The Line Between In-Person and Online Church

Church Tech feat. Frank Barry and Dean Sweetman
The Line Between In-Person and Online Church with Dean Sweetman and Frank Barry from the Church Tech Podcast

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Line Between In-person and Online Church

There's a lot of debate about the line between in-person and online church. Some people think that if you're not physically present in a church, it's not a church at all. Others believe that it doesn't matter whether you're physically present or not—it's all about your intent.

And we think both of these views are right—to a point. The key is finding a balance that works for your church. This means bringing together the strengths of both in-person and online worship.

For most churches, online infrastructure is now the new normal. Buzzwords like ‘metaverse’ and ‘virtual reality’ will become increasingly common as we move forward into the future of worship. 

It’s a brave new world for churches. We are living in an age where technology is changing at breakneck speed. However, we should not forget that face-to-face interaction has always been essential in community building. While we've become accustomed to receiving messages in an online format, we're still social creatures at heart. We want to interact with real people, not just read messages on a digital screen.

That's why it's important for churches to find ways to balance the need for satisfying virtual engagements with the desire for face-to-face interactions. By offering hybrid services, churches can help congregants experience the best of both worlds. 

Churches need to be willing to adapt to the times. Online church services are gaining in popularity, but many churches are hesitant to make the switch. That's why we're excited to share this episode of Church Tech, where Dean Sweetman and Frank Barry discuss the benefits of integrating online content into your worship services while also emphasizing the importance of maintaining a healthy balance between in-person and digital worship models.

“I think that technology is a gift from God to fulfill the Great Commission, going to all the world and preaching the gospel so that people believe repent and believe that Jesus is Lord and Savior. And that's what's going to change the world.”
-Dean Sweetman

Dean is the co-founder and CEO of Tithe.ly. Before launching Tithe.ly, Dean was involved in ministry for more than 30 years. 

Frank is a founding Executive Team member and COO at Tithe.ly. Prior to being at Tithe.ly, Frank spent nearly 15 years helping churches, charities, and nonprofit organizations leverage technology to advance their mission. 

You can do both in-person and online ministry with the right strategy. Find out the key differences and how to combine them so that you can reach more people for Jesus!

By the end of this episode, you will learn:

  • Reasons to consider church online
  • Steps your church should be doing with social media
  • How your church can overcome the digital divide
  • How to find the right mix of the church in-person and church online

Resources Mentioned:

Know more about Tithe.ly: get.tithe.ly
Follow Tithe.ly on Instagram: tithe.ly
Follow Tithe.ly on Twitter: tithe.ly
Like Tithe.ly on Facebook: @tithelyapp

Other Episodes You May be Interested In:

What is Church Tech
How Churches Can Become More Effective Online with Trey Van Camp
How to Impact the Community with Ministry Resources with John Craft

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[13:31] We know deep down that the church needs to be in person for it to be a church.

[16:16] I think that technology is a gift from God to fulfill the Great Commission, going to all the world and preaching the gospel so that people believe repent and believe that Jesus is Lord and Savior. And that's what's going to change the world.

[19:19] Should people be in church every week? Yes. Why should you be in church? Because you're going to grow spiritually. You're going to get to worship with the saints in a collective environment that is uplifting and positive and encouraging, encouraging to your soul. And those things can't be replaced.

[26:17] People will live in both online and in person. It's going to be a dual thing. And churches are probably going also to have to be like it. It is also part of how we do community, not as a replacement.

[27:20] Intertwining of digital and physical is here to stay. It's never going away. And I think the experiences are just going to keep evolving as technology keeps evolving.

[29:03] A church that embraces tech is going to be able to do more of its mission. 

podcast transcript

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Dean Sweetman (00:00):

I think what people and pastors are grappling with now is, "What's online's purpose?" Because we know deep down that the church needs to be in person for it to be a church. That is controversial to some people. There's a group of people that are all in on the metaverse and I'm into it. We live in technology for church so we are massively into whatever technology we can supply to help churches. But there is a dynamic that's scriptural and we know from the fact of what happens in everyday life, when you're with people, there's dynamics that happen that do not transfer from a camera to a screen into the heart and the mind of someone consuming.

Frank Barry (00:48):

Round two. Episode number two of the Church Tech Podcast. Here we come.

