THE (DIGITAL) CHURCH OF CHRIST
Jul 30, 2020
By Roberto Lara, Assistant to the Bishop for Communications and Development
If we have learned something uplifting during this crisis, it is that Church is so much more than a building—Church transcends the brick and mortar sanctuaries we are so accustomed to worshiping in. Our buildings may have been closed, but Church remained open, and our churches have been diligently serving our communities.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.” The Bible guides us in the importance of efficient and effective communication: when communicating the word of God, the methods we use and the ways we equip our members are essential. Therefore, these methods must be flexible and are subject to change and advancement in order to reach everyone. In this way, all God’s children may “be proficient [and] equipped for every good work.”
In the absence of physically thriving churches in which members gather in-person to pray and learn together, communicating became a challenge. Therefore, digital communication channels quickly became our primary tools to stay relevant and connected with our members. Thanks to these digital channels, we learned that regardless of the method we use to share the Good News, our mission of sharing the Word of God has to be the main focus.
During a pandemic, the enveloping care and God’s boundless love that Church provides for its members and communities has been maintained, and even increased, due to digital communication methods. Rapidly, we are realizing what a great evangelism strategy they represent. Our digital Services of the Word are reaching new audiences like never before, and these new participants represent potential new members for our congregations.
Our digital Services of the Word are reaching new audiences like never before, and these new participants represent potential new members for our congregations.
Additionally, many of our congregations have seen an increased number of people attending their digital services, as well, and in some cases have even experienced an increase in their mission support numbers. While we don’t know when this crisis will end, what is certain is that we cannot abandon these new digital ways of communicating with our members, our potential new members, and our communities, moving forward. It would be beneficial to congregations and to our very mission of sharing the Word of God, to continue livestreaming services and providing digital fellowship opportunities even after the crisis is over. These digital communication strategies are particularly crucial at this point, especially since there is some evidence suggesting that not all churchgoers feel safe going back to in-person services. Further, if we continue to uphold our goals to share the Good News, and reach and connect with people rather than merely filling pews, Church must remain relevant, inclusive, and embrace these new methods of communication and evangelism, even in a post-COVID world.
In the sentiment of being CHURCH TOGETHER, we would like to offer some digital evangelism recommendations that will help your congregation stay connected with its members and remain relevant in an ultra-competitive digital space:
- Production is secondary; focus on your message and the quality of your service content. Often, we worry too much about production elements (i.e., lighting, space, microphones, etc.), and these components are only important if the content of our services is pertinent to our audiences. Ask yourself: Is my messaging creating real connections? If yes, then great, go ahead with the production stages; otherwise, continue improving your content to ensure it is relevant—first with your members, then with external audiences.
- Interactive services are the way to go. Some initial studies suggest that services via teleconference services, such as ZOOM, have a positive effect on the digital embodiment of your congregation’s members, the way they both experience the Word of God through their senses and experience themselves as humans united as the Church of Christ via digital technologies. However, don’t forget to livestream your teleconferencing services for external audiences, as they represent potential members for your congregation.
ZOOM PRO ACCOUNTS TO BE GRANTED
The Office of the Bishop is offering ZOOM PRO accounts to our congregations that are in need of one. If you are part of a congregation that requires this service, please have your pastor send an email to [email protected].
- Less is More. Simple services with great engaging content can create a real difference without costing you and your congregation millions of dollars. Don’t believe us? Just ask a TikTok-er!
- It’s more than just Sundays! Find ways and opportunities to stay connected, beyond your Sunday services. Wednesday Bible studies, agape feasts, and digital coffee hours are just some of the many ways you can reinvent, be creative, and stay connected with your members and audiences.
- Be careful with email. Social media is a great way to deploy messages without annoying the user; email is not. However, email is an excellent way to stay connected with your highly- engaged members, so while you want to create email campaigns for them, you should be careful with your scheduling rhythm, in order to avoid high unsubscribe rates.
- More than just videos. Explore new ways to push great and meaningful content, other than videos. Podcasts, phone messages, and print materials offer great opportunities.
- Be Yourself. Be Curious. Be Courageous. Don’t be afraid to explore new and creative ways to develop content for your members. Some of those ways will work; others won’t, but what remains important is to keep trying. Every congregation has its own personality, and only with a deep test-and-try will you be able to discover the best ways to engage with your members and future members.