Interested in starting an Online Church? Ask yourself these questions before you get started. Better to know the answers to these questions now than later. Already running an Online Church? Audit yourself. Do you know the answers to these questions?
The more clarity you can get on these questions up front, the better off your online church will be.
1) What is your church's win for Church Online?
What's the goal? Allow people who are sick/traveling to stay in touch with your church? Get people in the front door of your physical campuses? Change lives through your broadcasts regardless of physical locations? Act as a front door to discipling people online? Start future campuses or churches? All of the above are viable options, but you cannot say "yes" to all of them at the same time. Before you start planning know where your finish line is.
2) How does Church Online fit into your church's mission or vision?
Churches are great at developing a direction for the organization. How does Online fit? Take the time to figure out where Online's place is in your church, and make sure other staff understand it. You're going to need their help down the road, and having their buy in now will pay off later. Sears Roebuck had no vision for Online, and look where they are now. Sears had everything Amazon.com had for 100 years. Sears just lacked the vision. Understand your church's mission and vision, and help them understand yours.
3) How does Church Online fit into your physical campus strategy?
This tension exists in so many churches today. Does the Online Church compete against the physical campuses for attendance? Is the perception that the Online Church steals volunteers away from physical campuses? How is the Online Church budgeted, and when tithes come through the Online Campus, how are those donations allocated? Should Online Church promote their services/groups/features to people at the physical campus? Understanding these relationships early on in the process will definitely help your online church get past a bunch of awkward conversations.
4) What happens when someone who doesn't live in your hometown gets saved?
This is a fun one, but one you need to figure out in advance. Someone on another continent gets saved watching your service online. How do you respond? How do you help that person connect? Don't just provide drive-by evangelism, helping people get saved and then leaving them alone. Either be prepared to provide a discipleship option online for them, or have relationships with other organizations who can help in this situation.
5) In your opinion, is Online Church as good as church at a physical campus? Does your church's leadership agree?
This is the most important question right here. Everything else is secondary to this. Most churches today would likely answer "no" up front. However, realize that the answer to this question can change over time. As the quality of your service increases, as more people begin to engage your services online, and as your leadership starts to catch the vision of Online Church, what was a "no" could become a "maybe" or even a "yes". To many out there, true buy-in for Online Church requires a culture change... and these things take time!
Whatever the answers are to the questions above, be encouraged. Online Church is an exciting opportunity to impact people for God, and the good news is whether through improving your Online Services or improving Online Community there are always next steps!. Recognize where you and your church are, and dive into this exciting ministry opportunity with all you are.