Five Ways to Encourage Participation in Online Church

by Nils Smith, Chief Strategist Social Media+Innovation

In the wake of the recent coronavirus pandemic, there are two things we know for sure: People are searching for peace that can only come from Jesus, and online church is becoming a “new normal” for sharing His message. But if you want your congregation to go beyond just tuning in for the sermon and then leaving until next week, you need to be intentional about creating spaces for people to engage online.

Here are some proven tips for effectively engaging with your congregation online.

1. Choose a primary engagement channel.

This doesn’t mean you should only have one place for people to engage. But if you present too many options, chances are people will get confused and decide it’s not worth the hassle. Focus your efforts on one primary channel and present the rest as secondary options.

2. Create clear calls to action.

Think about your in-person church experience. When someone visits for the first time, you might ask them to fill out a card. When someone accepts Christ, you want them to raise their hand or come to the front. And when it comes to the offering, there’s a place and time for people to give.

All those things can (and should) happen online too. But just like in-person services, you have to make it clear to your audience. Establish those calls to action and communicate them clearly to each of your channels.

3. Continue online social engagement beyond the worship experience.

If people engage with you via livestream on Sunday mornings, then they’re likely to continue engaging online outside of the service. Use the 24/7 nature of social media to your advantage and keep the stream of communication going all week. Traditional services can benefit from this too!

4. Communicate about your online service anywhere and everywhere.

Just because you put it on the internet doesn’t mean people are going to show up. You have lists – use them! Send emails and text messages, post on social media, mention it from the pulpit. Use whatever resources you have to get the word out consistently and often.

And while you’re at it, get your congregation involved. Online church makes it easier than ever to invite a friend to church (and easier than ever for those friends to join). So ask your people to share the service with their friends, family, or co-workers.

5. Prioritize online community and interactions.

When your church meets in person, do you have greeters at the front door? What about small group studies or prayer teams? Interactions like these deepen your church community and create a healthy culture by making the experience more personal.

Now, how can this translate online? Perhaps that means using live chats to welcome people, sending prayer emails, or even asking questions during the stream to encourage conversation. Whatever you do, don’t bow out once you’ve begun. When someone contacts you, be personal and follow up as soon as possible.

The beauty of the internet is that it allows us to reach people we otherwise might never get to reach with the hope of Jesus. Don’t let this amazing opportunity slip through your fingers!

If you would like more tips for effectively engaging with your congregation online, check out my FREE Dunham Institute course Online Church – Providing the Best Experience.


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