel, but enabled by a few key technologies. These technologies have changed through the years and many will likely change again. Here’s what we’re using right now:

  • Facebook – I can’t imagine doing Online Church without Facebook. Our Central hub for Community is our Facebook Page. We then use Facebook Groups as our Hub for Connection as these our where our Groups stay connected throughout the week. We also use Facebook Ads pretty significantly to reach new people. All of these aspects of Facebook work so effectively together making Facebook our core technology.
  • Media Socialthis is our Online Worship Center or our Online Sanctuary. This is the technology we use where we gather to worship. The integration with Facebook is what makes this platform work so effectively for our Online Church Campus.
  • Zoom – I wish this technology existed when we launched our Online Church Campus. The ability to gather 20+ people easily for a video conference has personalized our Online Group gatherings as well as our volunteer training sessions.
  • Google Adwords – Please tell me that your church is taking advantage of Google for Nonprofits FREE offering of $10,000/month if Adwords Ads. This was game changing for our Online Church Campus 3 years ago and continues to help us reach thousands of new people each week.
  • RightNow Media – this is our video curriculum.  I recently found out that we were the second church to sign up for RightNow Media’s Bible Study Library! This has been game changing for us offering thousands of video Bible Studies to our Online Groups through this easy to use platform that functions so much like Netflix.
  • MailChimp– Email is far from dead and the central communication tool for our Online Church Campus. We love the simplicity of MailChimp. We used to use Constant Contact and with no regrets jumped over to MailChimp for all of our Email Marketing.
  • Social Media – while Facebook is our primary social network, we also engage significantly on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
  • Formstack– capturing follow up information is critical for a physical church campus as well as an online campus. Formstack has been an incredible tool for us when it comes to New Believers, Prayer Requests and other online data collection points.

3 Questions with Jimmie Davidson: Launching a 100% Online Church

Jimmie Davidson is the founding pastor of Highlands Fellowship Church, one of the largest multi-site churches in America with 4,000 in average attendance. Jimmie is the founder of the Global Glory of God PEACE House where over 300 international business leaders and Pastors have been trained from over 70 nations, touching tens of millions of lives. Most recently Jimmie served as the Pastor of Global PEACE leading all global missions efforts at Saddleback Church including the planting of 4 Global Saddleback Campuses on four continents including Hong Kong, China; Berlin, Germany; Buenos Aires, Argentina and Manila, Philippines. In addition to all this Jimmie is the Church Planting Catalyst with NAMB in Orange County, CA. Jimmie is using all his training to launch a church, using current technology, fully online and in homes across the globe. 

Here are 3 questions I recently asked Jimmie: 

As you're in the process of planting/launching a new church that will exist 100% online first, what does that look like functionally?

The Internet is our runway for this vision to take off connecting with billions of followers of Jesus who will host a church offline for their friends, neighbors and family who need Christ wherever they live.  The followers of Christ are our platform for sustaining this vision.  

The delivery system in bringing God’s word will be online or delivered offline live if gifted individuals are present to do so.  

Functionally, followers of Jesus will gather those they know wherever they live, work or play to watch a weekly message from The Brooks. This is taking the campus model and making it smaller and bringing it closer to those who need Christ through existing relationships where trust has already been establish. Radical hospitality, spiritual questions discussed, Baptism, Lord’s Supper, grace and truth as well as bringing the good works and good news of Jesus to the neighborhood will all be a part of the vision for each gathering.   

 

Where did the vision for this new kind of church come from?  

 

 

This came from Jesus.  We are embracing his first century plan using 21st century technology to reach a global community.  

All my experiences with Him from planting a church in Virginia that became muti-site and growing into a mega church in one of the smallest populated areas of Virginia/Tennessee, to God’s awakening me to the Great Commission and then placing me at Saddleback to lead the launch of their global campuses, all played a part in bringing me to this moment.  

