There's an interesting challenge before the Church today. How do you create community online when you don't have an existing community, Ekklesia, online. While some churches have had success opening their virtual doors and letting the flood gates of people pour in, others have struggled to find effective traffic online. Or, more likely, there's traffic... but people aren't engaging.
On a recent episode of THE CHURCH DIGITAL PODCAST Ben Stapley said it best: "It takes a crowd to gather a crowd."
I was part of a church that did open air evangelism. It was in Chicago and you know, they had the flip chart there and the whole... here's this drawing where you're next to this big pit and there's this cloud on the other side where God is and if you use the cross, you know... the visual illustration that I'm sure a lot of us are aware of... But we each had different roles. "Hey, you're going to be the person that illustrates the pit on the chart. And you, look, you're going to be the person standing and watching it."
I was like, "wait, why am I going to be the person standing and watching it? Like that doesn't, that doesn't make any sense." And they said, no, it does. They said, "It takes a crowd to gather a crowd." They said, "if we're doing this out on the corner and, and we start, then people are just gonna walk by because no one wants to be the first person to stop and watch because that's pretty vulnerable. No one wants to be the first to do anything."
Ben Stapley, THE CHURCH DIGITAL PODCAST 008
Those of you out there doing Church Online, realize that just as we, the Church, don't know how to necessarily handle situations in Church Online... our attenders are new to this concept of Church Online as well. To create a culture of engagement for Church Online, sometimes you have to model, create, demonstrate what that engagement looks like Online. So if you're new to this process of Church Online, or you're struggling to see engagement, (to Ben's point) be vulnerable and bring a crowd:
- Trying to build engagement with Chat Hosts? Ask a couple friendly people to sit in your services online and chat! Model what engagement looks like in the chat room, and see who else comes along.
- Trying to build community with Online Small Groups? Record one of your sessions (get permission from the group, of course) and make parts of it available on-demand or sim-live so that people can experience the feel for Biblical Community Online. Break down the stigma of Biblical Community Online.
- Trying to convince your leadership of the value of Church Online? I had a Pastor tell me recently that discovering volunteers were anxious to service in Church Online areas would "pull at his heartstrings", motivating him to do more with Church Online. Bringing a crowd to leadership even helps sometime.
No one wants to be the first. No one wants to be alone. But, if we bring a crowd to gather a crowd, we start down a path where Church Online creates community digitally as well as physically. And that's a great place to take a crowd.