Dean Sweetman (00:53):

Here we come. It's going to be great. We're talking about some good stuff today that is really important.

Frank Barry (01:00):

We have lots of good topics. Hopefully we pick important ones and as we get this out there, I think we've said, we want to hear from everyone listening about the things that you guys are feeling and thinking about and wrestling with and all that. But one of those topics is church online so we thought we'd spend 30 minutes talking about this concept of church online that has-

Dean Sweetman (01:21):

Evolved.

Frank Barry (01:22):

... basically exploded since the pandemic hit. Right?

Dean Sweetman (01:24):

Right, because church online's been around for a long time in various forms and it's like anything online.

Frank Barry (01:30):

I think it started in like the early 2000s, right?

Dean Sweetman (01:34):

Yeah, totally.

Frank Barry (01:35):

So you've got 20 years yep of church online in some iteration.

Dean Sweetman (01:41):

Yeah, the first thing I remember doing is getting the sermon up and putting it up there as an MP3 when I didn't even know what an MP3 was and then-

Frank Barry (01:57):

The MP3.

Dean Sweetman (01:57):

MP3 and then video and then it's just kept building. Now where obviously pandemic, post-pandemic-ish, it's come a long way in the last couple of years. So it'd be good to talk about some of the things that we think that church online is and does, and some of the things that... And in some of them, my personal views being still very connected to the local runnings of churches and talking to a lot of pastors, as you do too, some of the things that church online I don't think is or shouldn't be, so we can get into that.

Frank Barry (02:32):

Yeah. Yeah, maybe for folks that may not know exactly what it is or they're trying to figure it out, maybe they just don't know the name, but they've been doing some version of it kind of thing, we can set that up.

Dean Sweetman (02:44):

Yeah.

Frank Barry (02:45):

What did church online look like when the pandemic hit?

Dean Sweetman (02:49):

Well-

Frank Barry (02:50):

Because right now, that's what everybody's doing now. Right?

Dean Sweetman (02:52):

Right. Well, the week before the pandemic hit, it's basically the same as it was been for 20 years, it had not really shifted, unless you're a really large church with big tech resource budgets and all that. So it hadn't done much. Pandemic hits, first of all, there's a group of churches that had nothing online, maybe not even a-

Frank Barry (03:14):

Website.

Dean Sweetman (03:15):

Yeah. Of course, and they didn't have their sermon up so that became, again, probably the entry point for most churches that hadn't been really serious about online. But if you were already online, you were scrambling to now, "How do I take the interaction that happens in a face to face setting and somehow get that on the computer screen?" And some churches did that better than others. I remember what we did very quickly is we built that interactive interface into our website product that allowed chat and prayer basically, and giving buttons to get embedded in and so there was a little more interaction between the person watching from home and [inaudible 00:04:07].

Frank Barry (04:06):

Well, worst case, the church had nothing. And for most churches, the best case that they were doing was they'd have a camera in the back. Or maybe if you were one level up, you had multi-camera, you might have two or three cameras. But they were just shots of the stage.

Dean Sweetman (04:24):

Yeah.

Frank Barry (04:24):

And your service was being streamed live. Your regular in person service, everything you did in the building, it was just streamed live to Facebook or YouTube. And some churches used Life.Church's free church online platform.

Dean Sweetman (04:43):

Phenomenal.

Frank Barry (04:44):

Some churches used Tithe.ly's church online platform.

Dean Sweetman (04:47):

Phenomenal.

Frank Barry (04:47):

Where basically that live feed was brought into a webpage. So you had these website only guys, nothing. And then you had the guys just streaming their service with no other thought about what the person on the other side was... How they were interacting. They were just sitting back watching a movie. There's no real interaction.

Dean Sweetman (05:08):

Hopefully with good audio, but in a lot them the audio was bad.

Frank Barry (05:12):

Yeah, totally. Bad audio, bad cameras. Church online was an afterthought for most churches. And again, we're talking about 300 plus thousand churches. Most being 120 or under. Most churches were not creating these great online experiences and you had maybe some outliers on the megachurch side of things that were really getting after it.

Dean Sweetman (05:37):

As you do with most technology in church. And we love focusing on that smaller congregation that is under resourced, no budgets, and that's why we do what we do. But so if that was the... The worst case was nothing. The next step was that what you just described. What seemed to me, as things evolved, and you remember, we didn't know how long this was going to last. Shelter in place, that evil saying, was being shot around the world on television. And we're like, "Oh, this is two weeks, maybe three weeks." Well, six months in and we're like, "What is going on?"

