Friends. What I’m going to write to you all is not original or groundbreaking. It’s not going to change the way you do Church Online, nor is it even going to bring a fresh and new understanding to how you can share the Gospel through our digital medium.
No, this something I feel like you need to hear. Because I’ve needed to hear it.
Church leaders like you and I are obsessed with one thing, whether we want to admit it or not:
We have an OBSESSION with numbers, specifically the “up and to the right” variety. We base our self-worth on them, our families and friends on them. We spend money and time and effort and sleepless nights and so much more on making sure that they’re going in the right direction.
I’ve seen more discussions in Church Online Facebook groups about metrics than I can count, particularly in the last 3 months as churches adjust to the new normal of a prevalent digital existence. Antiquated methods of church attendance (the good ol’ “butts and budgets” way) are being held on to, sometimes foolishly, in an attempt to put the square peg of Church Online into the round hole of the last 2000 years of church attendance.
Numbers are easily viewable in Church Online, so we’re never the wiser. Views and engagement stats are RIGHT THERE, only a click away. Barring some Excel gymnastics, it’s pretty easy to see trends, whether up and to the right, or...elsewhere.
The green arrow points up? We did a good thing!
The red arrow points down? We need to change something ASAP!
At least, that’s what it often feels like in our world.
Here’s the thing: the numbers will crush us if we let them. The metrics we so desperately seek to master will end up mastering us.
Because ministry is tough to define on the whole. We know that we’re supposed to introduce people to Jesus Christ and aid in growing that relationship. But it’s tough to nail down what a certain “win” is in some situations. Even more so in Church Online. We are all wired to see victories and to celebrate them, sometimes to even over-spiritualize them (guilty!).
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, churches were forced to pivot in a big way. We started looking for little nuggets of “wins” in there. And, for the most part, our Church Online numbers started to skyrocket. Droves of people were connecting with us on a weekly basis. There were records being set left and right.
People liked us. They really, REALLY liked us.
But soon, just like everything, the “new” wore off and we started to return to earth. That green arrow turned red. And our hearts started sinking.
And then, when the outbreak of protests started sweeping through our world at-large, we were challenged even more to look for the good news, for something that seemed “right” to us.
And we started watching the numbers with more and more angst.
Some of us started taking it personally. Myself included. I took it to heart when people didn’t engage with us like they did 2 months prior, not wanting to hear any excuses about online fatigue or anything.
“WHY don’t YOU see this as something life-giving and important?!”
I became obsessed with making sure that arrow turned green and went up.
All of my work energies became, “How can we create something that people will like? How can we attract people’s eyeballs (and, thus, their viewing numbers)?”
All of my creative energies were focused on viewership, to the exact moment that someone turned a video off and why would that be when the quality is so good and maybe it’s just the music or the lower-third, and on. And on.
I forgot the mission of the church and instead started chasing numbers.
And we all know where that leads. Solomon spells it out best:
says the Teacher.
Everything is meaningless.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2)
Please, hear me when I say this:
Don’t be obsessed with metrics. Don’t be obsessed with making Church Online a numbers game. Don’t go chasing waterfalls...oh, right, wrong article.
Don’t chase the dragon of popularity and views and better production, because it’s all meaningless. And it may actually be getting in the way of something Greater.
Instead, be obsessed with the mission of the church. To know Jesus, to walk with Him, and to introduce others to Him. To take His name to all nations.
And now, more than ever, we need courageous leaders with a single-minded, merciless focus on connecting people to Christ by any means possible.
We have been gifted with the Internet. We did nothing to create this medium, yet its indelible mark upon history has been felt faster than any other technology ever. And we now have an almost unlimited access to the entirety of humanity.
Let’s let this time of pandemic and protest be a time of renewal and refreshment in our ministry ideas. Let’s gather together and be unified in our message of grace, mercy, love, and Jesus, all through the context of Church Online.
And let’s throw numbers out the window.
Stadia is getting ready to launch another round of their Phygital Learning Communities. Almost 70 churches right now are learning how to THRIVE, GROW, and MULTIPLY. We want to help your church learn how physical and digital can work together to achieve your mission and vision, meanwhile letting your Church, Online, be authentically you. Phygital Learning Communities are starting soon. Check out http://stadiachurchplanting.org/phygital for more information.