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PODCAST 036: Evan Connelly - Redefining Chat Hosts & Community

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I’m (Jeff) going to be honest here. I’ve never really enjoyed chat hosting. Maybe I never did it right. Recently, I had a conversation with Evan Connelly, where he went into detail about how the systems he was rolling out through his Church Online for Chat Hosts and I realized it was true… I never did do chat hosts right.

So, we invited Evan on the podcast for a fresh perspective on how to do Chat, right, online.


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ON THE SHOW

Guest: Evan Connelly
Lighthouse Church
, IT Director
Facebook // Instagram // LinkedIn

Host: Jeff Reed
THECHURCH.DIGITAL
Twitter // Facebook // Instagram // LinkedIn

Co-Host: Rey DeArmas
Christ Fellowship Miami Online
Twitter // Facebook // Instagram


SHOW NOTES

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Feedback on the podcast is vital as well. Leave comments on the podcast, or comment on this post! I'd love to know your thoughts and how we can serve your church better.
 
Love you all! Praying for your Churches and your Ministry Online.
 
Jeff Reed
THECHURCH.DIGITAL
 

TRANSCRIPT

Jeff Reed: 00:00 So it's confession hour here for Episode 36 of The Church Digital Podcast. And I'm going to, I'm going to confess something right here for you guys. For many years of my online ministry life, I never really saw the purpose in the point to chat host. I yes, I, I've told many of you that I felt it was necessary, and that, to model the behavior and to takes time and only 10% of people engage in chat. But maybe while it was right years ago, maybe that was, or maybe I was wrong all along, I really don't know. But in today's day and age, I'm discovering more and more than necessity of having chat hosts engaging in these conversations and, and my culture shift, my paradigm shift in view has really come from conversations like this that you're about to experience with Evan Connelly. So Evan is a combination of IT and in online ministry over with Lighthouse Church.

Jeff Reed: 00:56 But he has a phenomenal, viewpoint in strategy when it comes to doing chat hosts and, and how that's the front door really to engaging in online community. And so I talked with him on the phone about the church it conference maybe a couple months ago and was blown away by the strategies that he had had in place, and got with him and was like, Hey, let's, let's do a podcast on this. But even in addition to the podcast, let's share some of the resources that you're talking about that you're using at your church and let's get it out there for others. Then he happily obliged to that. And so also in addition, listening to this podcast, be sure to check out the show notes because a lot of the policies and processes and strategies that he has in place at lighthouse for his church, he's got written up and we're making it available on the show notes for you right now. So for this conversation, I am bringing in Evan Connelly, IT and Online ministry over at lighthouse church as well as Rey DeArmas, who's the Online Pastor at Christ Fellowship Miami and myself, Jeff in The Church Digital for a conversation on fine tuning chat hosts and community. Hey everybody, here you go.

Evan Connelly: 02:07 So we have two different roles with online chat. We have one person who is operating under our brand essentially. So they're going to be commenting as lighthouse church with our logo on them, on Facebook, YouTube, that kind of thing. And they're going to be doing, bigger questions pulling from a preset list of questions. So things like, where are you watching from? How can we pray for you? let's take a poll. How many people attended in person versus online? How many people have watched before? How many people is this the first time watching? Just things that get people pulled in. we do a lot with emojis on that one. So like using emojis to kind of vote and say like, you know, this message is speaking to you. Put your hand up and you'll see a little emoji. Hands pop up. It's really cool.