Frank Barry (06:19):

Yeah, I remember hitting June, July going, "I'm losing my marbles. I've got to go somewhere and do something."

Dean Sweetman (06:27):

Massive uncertainty. So if we look at what happened, I think a couple things, I remember helping a lot of customers hook up to the YouTube account and go to Facebook live. So that's a next jump maybe from just throwing cameras in and recording. But then I think what leaders worked out is recording a message to an empty room and pretending it was a Sunday service quickly became apparent that that was not a great experience for the church member.

Frank Barry (06:58):

Well, it's hard.

Dean Sweetman (06:58):

It's hard to do as a speaker.

Frank Barry (07:01):

Yeah, as a speaker. And I've never even done that professionally, though I've spoken a lot. A room with no engagement, nobody, even if the room has people in it, if you're not getting feedback from the room, it's hard.

Dean Sweetman (07:14):

100%.

Frank Barry (07:14):

Imagine doing it to an empty room.

Dean Sweetman (07:16):

Right. And pretending to rev up the sermon and crescendo your fourth point or whatever, it's difficult. So I think that slowly but surely like, "Well, that's not... We can't keep this up." So then I think things like, "Hey, let's not pretend to do church. Let's record something that's a little more interactive. Maybe me and my wife are going to sit in a couple of nice chairs in a nice room and maybe we're going to switch from reproducing church to actually having conversations with people and still talk about the Bible and weave in a message, introduce things like prayer." And so I think it went from that to, "Let's be more personal and talk to our people and not pretend to give something that's a really inferior product."

Frank Barry (08:11):

Well, we had to figure out... What I saw churches... Well, they had to figure out how to... Because doing the lesson might have been the easiest part of it, though not easy. But I'm already delivering a lesson, I'm already preaching something. So I'm going to just suck it up and do it to the camera. But at least that was already happening. But worship and prayer are really hard to do online.

Dean Sweetman (08:39):

They're hard to do live.

Frank Barry (08:41):

They're really, really hard. What? Say it again.

Dean Sweetman (08:42):

They're hard to do live.

Frank Barry (08:44):

Yeah, yeah, yeah. That connection and that feeling and being in the room and the energy and all the things get even worse when it comes to worship. So lots of churches were figuring out, "How do you make music videos?" Essentially. How do you produce something? And one of the things that I really loved that I saw lots of churches doing, I don't know who the first one was to do it, but there were... Think about being on a Zoom and you have all the squares and every square was a different musician and so they would do the whole production. And edit it and put... And it was really cool and it was very much more, to your point, a little more grassroots, home feeling vibe versus watching a music concert. So I think people had to figure out how to talk to the camera and welcome people online, that whole-

Dean Sweetman (09:41):

Yeah.

Frank Barry (09:42):

... not starting the service off, like, "Hey, Church," and being in the room, but talking to you on the camera and they had to figure out worship and how to do that well. All of those muscles, nobody knew how to do.

Dean Sweetman (09:54):

Yeah, so hard. If I was pastoring at the time and I was in the middle of this, I think I just would've got everyone subscriptions to Spotify and turn on the worship channel and just let the professionals help you worship.

Frank Barry (10:09):

And call it good.

Dean Sweetman (10:09):

Call it good.

Frank Barry (10:12):

Call it good. Everyone had to upgrade their tech, right? At home tech too.

Dean Sweetman (10:17):

Yeah.

Frank Barry (10:17):

Because you had pastors at home.

Dean Sweetman (10:18):

That's right.

Frank Barry (10:19):

Instead of going to the church, they were-

Dean Sweetman (10:20):

Remember that guy you ramped on and he's trying to hook his iPhone up and-

Frank Barry (10:25):

Yeah, [inaudible 00:10:26].

Dean Sweetman (10:26):

[inaudible 00:10:26] the middle of nowhere.

Frank Barry (10:29):

Little church in the middle of Texas, 50 members, on the corner, white picket fence. He's the pastor, no one could go to church and he would literally... He's like, "Cell phone signal was bad at the church. So when I was a mile away, I would go live," And I'm pretty sure he was using Facebook. "So I'd go Facebook live a mile out from the church. I'd get to the church, I'd mount it on a tripod and hope that the connection stuck-

Dean Sweetman (10:57):

Stayed.

