I remember the conversation vividly. I was a Communications Director on staff at a multisite church. I'm sitting with the Local Missions Pastor, talking about a citywide serve initiative the church was heading into. Like any good Communications Director, I investigated the initiative... How many opportunities across the city? How many people were needed? But then the Local Missions Pastor shocked me by saying: "Jeff, we're not proving service opportunities for people in the church. Rather than providing opportunities in their community, we're going to train them on how to find their own opportunities in their community. Rather than providing fish for all these people, we're teaching them to fish."
It was years ago, but I remember my response... it wasn't good. People aren't going to find their own opportunities? They want the easy way? We should be working hard to create opportunities to serve our Local Ministry Partners. Teaching them to fish is a cop-out!
What's interesting is that years later I more clearly see the wisdom in teaching people to fish. Moreover, it's really the unrealized answer to the problem of Church Online.
We've talked about the three different types of people who watch Church Online. Remember that the goal of "Front Door" and "Side Door" people is to get them to a campus to be ministered to, so in this example Local Missions is fulfilled by getting people to serve locally where the physical campus is located. But there's a third group of people who need the church's attention: the "Only Door" people.
"Only Door" people may live on the other side of the city, or country, or on the other side of the world for that matter. Ultimately "Only Door" people will not come into the Church for whatever reason. They are looking for Church Online to be their church.
What does serving locally look like for "Only Door" people? It's not necessarily a global database listing service projects around the world where they can sign up. That's not going to happen for a number of logistical issues. Nope, Church Online's role is to:
- train on the biblical importance of serving their community, humbling themselves as Jesus humbled himself.
- empower people with an understanding of the Gospel
- send them out to reach their community (even if their community is located on the other side of the planet).
Crazy, right? Church Online operates best when it decentralizes ministry. Jay Kranda talks about this. If our church stays centralized, our Church Experts have to lead others in doing ministry at our physical locations. And, as big as our physical locations have become, our physical locations are a lid. We will always want a bigger building, more buildings, more staff... but centralized often boils down to God's people being ministered to, not ministering.
If the Church decentralizes ministry, if our experts train people to do ministry instead of doing ministry themselves... all of a sudden Church Online is capable of explosive, exponential growth because instead of fishing for people... we taught them to fish, for themselves.
Image 1,000 Local Mission Directors scattered around the country creating their own Local Service Projects? Imagine 10. Either way, you church's influence is spread beyond the geographical limitations of your physical campus, and you're creating environments where people can feed themselves, even if they are on the other side of the planet.
This is a great example of what could happen if Church Online grew up. What else can happen if Church Online realizes it's capable of more than just spiritual milk? Check out our eBook: What Happens When Church Online Grows Up and get an effective strategy for your Church Online.
So what happens if we spend this year focused on Church Online? What would our Church Online look like next year? Check out our blog series Church Online in 2020 and discover what a healthy Church Online can look like.