In transitioning from Saddleback I had time to look around and see the giant holes that exist in mega cities and small towns when it comes to reaching people with the gospel. I saw the gaps; Jesus inspired me through his words in Isaiah 43 that his gospel/church would be like streams in the desert filling those gaps, his statement that He would build His church (gathering) and the gates of hell would not prevail against it, all led me to see Jesus focus was not on buildings which are often barriers but on the gathering of people around Him, everywhere. These oikos connections that already exist through followers of Jesus are fertile movement ground for the good news to rapidly spread in any context or culture.  

As I began to see the possibilities He then began to connect me with people like you on the front lines of the delivery of the good news.  

 

 

I understand that your vision is to start an online church that transitions to face-to-face community, how do you see this transition taking place?

It’s already happening with pastors/gifted communicators and teachers who would prefer to deliver the message live. Of course there will be those who log in and listen but the vision is implemented through followers of Jesus obeying His command to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations. They will gather people in whatever space God has given them to hear about Jesus and to learn what it means to follow Him. This makes the church live, local, in person, relationally based and fulfills the Lord’s expectation that we will not forsake the assembling of ourselves together.  

Our need to personally connect and be there for each other will never go away regardless of the advances of technology. Technology is our friend to be used to make connections easier and possible. We will use this technology to create awareness in the churches that the delivery of the message is possible through a gifted teacher in the gathering. We will encourage the hosts if such a person is present and desires to teach then we can evaluate gifting/character and then coach offline around the weeks message so the teacher present can share the word through their own personal story and scriptural insights.  

For the gifted pastor we will allow the teaching of scripture to come from that local pastor who can choose completely different series or messages based on the local context and needs of that community as God leads.  

Just like the early church experienced rapid growth and with it the Holy Spirit gave gifts to those coming to Christ so the body would be healthy, growing and full of love, we want to partner with God’s Spirit to identify those gifted by Christ to use their gifts whatever they may be.  

Our role online is to start and provide the leadership needed in the early phases of new churches just like Paul did as he traveled to those early churches not only starting the gatherings but also helping to identify leaders to care for and oversee the work.  

So a four pronged approach that will constantly be repeated:

 

  1. We start online with gifted communicators on The Brooks Leadership team delivering the message online to the gatherings wherever they may be globally.   

  2. As the vision grows and bi lingual pastors are called to help us, they will take the English version of the message and communicate it in their heart language on video using an iPhone so non-English speaking peoples can gather and become like Jesus. These messages will be uploaded to our site for the non-English speaking gatherings whatever the language may be.  

  3. When gifted communicators are revealed in the gatherings, we will invite to an offline sharing around the message for the week.  That teacher will then communicate live in the gathering with their stories and insights using the same message guide as delivered online.  

  4. When gifted pastors are called to be part of The Brooks Church, they will be allowed to develop their own series and messages related to the context and culture of their gathering while carrying out the vision of the Brooks.  

One of our goals is empowerment, equipping God’s people for the work of the ministry and releasing them for the Global Glory of God.  

 

One measure of success will be gatherings moving from first generation to second, third, and fourth etc. The Brooks is a Church Planting Movement to make disciples of all nations carrying out Jesus command in Matthew 28.  Our ultimate goal is to play our part in the body of Christ in Finishing the Great Commission.    


Learn more about The Brooks by clicking the button below! You can also follow Jimmie on Twitter and Facebook for other great insights!

3 Questions with Kenny Jahng

Kenny Jahng is the Pastor of Media and Innovation at Liquid Church. He has a real knack and passion for advertising and is the man when it comes to helping churches and organizations reach their full potential and influence in marketing. He also has a lot of great insights when it comes to doing online church. Here are three questions I recently asked my good friend Kenny:

 

You're a man of many hats.  Can you share what all (or most) of those hats are and how you balance them all?

That's a great question! Being an entrepreneur at heart, my vocation includes multiple areas at the same time. Currently, I am part of the pastoral team at Liquid Church, a growing multi-site, non-denominational Christian church that meets across the state of New Jersey.  I am responsible for the Church Online campus, which has attracted thousands of attendees from over 150 countries this past year. 