Frank Barry (10:58):

... and I'd get on the other side of the camera and other side of the phone at the podium and do the lesson, do the morning Facebook live for the church." But it was such a cool... I'm like, "Man, that's so cool because you're just figuring it out and you're not going to win any awards in terms of production quality, but you are winning the award for biggest heart."

Dean Sweetman (11:21):

I was going to say, that's the heart of a shepherd. Right?

Frank Barry (11:23):

Exactly.

Dean Sweetman (11:24):

You just want to care for the people that God has entrusted into your care. And so you're doing crazy stuff like that just to keep it going. So yeah, there's many stories like that.

Frank Barry (11:34):

So now we're back and I'm thinking there's a maybe switching gears. Church online is doing church online and trying to figure out how to do it. And maybe we can circle back to later on where it's at. But people struggle, there's a debate around this.

Dean Sweetman (11:52):

Yeah, [inaudible 00:11:52].

Frank Barry (11:52):

Maybe we can talk a little bit about that. Doing church online, is that church?

Dean Sweetman (11:56):

Right. Well, is the phenomena that... So at the moment, the banks want their people back in the office. A lot of tech companies want their people back in the office, but there's resistance. And so they're having to compromise, "Oh, let's just do Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday." And so you've got this, "Is what happened through the pandemic, are there things that are going to now be permanent that we thought were going to be temporary?" So I was visiting a church yesterday, big church, and they are 60% back. They used to run five services, they now run two.

Frank Barry (12:32):

Every church I talked to, literally, I have 10 of those where it's like, "Yeah, we're 50, 60% back in the building." It's the answer from every single person.

Dean Sweetman (12:43):

Everyone. Right. And there's exceptions, but they have a lot of campuses. And interestingly, those are much smaller. They've got a 3,000 seat auditorium where they run the big church, but the smaller ones are actually 80% back which is... That always goes to our theory. We love big churches, 100%, and the world needs big churches, but Christianity expands and fulfills its mission in small environments typically. And those, we know that giving is higher per person in the small churches, we know attendance and faithfulness to being involved is much higher in small church. So their smaller campuses are up. And I think what people and pastors are grappling with now is, "What's online's purpose?" Because we know deep down that the church needs to be in person for it to be a church.

Dean Sweetman (13:39):

And that is controversial to some people, there's a group of people that are all in on the metaverse and I'm into it. We live in technology for church so we are massively into whatever technology we can supply to help churches. But there is a dynamic that's scriptural, and we know from the fact of what happens in everyday life, when you're with people, there's dynamics that happen that do not transfer from a camera to a screen into the heart and the mind of someone consuming. We just know that. And so what is the role now? We've got all this equipment, we've got this down a bit better now, we've got better experiences, maybe we got some chat rooms going next to the thing, and we've got some prayer rooms and that's good. Going forward though, are we going to live in a world or do we want to live in a world where 40% of the church members are never seen?

Frank Barry (14:45):

Right. Well, I was thinking about this before the episode, because I think this is... You've got people that are super zealots about church online. And not in a bad, I don't mean that in a bad way, just mean they-

Dean Sweetman (15:00):

They're all in.

Frank Barry (15:01):

... [inaudible 00:15:01] believe in it. And then you got people all the way on the other side that are like, "Church online is from the devil. It is not okay. It is not..." And so I was thinking, "What if, Peter or Paul came back today, right now?" Because they lived a long time ago-

Dean Sweetman (15:24):

Scrolls and parchments.

Frank Barry (15:26):

... and they did church in arguably the most purest way. In the sense of it was the very beginning.

Dean Sweetman (15:35):

In homes.

Frank Barry (15:36):

And it was right after Jesus and it was just the people were together and that was it. You think of the book of Acts, they were together and they sold things and they met together every day and they pray. It's the purest. It's the thing that everybody aspires to make church like today, but it's really hard. So if those guys came back today, what would they think of church online?

Dean Sweetman (16:02):

I think they would use it in the way that I think I'm going to describe how it should be used.

Frank Barry (16:08):

Peter at Pentecost would've been like, "Look, man, I could have reached a million people."

