Church Online: The People, the Process and the Tech

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We have been examining one of the biggest developments in church technology today: how to bring your church online. This is our third post in this series, following Jay Kranda‘s helpful videos regarding this issue as the basis. His analysis of church online really dovetails with my own experiences in helping churches develop online ministries.

The first post presented an  overall vision for church online and the second post discussed  how to build a process, often called a funnel, so that  people who visit your online resources are plugged into a process that leads them through to the next step and, ultimately, to conversion. In this post, we will talk  more about church online in terms of the people involved in your online ministry, the processes you set up and the technology that you put in place to implement the processes.

People

In my experience, most churches set up their communications systems based on what’s hot versus based on a clear strategy. A secretary assembles the bulletin, another person maintains the website, others work on online streaming, and still others on social media.

The key to a successful online ministry is to bring together a team of staff and volunteers that can work on an integrated communication strategy. This strategy will encompass both traditional forms of communication, as well as digital, online and mobile communications. Today we call  this strategy ‘Church Online’.

In his video, Jay Kranda, Online Pastor of Saddleback Church, prioritizes people in the same way. He knows that, to achieve his goals, he will need a team of volunteers to help him. He places volunteers in critical positions according  to his overall goals. Since he is really focused on getting people in small groups, he makes sure that he organizes a team of small group leaders. He has regular check-ins with these leaders, using video conferencing. He also has teams of people who help out in chat rooms on the online campus of Saddleback and people involved in prayer ministry who  help with the prayer requests that are made through the online campus.

Process

In the second post of the  series, we talked about how to build a process using  digital tools and how it  invites people to take the next step in response to your online content. In this post, I want to talk a bit about the importance of measuring the results of this process. Without any analytics, you will not have any  idea about whether you are achieving your goals.

In his video, Jay Kranda spends some time looking at the data that he uses each week to gauge his effectiveness. He looks at the number of small groups that he has, as well as evaluates each small group based on its responsiveness. In addition, he has analytics about how many people are viewing the live-streamed weekend services. This data lets him know how the Church Online process is going at Saddleback Church.

In my own work with churches, analytics are an important tool. For example, at Hope United church, we looked at weekly engagement patterns with their mobile app. We found that many people were using the app to prepare for the weekend services later in the week or when they wished to review a  past service early  the following week. There was a real dip in mid-week use of the app. We are now in the process of developing a strategy to increase engagement in the middle of the week, by using push notes.

Looking at your analytics can help you to refine your funnel and be more effective at moving people to the next level of commitment.

Technology

It is easy to get caught up in the hype of new digital tools. There is no doubt that it is important, but it only works well when you have the right people and a good process in place to manage the technology. Simply adapting a new digital tool just because it is available does not make sense if it does not fit in with your overall Church Online strategy to move people through a conversion process.

Jay discusses this idea when he talks about making sure that his visitors can stream services, trainings and other content directly to their TV. Since he ultimately wants people to start small groups in their home, focusing on creating a digital experience in the living room is important. Saddleback creates apps for the Roku and Apple TV so that he can get his content right into people’s living rooms. His focus on streaming to TV is part of his strategy to promote small groups.

Technology is also helpful when interacting with your volunteers and staff. Jay recommends Zoom as a video conferencing tool for connecting with his volunteer team. He also uses an online scheduler called YouCanBook.Me, to allow his team to schedule one-on-one time with him.

In my own work, I have found that using a text messaging service can be a very effective way to communicate internally with staff and volunteers. Pastor Richie Halverson uses the text messaging service to communicate with his board, staff and key volunteers.

He discovered  that it makes running his church a whole lot easier. The technology is not the focus. It is at the service of the people determined guided by the process.

Church Online is a robust strategy that deploys a wide array of digital tools to reach people who live in a mobile, social and global world. Is your church or ministry ready to reach out to this new virtual mission field?

Check out the entire series here

Part 1: Turning “On” your Offline Church

Part 2: Church Online: The Steps

Part 3: People, Process and Technology for Church Online (this post)

 

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