In addition, I lead a strategic marketing advisory firm, Big Click Syndicate LLC, serving non-profit, cause-related, and faith-based/church organizations.  We help organizations with various social media initiatives, digital donor development campaigns and content marketing strategies.  I love helping teams to become more effective in their messaging so that they can engage with more people.  It's rewarding when we can help people use technology to scale the capacity for personal relationships.  Last, but not least, I'm a husband and dad to two kids which ensures that life is never dull and full of adventure!

 

You are a systems guy and have shared how much video content is distributed each week at Liquid Church.  How do you manage it all in an efficient way and what advice do you have for churches that want to do more with video, but feel overwhelmed thinking about live streaming, on-demand distribution, social media clips, etc.?

The first piece of advice for any church interested in video is -- it will become one of your highest ROI activities in terms of reaching and engaging with your staff, volunteers and community. Second is -- don't aim for accomplishing it all, all at once.  Go for incremental gains.  One project at a time.  One platform at a time.  Things get easier and you pick-up momentum the more you do it.  Lastly, just do it.  Remember -- Version One is better than Version NONE!

 

One of the pieces of advice you have given me over and over again is build and nurture that email list.  I find many articles about this for business, but not the church.  How should churches better build and nurture their email list or lists?

There are two key concepts which I teach my coaching clients about email from the start. 

1) Email is a conversation.  Not a periodical.  Even your monthly newsletters -- you need to start thinking of them as a vehicle NOT to serve the organization, but rather to provide WIIFM value ("What's In I For Me") for the reader.  No one likes someone who keeps talking about themselves and things that only pertain to themselves 100% of the time.  But that's exactly what you're probably doing with a lot of your messaging (especially your newsletters and donor correspondence). 

2) Start with an email-based "tour" of your church or organization -- I call this the 4x4.  If you had the opportunity for a weekly 4 minute call with someone for just 4 times before they decided to visit your church or not, what would you talk about each time?  You would forget the fluff and talk only about the most interesting, or most distinguishing facets from the other person's point of view, right? You'd probably leave it open on the last call for any questions or even an invitation to come on by sometime, right? Write out those conversations and turn them into an email. 

Use conversational language, not formal jargon and turns of phrases.  Use the word "you" vs phrases like "them" or "Smith City residents" or other generic ways to identify the individual reader.  How often do you read your incoming emails out loud with a group of people? So stop writing your emails as if someone is doing that on the other side.  Write an individual email that happens to be sent once to multiple people.  Not a single email that is being written to multiple people at once. 

Now you have your first email lead nurturing sequence including call to action ("just hit reply and ask me any questions you might have, or better yet, I'd love to have you come to a service soon.  Let me know if you are planning on coming on a given week so that I can make sure you have a fantastic visit!").  And #boom, you're done! Offer it as a "mini tour" on your home page and any other relevant pages across the site.

 

 

You can read more great thoughts by Kenny on his blog! And you can also follow him on Twitter and YouTube.

3 Questions with Dr. Steve Grcevich

Over the past 2 years or so I have had the privilege of serving Key Ministry as a Consultant.  In the process I have grown very close with the founder and visionary leader of the ministry, Dr. Steve Grcevich.  He's a tremendous leader, visionary and most of all a great friend.  It's been an honor to serve the ministry and get to know Steve better over this time.  Here are three questions that I recently asked Steve:

 

1.  What led to the creation of Key Ministry from the beginning and how have you seen the ministry develop over the years?

I was serving on our local church’s Board in 1997 when Libby Peterson (at that time, the children’s ministry director, now Key Ministry’s Vice President) came to a Board meeting to report on the efforts the church was engaged in to serve a cohort of highly committed families who adopted children from orphanages in Russia and Bulgaria after the fall of the Iron Curtain. Many of the families experienced challenges maintaining their involvement at church because of the emotional or behavioral challenges their children demonstrated when they attempted to bring them to church, or experienced difficulties finding qualified child care to sustain participation in small groups or other church activities.