Dean Sweetman (16:13):

Right. Right. So look, I think that technology is a gift from God to be used to fulfill the great commission, go on to all the world and preach the gospel so that people believe, repent, believe that Jesus is Lord and savior and that's what's going to change the world. So would the early church have used technology? I 1000% believe that the Apostle Paul, this guy's walking, riding donkeys, catching ships, getting shipwrecked, getting beaten, getting jailed, writing letters that took three months-

Frank Barry (16:48):

He was using technology.

Dean Sweetman (16:50):

100%, the pen and ink.

Frank Barry (16:51):

He was writing letters. At the time, that was the technology of the day to reach people.

Dean Sweetman (16:57):

Right. And so he would write a letter to a church that he'd visited, or even some that he didn't visit, and some runner would take three months and deliver it or a few weeks or wherever. So totally, the older church would've used technology. That's beyond doubt. How we then use technology, and this is bringing us maybe to the next point, is where does this online digital thing, where does it live? And how should it be used to its most effective end? And I think that it's the best evangelism outreach, try before you buy opportunity that the church has to build their local congregations. And I think online is going to essentially evolve to being the entry point to come to church in person. And that's where I think its purpose should be. I don't think it's a... If I'm sick, I'm not going to go to the building so I'm going to watch it online. If I'm out of town, I'm going to listen to the podcast later while I'm coming home on a plane. If I'm in town and I'm part of a community, you should be there two or three times a month in person. And so therefore all of this stuff that we just-

Frank Barry (18:20):

Hopefully more. I know that maybe-

Dean Sweetman (18:22):

Hopefully more.

Frank Barry (18:23):

... again, if you think early church and I'm-

Dean Sweetman (18:25):

Oh, it was daily.

Frank Barry (18:26):

It was every day. And again, I don't pretend to really... That was then, now is now. I don't know what it should really look like, what Jesus really wants, but I know he wants us together.

Dean Sweetman (18:37):

Look, when I was doing church ministry, I was happy with two to three times a month. And you were fortunate to get that because by the time you do traveling soccer teams, someone's coming into town, the family, Thanksgiving, every 4th of July. There's seven, there's probably 10 moments a year where you're automatically not coming. Pastors hate the 4th of July weekend. They hate it because everyone goes out of town. It's the worst ever. And never try and raise money in July. But so there's 10 gone. And then all the other random stuff that happens. So yeah, should people be in church every week? Yes. They're not. So let's get back to whatever that new normal is. For you to be able to... Why should you be in church? Because you are going to grow spiritually, you're going to get to worship with the saints in a collective environment that is uplifting and positive and encouraging to your soul, and you're going to get challenged because relationships challenge you. And maybe you serve and you turn up early and you set up chairs or you work the sound desk, or all of those things are building you as a Christian. And those things can't be replaced with online.

Frank Barry (19:54):

Yeah, you get the practice being like Jesus.

Dean Sweetman (19:58):

That's right.

Frank Barry (19:58):

The church gives you the environment to work on you following Jesus and what that looks like and you need people-

Dean Sweetman (20:06):

Yeah, that's a really good point.

Frank Barry (20:08):

What's that?

Dean Sweetman (20:09):

That's a really good point because being a Christian at home in my house is easy, but when I have to drive and-

Frank Barry (20:16):

It's really easy.

Dean Sweetman (20:16):

When I have to drive and get sideswiped by some driver, and I want to just yell at them. And I come into this place and someone takes my parking spot and someone's in my chair. And there's all these things that are conspiring against me to keep my heart right. But that's the challenge.

Frank Barry (20:32):

Totally. Loving people's not easy work.

Dean Sweetman (20:34):

No.

Frank Barry (20:35):

It's easy when it's convenient and you can hop on a Zoom and say, "What up?" Or it's online and I really don't have to interact. I can type a couple things maybe. I'm not challenged with loving people in that way. But when you're together, you have to love people and you've got to figure out what that means and being together. I think that a word popped up, I don't know who said it first, that takes this concept of church online and the concept of church in person, physical being with people, and they called it hybrid church.

Dean Sweetman (21:13):

Yeah.

