One of the biggest concerns when it comes to online churches is the community aspect.
This community aspect of the church is more than just the warmth of the pews, the hymns and the feeling of being connected to the rest of the church through shared prayers and stories.
It's the sense of belonging to a church family - that’s one of the most important reasons that people join a church in the first place.
Many people are concerned that having a church online will mean that they lose the sense of community that's supposed to be a big part of the church. But is that really the case? What if the community aspect of the church never left the church building but instead found a physical home in the digital space?
A virtual church doesn't mean there isn’t community — it may just mean that the community is no longer represented by the church building itself. This makes the community even more real because it can exist whenever and wherever people are.
In this blog, we discuss five ways you can make an online church more like an actual brick-and-mortar church. Use this as a starting point to help you and your church make those important connections.
1. Build a community around your church website
People don't have to know each other in person to get to know each other online.
You may, for example, create a website where members of the congregation can write greetings, leave comments on one another's posts, and share church-related materials. Or you can use forums or Q&A services to have more meaningful discussions about what's going on at church.
As they get more involved, they'll naturally build a personal relationship within the online community. It will give them a reason to stay engaged and connected with your church.
If you're interested in creating a church website that's more than just a place for people to sign up for services and leave feedback, check out Tithely. With Tithely, you can build a website that reflects your church's culture and beliefs and a place for people to connect and get involved.
2. Offer services online
Virtual worship services have become very popular, and many options are available.
You can use Facebook, Youtube, or your church website to stream live videos of your services. Whatever you choose, make sure these services are easy for people to access.
Online services also allow for more flexibility in terms of giving. People can simply donate online or via mobile phone. Create an account with Tithe.ly to discover how simple it is to set up online giving.
As you make an online church more like a church, you'll naturally start to reach people who are not in your physical church community. They may be people who live in other states, prefer to get information online, or are unable to attend your regular church.
For you, it may be the perfect way to reach a new audience. For the people you reach, it may be a great chance to discover a new church with a fresh and engaging online experience.
3. Create a virtual life group
Virtual life groups are great ways to keep people connected and motivated. Life groups consist of individuals who connect with one another and share life experiences.
We all need to feel connected to something bigger than us. If there is a way to do that online, then you can do it in a virtual life group. You can connect people with similar interests, and you can also connect people with similar challenges.
If people feel like their questions and struggles are being heard, they will feel more connected to the church. By offering social support in the form of a virtual life group, your church can provide people with the kind of support they need when they may not be able to find support elsewhere.
You can have more formal groups, like small or cell groups, where people can discuss their struggles or share questions about faith. Or you can have more casual groups like Bible studies, where people can share their questions and answers on a weekly basis.
You can also use the life groups to help you reach people outside of your church community. For example, you can offer a life group specific to people in a particular country area or a specific demographic. In this way, you can reach a community that otherwise wouldn't have been reached with in-person services.
Remember, the goal here is to be a community for people to connect and grow together. You're not necessarily trying to get people to join your church online. It's more to get people connected to the church in a meaningful way. If you do this right, people will naturally want to join.
If you want to learn more about strengthening your virtual life groups, then check out this app.
4. Offer group programs
Group programs are a great way to bring people together and help them learn more about your church.
You can offer programs like workshops on parenting, discipleship, leadership, marriage and family life, or programs that help people with their own specific spiritual needs.
These programs can be done online or in a physical location, but the key is that they help people learn about your church in a meaningful and engaging way.
As you bring people together to learn, you'll naturally build relationships. These relationships will become a natural addition to your church's online community and give them a reason to become more involved with your church. These programs might lead to people joining your church online.
This is a great way to grow your church and grow your community as well. The more people you bring together, the more bonds will form, and the more people will want to grow closer to God.
5. Use social media intentionally
Social media is a great way to grow your church. Using it, however, should be intentional.
You'll need to make sure that your posts are relevant and that they encourage people to join your church. For example, you can share interesting stories or share content that helps people learn more about God and the church.
Make sure that you're engaging positively with people and not simply sharing links to other websites or pages. You don't want to give the impression that you're just trying to use the Internet as a recruitment mechanism. People will see through that, and they'll become disengaged.
Be creative with how you share content, because you want to capture the attention and hearts of people. Make sure that your content is valuable and authentic.
There are no real rules when it comes to social media. The important thing is to simply be genuine.
The Bottom Line
Let's not be afraid to embrace this new way of connecting. Instead, let's make sure that what it provides is the best aspect of the Christian community.
There is no doubt we will still need face-to-face, in-person relationships, but we also need to expand this community with an online presence.
God can use all of these different forms of community. Whether we are holding a physical service or hosting a live stream, helping people in the real world, or reaching them online, the key is always the same: We need to be connecting people to Jesus. This is the only way to build a thriving church community.