Building a Digital Strategy for Your Church isn't Optional
I have had the privilege to speak with a lot of pastors over the last several months. Many pastors and leaders (including myself) continue to feel the pressure and frustration of reaching people, while trying to navigate through our ever-changing landscape. While the topics have varied, digital strategy seems to dominate most conversations, and rightly so. Hopefully most pastors are convinced that reaching people online is no longer optional. And by the way, if you feel like it is, your church will miss one of the greatest opportunities ever to share Jesus. Digital isn't going away.
Hopefully most pastors are convinced that reaching people online is no longer optional. And by the way, if you feel like it is, your church will miss one of the greatest opportunities ever to share Jesus. Digital isn't going away. click to tweet
Pre-pandemic, our church had a strong virtual presence. Like most churches, when Covid-19 hit, we closed the doors and put our energy into our Sunday morning streaming. At first, we were excited about the increase of people tuning in. But after several weeks, I realized people watching online was "A" win, but it wasn’t "THE" win. We had to look beyond viewership and think about engagement. We had to re-focus our digital strategy to align with the mission of the church.
During the month of April, we planned a digital strategy that I consider a big win. I want to take a moment and share some of those wins, as well as some thoughts and principles that drove our thinking. Hopefully this will be helpful to you as you plan your online experiences.
Like most churches, after serval weeks of streaming our Sunday services, we noticed our viewership held steady, but was not growing. More importantly, we learned that the vast majority of the viewers were our own church people or other Christians. That’s not a bad thing. We were glad our church could still tune in each Sunday. At the same time, it was clear that we were not reaching unchurched people. It didn't take long to realize that people who were disconnected from church were not scrolling on Sundays, looking for an online church service.
After Easter, my team and I put together a digital strategy called, MAYDAY (for the month of May). The idea was birthed by asking this question, “What is a relevant topic today? What are people talking about” At that particular time, social media was buzzing about the unhealthiness of the quarantine. People were becoming “house-burnt, depressed and overweight.
Here is what we decided to do. We created 21 five to seven minute videos and content, where people were given a spiritual, emotional and physical challenge each day, for 21 days. We started a MAYDAY Facebook group where people shared their accomplishments and struggles. End result? We had hundreds of people accept the #MAYDAYCHALLENGE. The group was very diverse. There were older people, younger people, Christians and people who had never been inside of a church before. They were all engaging and sharing.
Every day for 21 days, people tuned in for a short video to learn their daily challenges; they posted pics of their exercise circles, their healthy food choices and the scripture they read for the day. People lost weight, ate healthier and read the Bible daily! Engagement happened. Conversations happened. Community happened. Life change happened. And no one gathered in the building.
I believe God is using the pandemic to challenge every church to preach the good news of Jesus on the largest platform in the world. Don’t miss the opportunity. click to tweet
Let me add, I am not anti-gathering. Actually I am just the opposite. My hopes are the pandemic will end sooner than later. However, the opportunity to reach people online will still be there. I believe God is using the pandemic to challenge every church to preach the good news of Jesus on the largest platform in the world. Don’t miss the opportunity.
Here are four questions to answer as you plan your digital strategy for the new year.
- What can you offer (digitally) outside of Sunday? Think outside of 45-60 minute experiences. Less is more. Less gets watched.
- What is the current and relevant conversation in your city or community right now? What is the felt need? By the way, it's changing daily.
- How can you brand your digital offering and content so that it is appealing to people who aren’t Christians? What will make people pause? What will make them click?
- How will you create virtual engagement and community opportunities beyond viewership? How can you measure it? What are the digital next steps that can lead towards spiritual growth?