Frank Barry (21:14):

And this concept of hybrid church. And I was thinking about that. I look at my kids... Because I also think, "Well, what's happening now with my kids is what church looks like in 20 years." And 20 years is a long time. I have no clue what that's going to look like, but I get a little bit of insight. My kids get up in the morning, having breakfast, we're hanging out, getting them ready for school, we get them to school. So they spend half their day, they're in person with their friends, with their teachers doing their thing. And then they come home and they might have some homework, they might have some chores, but eventually they end up hopping online and they'll hop into ROBLOX and they're in this virtual world playing with their friends from school.

Dean Sweetman (22:04):

Right, [inaudible 00:22:05] whatever.

Frank Barry (22:06):

They've got their other friends that are playing that same game and there's 10 of them in there playing the same thing. They were-

Dean Sweetman (22:12):

And it's community.

Frank Barry (22:12):

They what?

Dean Sweetman (22:13):

It's community.

Frank Barry (22:14):

100%. So now they're there and then they go to basketball practice.

Dean Sweetman (22:18):

Right.

Frank Barry (22:19):

And they see some of the same school friends and some other friends, and they come home and we eat dinner, and then they spend another 30 minutes playing something else, playing Minecraft or playing Fortnite or something like that with the friends they were at basketball practice with. So they're living in this dual. They're physical, and you need that, and then they're digital and they're hanging out with some of the same people and some other people, maybe they have friends from a school they used to go to or friends when they moved that they're still connected to. But they're in this hybrid life anyways. And you and I live it too, maybe a little different.

Dean Sweetman (22:54):

Yeah, [inaudible 00:22:55].

Frank Barry (22:54):

But we're doing this right now digitally.

Dean Sweetman (22:57):

Right. Right.

Frank Barry (22:58):

And we saw each other last week on Friday, live this hybrid life and 20 years from now, that's going to be pretty normal for our kids or for my kids, your kids are grown up.

Dean Sweetman (23:11):

Yeah, my grandkids. So I watch my eight year old grandson interact digitally. The four year old granddaughter, she's not that interested yet but she will be, and I think girls and boys are different obviously. But here's the thing, there's this life of interconnected reality and then into this virtual reality, be it on whatever level. I just think if the church [inaudible 00:23:38] the mission and opportunity to reach people online and then see that as a conduit for getting people in the building, and which that's where... That's my conviction. My conviction is if I was pastoring today, I would 1000% be all in on digital and use every trick in the book. I would use everything. I would use SEO. You know how we built our business a lot, and you taught me this years ago, is around content creation and, "Dean, you need to write a blog." I'm like, "No one's going to read it." But fast forward, seven years, what's our blog traffic? 400,000 a month or something views.

Frank Barry (24:22):

Yeah, it's off the charts.

Dean Sweetman (24:23):

If I was planning a church today, I would just start writing about my community. I would become the expert in what was going on in my town, not in spiritual matters, just everything,

Frank Barry (24:33):

All the things, yeah.

Dean Sweetman (24:34):

I would just comment on everything.

Frank Barry (24:36):

Whatever your community's about, whatever the DNA of your community is, be in it and be a part of it, serve it, know it, talk about it online.

Dean Sweetman (24:42):

All of that.

Frank Barry (24:44):

Maybe make a newsletter, publish a weekly newsletter on all the happenings of your community that's on your blog kind of thing.

Dean Sweetman (24:50):

Exactly, and then I'd try to do that and use organic or maybe I do some paid search. I don't know. And I'm just trying to reach... And then I'm going to send them to an online experience, whatever that is. It's you sitting in a lounge chair or lying on your banana lounger in your pool, I'm going to introduce you to who we are, what we believe, our mission. And then I'm going to ask you to come 777 Faith Avenue on Sunday morning at 10 o'clock to come and meet us.

Frank Barry (25:23):

Someone [inaudible 00:25:24] address.

Dean Sweetman (25:24):

So that's what I think the opportunity going forward is. And then you think about ROBLOX and all these metaverse things, should the church be in there? Absolutely. Just like Coke and Pepsi are going to be in there. They're going to be setting up shop in the metaverse. So we should have churches in the metaverse. But I think the whole idea is we just want to find them there and then we want to lead them into the local church so they can have all the things we just talked about, the experiences of doing life with other Christians.

Frank Barry (25:53):

Yeah, and going, again, back to my kids, I think it's, as a way of reaching people, a million percent. But I do think there's some universe in the future where it goes beyond just reaching them and it actually is part of this hybrid life that you live. People will live-

Dean Sweetman (26:19):

In both.

