Typically, a church has greeters whose job is to make a good first-time guest experience. The pastors tell the congregation to greet people around them. When the church has ended, the same people meet for lunch at the same place every Sunday. The biggest complaint pre-Covid19 was consumerism in the church. Post COVID19, the online experience remains a key tool in evangelism and missions. Like Carey Nieuwhof said, “The foyer moved.” How can we engage the heart and mind online and evolve as a church without sacrificing depth?
Thom S. Rainer, in his book, Becoming a Welcoming Church, talked about Justin who visited a church with his family. This church was an older church and, because Justin and his family were young, they were swarmed. He said, “We had seen some of them [the greeters] in town, and they sure weren’t friendly there. But they put on a good show when we visited [the church].” Most of your congregation is online in some form whether it’s a Bible App, Facebook, or Twitter. The observation of most is that social media has become a boxing ring. It doesn’t have to be this way if we focus on the warnings and wisdom in Scripture on guarding our tongue.
“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak,” Matthew 12:36; or Proverbs 18:21, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” Both can cause a teachable person to start self-editing, perhaps even shuddering at what God thinks of their posts. You can equip the teachable volunteers to engage online and treat your digital church as an extension of your face-to-face church from the pulpit to the congregation.
In a lot of small to medium churches, the digital platform is managed by a volunteer, a pastor, or someone on staff, but they are given a hundred other duties to do so social media and the online experience are not a priority. In light of Thom S. Rainer’s story about Justin, choosing the right set of volunteers to engage digitally is important.
A good digital volunteer…
- …is teachable.
- …is a prayer warrior.
- …has a social media profile that is an inviting experience, or is willing to audit their social media to become better at creating an inviting experience while still being uniquely them.
A good digital volunteer is not necessarily techie. If they are teachable, they will learn as long as you give them small tasks they can accomplish, and grow their skills from that point. You want to build your digital volunteers through good leadership. This is an opportunity to mentor people. It is disciples making disciples who make disciples. The digital team you create is your word-of-mouth.
Word-of-mouth is powerful. The online reputation of a church can be created organically through digital teams using their own social media to engage with their community and beyond.
The first step of engagement is during your Facebook or YouTube Lives. Go where your community hangs out, just like you would do in the face-to-face when doing outreach. The digital work can complement the face-to-face ministry.
The next step is to assign your digital team tasks they can do according to their strengths. In the digital team I lead with my home church, one shares from the church Facebook Page to the Facebook Group. Another writes devotionals in the Facebook Group, making himself available by email for conversation. Both engage on Sundays and Wednesdays during the Facebook Lives in regular conversation.
Other tasks for your digital teams can be:
- Do your volunteers speak a second language? Does that people group exist online where they can engage between services? Google Translate is good, but if you don’t have to rely on this, and can write in the heart language of the people group in your community, this is better.
- Do your volunteers have a past with a cult or false religion? Can they be trained to speak into that group of people? Where are they hanging out online?
- Do any of your digital volunteers have experience in missions? Perhaps they can find that people group in your community and engage with them online?
While the relationship-building strategy is vast, and there are a lot of good ideas around the web, the one important concept to keep close to your heart is this: All online efforts must be prayer-led. The church foyer has moved online, and how you use it matters.
- How to Serve Online: Dissecting the MII Report
- Three Approaches for a Healthy Online Church
- 5 Tips to Take the Fear Out of Learning Technology
- How to Make Digital Prayer Requests More Interactive