If your church is like ours, a significant portion of your congregation is still watching online.
At some point, we’re going to have to challenge our people.
“Get out of your pajamas and get to church!”
That day probably isn’t today. Maybe late summer? September?
Not only are many of our congregants still watching from home, but likely there are new families that have connected with our churches online over the last year as well.
How do we connect with those new people and reconnect with our former congregation?
This is a critically important question because many people are slipping away from church.
If we don’t connect with them now, they may not come back next fall.
So, let’s talk about how to connect with and engage your online audience so they return in person when the time is right.
Here are a few ideas I’ve picked up from our campus pastors on how they are connecting with their online congregations right now.
Go to Them
Pre-COVID, we would make connections with our congregation on the weekends in the lobbies of our churches.
Many of our people aren’t in the lobby right now.
In other words, they aren’t coming to you.
This means you need to go to them.
If you’re wondering how best to use your time as a pastor or ministry leader right now, consider seeking out everyone in your pre-COVID congregation through social media, email, texting, or phone calls.
Connect with them.
Ask them how they’re doing. Look for ways to serve them. Pray for them.
They aren’t coming to you, so you need to go to them.
This might be one of the most important tasks you pursue in the coming weeks.
One of our campus pastors had a great idea that led to many meaningful conversations.
He invited anyone watching our services to sign up for a 15-minute Zoom conversation with him.
A ton of people took him up on his offer, and these conversations became a point for connection.
New habits have formed through this pandemic, and it’s a mistake to assume families who attended last March will automatically return.
The people who return to your church in person will be the people who feel connected to your church.
Get creative and make connections.
Host Your Online Services
An easy way to connect with your online audience is to live host your services through the chat feature.
This is easy to do, regardless if you are using Facebook, YouTube, or Livestream.
Whatever platform(s) you’re using, there is a way.
For us, we keep this pretty simple.
We have a trained group of people who host and engage our online audience during the services on each of our platforms.
Their goal is to connect and serve.
Here’s the gist of what they attempt to do:
- Greet: Say hello to each person as they join.
- Engage: When someone leaves a comment, follow up.
- Serve: Offer prayer and resources.
It’s pretty simple but incredibly helpful when it comes to connecting with people.
Test Drive a Small Group
One of our church’s main strategies for connection and relationships is small groups.
We have discovered that some people who are still unwilling to come in person to a weekend service, are willing to gather for a small group at someone’s home, one of our campuses, or a coffee shop or restaurant.
Again, the people who will return to your in-person services when the time is right are the people who feel connected to your church, and small groups are all about relationships and connection.
A strategy we’ve been pursuing is short-term small groups.
This is essentially a small group test drive.
- These groups can be in-person or virtual, and they usually have a specific purpose—sermon discussion groups, Financial Peace University groups, or something similar.
- They have a specific end date. For a new or disconnected person, “Join this small group forever!” is often a little too steep of a commitment. However, “Test drive a small group for six weeks” is a little more realistic.
Making connections is critically important in this season.
I wonder how you are connecting with your online audience right now.
We’d love to hear your ideas. Please share them in the comments below.