Although church online services have been around for many years, churches are rapidly jumping into this for the first time. One of the biggest parts of a successful Livestream is not the technical execution but social engagement. How you interact with the people watching will improve the overall experience of church online for your congregation. After all, the in-person church is social, interactive, and engaging. Shouldn’t church online be the same? Here in this article, I’ll share with you how to host church online by offering 10 rules for engaging your Livestream.
1. Introduce yourself to the viewers
Begin the stream by introducing yourself and welcoming everyone to church online. Just as you would greet people in a physical space, it is important to do so digitally. Make sure your church has at least one if not two dedicated people to your church Livestream conversation thread. Be the first person to comment and let your viewers know you will be the host today.
2. Welcome people joining the Livestream comment thread
As people join and comment, greet them and mention their name. Handshakes are impossible these days, but they’ve never been available online. The comment thread is your digital handshake with your Livestream guests. It may become a bit overwhelming as more people join, but adding that personal touch of mentioning a viewer’s name is part of what makes online church actually feel like church. You have an opportunity to interact with people without interrupting worship, prayer, or teaching. Make that personal connection so people feel welcome.
3. Provide directions for how people can engage in church
Church usually pretty structured. Though every church service is different, there are parts of service that are usually pretty universal. The in-person church has worship with lyrics in print or on a large screen for the congregation to sing together. Your pastor may have a sermon outline for taking notes. And there is a moment of giving for people’s tithes and offerings. These service items are set up specifically in church and people know exactly when, where, and how to engage. What about church online? Show people when, where, and how to do the things in the church you usually do. Provide directions for finding links to song lyrics, sermon notes, and online giving if they are on a website landing page for your church’s Livestream. In addition, share those links in the comment thread so people can get to them right there.
4. Point people to helpful resources
Your pastor is called to lead, guide, and teach your congregation. Pastors are uniquely equipped to share the Word of God to a congregation and help the big “C” Church strengthen their faith. Pastors are especially adept at providing numerous resources to their congregation to help them throughout the week to extend the teaching from Sunday service to personal growth at home. With church online, your congregation is already at home. It is even easier to point people to resources mentioned in the sermon. Share links to videos, articles, or any other resource related to the sermon topic. Your viewers don’t need to try to write down or remember what the pastor said in their sermon. All they have to do is click a link.
5. Share how people can connect through the week
Church is about relationships. The church buzz phrase is often something like “here’s how to get connected.” Sure, church online means there is no in-person interaction. However, social media helps us get and stay connected more than ever. Church online happens on Sunday, but Church happens through the week. Does your church have small groups? Are there prayer meetings? Do you have mid-week teaching or worship? Share where people can connect through the week and how they can do it.
6. Offer care through prayer
Does your church have a connect card or prayer request card? Is it online? Make sure it is! During the service or at a specific prayer moment, offer to pray for people. Give the link to a prayer request form and let people know you care. Most importantly, tell people their request can be anonymous. Your members should feel confident to share their praise or suffering. Let everyone know you are there with them along with the Spirit.
7. Make direct contact with people who are commenting (Optional, but encouraged!)
When you see people commenting during or after your church’s Livestream, reach out to people directly as it seems appropriate. Did someone seem particularly upset or hurting? Did a comment spark a need for more personalized care? As uncomfortable as it may seem, contact people in your Livestream directly either during the stream or as a follow up after the service on Sunday or through the week. Send a direct message through social media. Texting or calling can feel even more personal, so offer your phone number during the stream. Tell people you are eager to receive a text or phone call and provide pastoral care and encouragement.
8. Be purposeful and responsive
Once your Livestream starts and you engage your viewers, be intentional in interacting with people in the comment thread. We want to connect with other people. We want to be seen and heard. As a host of church online, your goal should be purposeful and responsive. Be purposeful by following all of the previous steps listed in this article to anticipate everyone’s comments and questions. Be responsive by replying to comments and questions. Reply to people, provide a next step answer for someone with a question, and stay engaged with people who are active. If you are intentional, the people in your Livestream will notice. Your online church will feel like church.
9. Do that thing you do
You are all unique leaders, be yourself! Offer conversation prompts based on the teaching as it happens, ask for anyone who needs to be lifted up in prayer, encourage people the way you know how. Let your personality shine through. Remember, you are doing more than representing your church digitally, you are a leader providing ministry to your congregation. Every ministry leader has a unique personality. Don’t feel any pressure to try to “represent” your church. Church is made up of people and you are part of it. Be authentic and be yourself!
10. Have fun!
Online church is all about engagement. And, it should be fun! Ask people where they are watching. Ask them if they are in PJs, in bed, or together in the living room. Ask everyone to share their favorite coffee mug. Prompt viewers to share a photo of themselves watching church. Find out what song they loved today. Help people enjoy church online in a unique way that could never happen in traditional service.
Whether you are seasoned veterans to church online or diving headfirst into Livestream for the first time, hopefully, these 10 steps will help you engage with your viewers in a unique way. Do you have any other tips to church online? Let us know in the comments!