On October 23, 2001, Apple released arguably their most important product ever. It was the iPod. Up until the release of the iPod, Apple was known primarily as a computer maker. The iPod propelled Apple into a whole consumer electronics world and dramatically changed the course of Apple as a business.
Just last year was the 20th anniversary of the iPod release and with it came a series of reflections and memories. One reflection came from Tony Fadell, the "father of the iPod". In an interview he said that he made Steve Jobs promise that he would see the iPod beyond the 1st generation. In fact, he said it would take 3 generations in order for the iPod to be successful and he made Steve promise to not kill it after the 1st generation. Steve Jobs agreed and even thought the first two generations of the iPod were not overly successful, Steve kept his promise. The iPod continued to grow and develop and with it came a new audience. Non-Apple computer people were buying iPods. As it grew, not only did it go on to be the most successful mp3 player in history, it propelled Apple to bigger and better things.
Can you image a world without the iPod?
So how does this apply to Church Online?
For many of us, we are in the 1st Generation of Church Online. We didn't have a Church Online strategy until COVID hit. And now, with people going to back to in person Church, many Church leaders are debating whether or not to kill their Church Online presence. It is happening and it is so discouraging after all the progress we have made in digital ministry.
Regardless of the reasons Churches have for shutting down or limiting their online impacts, I firmly believe you need to give Church Online a longer shot. Doing online ministry worked tremendously during COVID. It was a great way for people to stay connected. And, it is still a great way for people to connect and continue to work as a tool for your ministry. You just need to continue to invest in it by giving it time and resources.
The iPod took a few years to start clicking with people, but it eventually clicked. Church Online is still less than 2 years old for many Churches. Now is the time to continue to let it grow and develop. It needs more time to stick and be used. Now is NOT the time to back track and stop using it. It is the time to keep investing it in.
You can do more than just stream your services. For instance you can:
- Start Online Group. Discipleship does happen online! Zoom Groups, Facebook Groups, YouVerison Groups are just some of the many effective ways digital discipleship happens.
- Have Chat Hosts during your stream connect with people watching online. Help online attendees connect with others and build new friendships while you process the Sunday message together.
- Keep using QR codes and website forms. Collect and gather information from online attendees so you can know how to encourage them.
- Optimize online giving
- Encourage people with digital devotionals (video, audio or blog form) to encourage people online.
Just because you can meet in person, doesn't mean you have to stop online ministry. Tony Fadell said, “a lot of people stop midway through the journey, and I wanted to make sure we weren’t going to do that,” Apple continued to invest in the iPod and it led to game changers like the iPhone and the iPad. These devices led to services like Apple Music, other devices like the AirPods and the Apple Watch. They continued to build upon each other. Your Church Online investment of time and resources can pay off, if you give it time. Continue to invest in it and see how it compliments your ministry and help more people grow in their faith.
What do you think? How have you seen Church Online make an impact through your invest? Share your ideas below or on social media.
Also, if you are interested in being a Digital Missionary or want to learn digital tools to expand your reach in ministry this year, join the Digital Bootcamp Facebook Group!
Be part of a Phygital, Digital-Only or Metaverse coaching or cohort, check out The Church Digital Equipping Store.