My name is TK, and I’m obsessed with Apple products. If you know me personally, you know I have basically purchased every product that Apple has ever sold or endorsed. Some might even say I love them to a fault because I will defend their products to the death. Every year, Apple has several live events called Keynotes. This is where they unveil their newest and greatest products.
take my money
They basically make people like me throw cash at their computer screen. It doesn’t matter what it is. If they make some kind of new technological marvel, I want it. I want it because it’s new. I want it because it can save me time and fix my problems. I want it because I can show it off to everyone else.
Technology just has a way of making you want to try new things. Sometimes because it’s ridiculously useful, and sometimes just because it’s cool. I know I’ve fallen prey to the desire to be on the “cutting edge”, I’ve definitely seen this happen to a lot people, and I’ve most definitely seen it happen to churches.
For almost a decade, churches have been adding online services to their repertoire. Why? Because it’s trendy. It’s fun. It’s cool. It’s futuristic. For some churches it is a really great idea. After all, the physical world is quite a bit smaller than the digital world.
Statistics show there is actually more information in the digital world than the physical world. Altogether, we know there’s more media in the digital world than the physical world too. So why shouldn’t the church make herself known there?
the truth is
Doing online church can be just as harmful as helpful if you’re not careful. You need to strategize online church just like any other decision you make. Adding an online worship experience is no different than adding another service in many ways; you have to think about how that effects your team and your flock.
We’ve compiled the five things you absolutely need to know about online church so you can best decide if having an online service is right for your church.
5 things you need to know about online church
1) people do not want to chat during church
If you’re going into this thinking there’s going to be excessive amounts of community that develop surrounding online church, you’re absolutely wrong. Sure, it’s not impossible to develop community online, but ultimately online church doesn’t end up panning out the same way pastors think when it comes to interaction. Only a very small handful of churches globally have managed to create a vibrant online church setting with lots of interaction and communication. Ultimately, there’s a very good reason for this.
People don’t talk in church when they’re in the pews. Why the heck would they talk in church while they’re online? In a 2013 poll, two-thousand church goers were asked whether or not they would chat during online church; eighteen people said they’d be interested in chatting when going to church online. Having a chat isn’t a bad idea, but there’s a really good chance people aren’t going to use it. So if you’re doing online church for the purpose of creating community, you’re barking up the wrong tree.
2) people skip church to go online
This is a sad but very apparent truth. Any church that has begun broadcasting their services live online will tell you that it affected weekend attendance. It makes sense after all. If you can go to church in your pajamas with a plate of pancakes in front of you on a Sunday morning, why brave the frigid winter air and get dressed at all? Online church is the fastest and quietest way you will ever accidentally endorse your church not showing up on the weekend.
While we don’t see a massive decrease in attendance, the average attendance drop hovers right around ten percent once an online service is added. This doesn’t have to be a negative thing of course. Some will use your online services to attend church when their children are sick, or when they’re traveling. While it’s not all bad, you need to consider the implications of online church carefully.
3) you need to define a clear goal for your online experience
Adding an online service just because it’s cool is a terrible idea. Online church takes time, strategy, resources, and a champion that can really invest in the project. In many ways, broadcasting your services online is like starting a whole new church location. It will take months of consistency and relationship building for it to offer any rate of return or interaction. Churches often report that their first salvation occurs well after the one-year mark of doing online church.
Don’t just guess whether or not online church is a good idea. Consider hiring a consultant, like us for example, to assess whether or not online church can help you reach your goals. For instance, if the goal of online church is to increase weekend attendance, you’re going to likely fall short. However, if the goal of online church is to build an international community of believers, it’s more than possible.
4) technology fails all the time
We’ve all been in a situation where we’re standing on stage in front of hundreds of people and the microphone cuts out. It can be embarrassing, and down right frustrating when technology fails us like that. Well guess what? Online church is its own service with all of its own technology problems, and stuff goes wrong all the time.
Online church relies on a technology, called streaming, that allows video to be sent out of your church and onto the internet. Factors like internet speeds coming into your building, and the amount of people currently using your internal network, can affect the quality of your stream. Not to mention the fact that an excellent online stream will require its own producer who is keeping an eye on the technology end of things.
Also, people tend to complain a lot about how your stream isn’t working correctly when they’re trying to watch, even if the stream is working fine. So that means their computer problems become your problems. This is like people complaining to the church every time their car has a problem and they can’t make it in, but it’s still a real thing that happens.
5) having online church is probably not going to achieve what you think it will achieve
Come to terms with the fact that online church probably isn’t going to help you achieve any lofty goals you have. At least not without a lot of hard work, dedication, and consistency. Online church is not the fast route to accomplishing anything.
If you think it’s going to grow your church, increase your offering, or even attract a younger audience, you’re probably wrong. While if you expect online church to offer sick or traveling families an opportunity to worship, or a way for you to minister to a national/international audience, you’re probably correct.
So think twice about adding an online service to your weekly repertoire. It is by no means a bad idea, but the implications are quite often a bit more than people realize. Spend time researching the investment it will take in terms of finances and time.
Get an outside opinion, and hire a micro-consultant like us, to help you strategize your online church goals and figure out whether or not you can accomplish them. Most of all, prayerfully consider whether or not this is right for your church, or if it just sounds like a great idea because everyone else is doing it right now.
Check out this podcast and listen to the full conversation.
Chief Executive Officer
TK has worked in the church for over a decade and brings years of executive leadership experience along with years of experience in media and technology. TK has a Masters in Public Administration and is an expert of navigating the minefield of procedural issues churches experience. He’s not quite so stuffy though; he is vibrantly creative and understands what it takes to create and plan a weekend from start to finish including video, music, and production.