Frank Barry (26:19):

... online and in person, because we do it today. And our kids, your grandkids are only going to do it more. They're going to do it more. It's going to be more immersive. The online part of it is going to be far better than what we have today and they're going to live in person and online, it's going to be a dual thing. And so it's going to be for reaching people and connecting and all those things, and churches are probably going to also have to be... It is also part of how we do community, not as a replacement. We know that. We believe... Hopefully nobody listening thinks that we're like, "All church online." But I think it will be part of and a way to get people into community. But even for the people in the community meeting in person, it'll be like, "Well, we're online too."

Dean Sweetman (26:59):

Oh. There's value too.

Frank Barry (27:01):

Yeah, totally. It'll be this they'll be doing both.

Dean Sweetman (27:04):

Yeah, and maybe as the-

Frank Barry (27:05):

In a pretty [inaudible 00:27:06] way.

Dean Sweetman (27:05):

... tools develop, it is a hub for a lot of things. Definitely consuming. Definitely, "Oh, man. I wanted to see the message." And definitely. But yeah, so I think you're right. This intertwining of digital and physical is here to stay. It's never going away. And I think the experiences are just going to keep evolving because technology keeps evolving and-

Frank Barry (27:30):

And I think there's a place too. There's a group of people, probably a really large group of people, that maybe can't physically meet in person.

Dean Sweetman (27:44):

[inaudible 00:27:44].

Frank Barry (27:44):

Or it's extremely challenging for them to. Something, whether it's illness or disabilities or you name it.

Dean Sweetman (27:53):

[inaudible 00:27:53].

Frank Barry (27:53):

There's that group of people, which I imagine is large, that church online or hybrid church, having those things is probably as it has gotten better-

Dean Sweetman (28:05):

100%.

Frank Barry (28:06):

... there's probably a really massive group of people that are being served that they're like, "I can't get into church or if I can go, I can maybe get there once a month because of how difficult it is." Just stuff like that. Or people that maybe live in places where there aren't a church. I don't know those but they probably exist.

Dean Sweetman (28:24):

For sure. And you think back how we used to solve that problem, we'd buy a bus and go to the nursing home and pick them up and bring them to church. That's what you did. Or you went to the prison and did prison ministry. So yeah, technology is going to make it easier. That's why we both agree that Peter and Paul would've embraced the technology because it would've got the message to more people and that's the whole point. So definitely all of those things that we used to do in the past, before we had all this tech, technology just increases productivity at every turn. It just makes everything easier and you can do more of it. So it makes total sense that the church that embraces tech is going to be able to do more of what its mission really is.

Frank Barry (29:09):

Yeah. Well, amen to that. We'll do a [inaudible 00:29:12].

Dean Sweetman (29:13):

[inaudible 00:29:13] fascinating.

Frank Barry (29:13):

We're going on the metaverse next time. We'll go deeper on the metaverse.

Dean Sweetman (29:16):

Going deep? Okay. I'm down for that.

Frank Barry (29:16):

Yeah. Well, we might as well, right?

Dean Sweetman (29:20):

That's next.

Frank Barry (29:21):

We touched on it. We hit it on the fringes, but I feel like we can do... Life.Church is doing it so there's churches in the metaverse, it'd be fun just to talk about what they're doing and how it's working.

Dean Sweetman (29:30):

Do you have to have the goggles on to be in the metaverse?

Frank Barry (29:32):

Yeah.

Dean Sweetman (29:33):

Okay.

Frank Barry (29:34):

That kind of metaverse, that metaverse.

Dean Sweetman (29:37):

Yeah, [inaudible 00:29:38].

Frank Barry (29:37):

My kids playing ROBLOX, which is kind of a meta... I don't know. I don't actually know what the formal definition of the metaverse is. But whether you're playing ROBLOX, or Minecraft, or Fortnite, there are these game experiences that have that. But to do the Facebook metaverse or whatever, you're in VR headsets doing it.

Dean Sweetman (30:03):

That's the next level. Maybe we can find someone who knows more about, maybe we get a guest on.

Frank Barry (30:09):

We'll get Kyle from Life.Church. He runs their church online program and he'll come on and share some wisdom.

Dean Sweetman (30:15):

That'd be good. Awesome, man. All right, until next time.

