Confession is good for the soul, right? In a recent The Church Digital Podcast, Eric Geiger dropped a term on me that I had never heard before, but one that I think better defines the goals the Church needs to achieve.
In recent months we've talked about the idea of "Omnichannel", even describing it "Omnichurch." Dave Adamson's written about it on FoxNews, and we have discussed the Omnichurch in greater detail here on the blog. Omnichannel is a communications strategy that unites all our communication channels towards one idea in context of content. It tears down communications silos, actually focusing communications coming out of a company, organization or church. And what is the largest communication coming out of most churches weekly? The sermon.
But Eric recently brought up a new concept that's worth exploring. The idea is Unified Commerce. And while these are business terms, the strategies can definitely help the church. Let's unpack "Unified Commerce", quoting NChannel.com.
Today’s shoppers want to buy anywhere, receive anywhere, and return anywhere. If they buy online, they want to return in-store. If an item is out-of-stock in-store, the [physical location] sales associate should be able to order something online for them.
This type of experience isn’t easy to achieve. Business should share real-time data across the organization and your systems. Unified commerce aims to make the possible.
The idea of Omnichannel is focused really just on Communication channels. In church settings, the conversation of Omnichannel has really been centered around the sermon, getting mass exposure of the sermon in live services, church online, sermon archive, social media, podcasting, etc.
But there's more to church than a sermon, right?
This is where Unified Commerce comes in. (Man, I don't like the "commerce" term here)... This is where Unified Experience comes in. Let's start here: what often makes church, church? Not just the weekend service. The entire church experience? Here's a basic overview:
- Sermon & Musical Worship
- Groups/Biblical Community
- Serving On-Campus, Locally, Globally
- Personal Mission of Evangelism/Discipleship
Most churches have some sort of strategy like this, commonly called a discipleship process, that allows the church to set a goal for the church member to reach for. This discipleship process is simply focused in helping people become a biblical disciple of Christ, as the individual church defines "disciple."
Per Matthew 28, the goal of every church is to make disciples. The goal of Church Online should be making disciples utilizing online resources. But if we look at the church through the lens of Unified Experience, we now understand that the church can disciple people seamlessly integrating physical as well as online, regardless of whether they attend at a physical campus, digital campus, or a combination of both. Want a practical example? Here's Eric Geiger from EP009 of The Church Digital Podcast.
So if it's truly a Unified Experience. If you take Omnichannel church, that idea, to the furtherest point. Yet you're committed to a discipleship process. Essentially, you'd have both. You'll believe in the tools [Omnichannel, Church Online] and you have a [discipleship] process.
You could have somebody who every week they watch at home every single week. That's the service they attend, right? Their next step is to be in a group and they show up on Tuesday nights to a physical group. Then their next step is to serve or to do outreach in the city... Truly Omnichannel, Unified Experience Church can ebb and flow between physical and online environments throughout the whole [discipleship] process.
The wrestling is most people when they hear Online Church, they're only thinking the weekend service. They're only thinking one step of the discipleship process. They're not thinking the whole thing.
Simply put, Church Online is more than your weekend service. Church Online does have an opportunity to expand your reach across the Internet. That being said, some churches are only interested in impacting people locally, within a specified region. For those churches, Church Online is still essential as we have an opportunity to create a Unified Experience across the church and Church Online, allowing people to become, and create, disciples physically and digitally.
There is no "single strategy" that will make Church Online work for your church. But Church Online can definitely complement your church's discipleship process, helping you disciple people whether physically, digitally, or both.