Frank Barry (30:18):

Good times. Thanks, everybody. We'll catch you on the next one.

Narrator (30:21):

If you enjoyed listening to this episode of the Church Tech Podcast, the easiest way to help support the show is by sharing this episode with the pastor or the minister you know would benefit the most from listening to it. You can send them over to churchtechpodcast.com to learn more about the show or share this episode directly from within your podcast app. To get new episodes of the Church Tech Podcast, you can easily subscribe or follow the show for free on YouTube, Apple Podcast, Spotify, and anywhere else that you listen to podcasts. Thanks for listening and we'll catch you again in a couple of weeks with the next episode of the Church Tech Podcast.

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The Line Between In-Person and Online Church

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The Line Between In-Person and Online Church

You can do both in-person and online ministry with the right strategy. Find out the key differences and how to combine them so that you can reach more people for Jesus!

Show notes

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Line Between In-person and Online Church

There's a lot of debate about the line between in-person and online church. Some people think that if you're not physically present in a church, it's not a church at all. Others believe that it doesn't matter whether you're physically present or not—it's all about your intent.

And we think both of these views are right—to a point. The key is finding a balance that works for your church. This means bringing together the strengths of both in-person and online worship.

For most churches, online infrastructure is now the new normal. Buzzwords like ‘metaverse’ and ‘virtual reality’ will become increasingly common as we move forward into the future of worship. 

It’s a brave new world for churches. We are living in an age where technology is changing at breakneck speed. However, we should not forget that face-to-face interaction has always been essential in community building. While we've become accustomed to receiving messages in an online format, we're still social creatures at heart. We want to interact with real people, not just read messages on a digital screen.

That's why it's important for churches to find ways to balance the need for satisfying virtual engagements with the desire for face-to-face interactions. By offering hybrid services, churches can help congregants experience the best of both worlds. 

Churches need to be willing to adapt to the times. Online church services are gaining in popularity, but many churches are hesitant to make the switch. That's why we're excited to share this episode of Church Tech, where Dean Sweetman and Frank Barry discuss the benefits of integrating online content into your worship services while also emphasizing the importance of maintaining a healthy balance between in-person and digital worship models.

“I think that technology is a gift from God to fulfill the Great Commission, going to all the world and preaching the gospel so that people believe repent and believe that Jesus is Lord and Savior. And that's what's going to change the world.”
-Dean Sweetman

Dean is the co-founder and CEO of Tithe.ly. Before launching Tithe.ly, Dean was involved in ministry for more than 30 years. 

Frank is a founding Executive Team member and COO at Tithe.ly. Prior to being at Tithe.ly, Frank spent nearly 15 years helping churches, charities, and nonprofit organizations leverage technology to advance their mission. 

You can do both in-person and online ministry with the right strategy. Find out the key differences and how to combine them so that you can reach more people for Jesus!

By the end of this episode, you will learn:

  • Reasons to consider church online
  • Steps your church should be doing with social media
  • How your church can overcome the digital divide
  • How to find the right mix of the church in-person and church online

Resources Mentioned:

Know more about Tithe.ly: get.tithe.ly
Follow Tithe.ly on Instagram: tithe.ly
Follow Tithe.ly on Twitter: tithe.ly
Like Tithe.ly on Facebook: @tithelyapp

Other Episodes You May be Interested In:

What is Church Tech
How Churches Can Become More Effective Online with Trey Van Camp
How to Impact the Community with Ministry Resources with John Craft

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[13:31] We know deep down that the church needs to be in person for it to be a church.

[16:16] I think that technology is a gift from God to fulfill the Great Commission, going to all the world and preaching the gospel so that people believe repent and believe that Jesus is Lord and Savior. And that's what's going to change the world.

[19:19] Should people be in church every week? Yes. Why should you be in church? Because you're going to grow spiritually. You're going to get to worship with the saints in a collective environment that is uplifting and positive and encouraging, encouraging to your soul. And those things can't be replaced.

[26:17] People will live in both online and in person. It's going to be a dual thing. And churches are probably going also to have to be like it. It is also part of how we do community, not as a replacement.

[27:20] Intertwining of digital and physical is here to stay. It's never going away. And I think the experiences are just going to keep evolving as technology keeps evolving.

[29:03] A church that embraces tech is going to be able to do more of its mission. 

video transcript

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