Evan Connelly: 02:55 And even with of calls. so if we have an altar call in person, do and also call online. And so with that person in that role is going to post the question saying, if you just decided to follow Jesus for the first time today, raise your hand or comment. Yes. And I remember the first time we did that, I was just blown away when I was staring at the screen and I saw these little emoji hands go up. I think it was like three or four the first time. And I just beautiful, I think I almost cried. I was just like, I can't believe this is working. People just got saved online and they raised a little emoji hands to share that they got saved. So that's what that role is. And then we also have an online engagement team. So this is the team that's more open obviously without every team, if you're serving under our logo, that's a pretty selective team. We're going to have to know you for awhile. And as far as volunteers who serve in that role, there's not a whole lot of people who are going to do that. But then we have on an engagement, which is a much wider team in not just in who can do it, but from where. So we have a volunteer in Texas, we have volunteer in Florida because you can do this one from anywhere. And so that role, they're commenting under their own names. They don't currently do anything to kind of designate themselves as volunteers, which I prefer because it just feels like, Hey, I'm gonna have a person watching the service with you. And so whether they're answering the questions, responding to the prompts that we're posting under our main account, or maybe they're posting something on their own, just like, Hey, you know, this point here that really hit home with me. And then obviously with prayer as well, they do a lot of that. So if we see a prayer request pop in, part of their file process and what they'd been instructed to do is try to make a point of praying for any of those requests that they say come in.

Rey DeArmas: 04:35 That's good. Evan, are you guys leveraging Chop as your primary tool or are you guys leveraging other networks for your, for your hosts, like Facebook live or anything else like that?

Evan Connelly: 04:45 Yes sir. So we are using Chop but that's actually new. We started entirely on Facebook and Youtube, and then just in the last few months we decided to add in shop, which we like. And I think we're still figuring out the best ways to use. But I would say the majority are definitely, the majority of our viewers are still coming from Facebook and YouTube. And I liked that we started with those platforms first because it really let us build those platforms. And on YouTube for example, we went from around a thousand subscribers to over 4,000 now and you've got a year, year and a half from constantly pushing people to that network. So we've had great results there. And that shot, features, especially with Facebook are amazing. Facebook by far is the best at integrating a chat with a live video, easy for you to uninterrupted to just watch, especially on mobile. And so, honestly, in my opinion, when it comes to live chat while watching the message, the best way to do that would be more on Facebook. And so we see the most interactive shot on Facebook and then Facebook or YouTube and chop are probably evenly split between, the discussion we see there. If anything, we probably see more of a discussion. Me too. But part of that's probably because Chop's still new.

Rey DeArmas: 06:00 Right. That's good. That's real good. And you know, keeping in line with that, so the prayer requests that come in, do your host document them? Like how does that get back to you guys so that it doesn't just die there in the chat so that the church can be made aware of some of this stuff?

Evan Connelly: 06:16 Yeah. So that depends on how it comes in. Usually that's gonna be from the person who's working off of the brand account. And so we have a prayer team that, not just even for online, but it seems, is praying for any requests that come in throughout the week. And so if it's a really serious request, especially that's something that we'll forward onto that team. I try to make a point of going through all the chat logs, whether it's chop or Facebook or YouTube and if there are anything that hadn't already been prayed for. if it's, you know, just, it really depends on the severity of it. If, if it has already had a few people comment on it and pray for it, sometimes it might not or anything else after. Not sure if it's a really serious situation, maybe that requires a follow up or passing it onto our prayer team to have people continue to pray for that throughout the week. And then something new I'm looking at, I haven't started it just quite yet, but I'm actually going through and grabbing pretty much all of those requests. And then we have a Facebook group for our online chat team and posting those in there so that throughout the week they can take part in something not just on Sunday, but part of that role can also be throughout the week to be praying for requests to come up. On the weekend. That's good.

Rey DeArmas: 07:30 That's good. how do you guys continue in community with folks? How do you guys keep walking with them with that, with your chat volunteers or do your chat volunteers also lead online communities? Like small group?

Evan Connelly: 07:42 Sure. You would definitely push online small groups for them. And then that Facebook group is a big way. I'm still trying to work out the best ways to use that and learning a lot about Facebook groups and how to keep a discussion going. It started off really strong and then the last few months it's been dying down a little bit. So I'm trying new strategies. They're trying to figure out the best way to pick that back up. But the Facebook group would probably be the biggest way that we stay in touch. And really the thought process with that is just to be able to have a place to share the wins. Because I think when you're talking about like what you each individually saw as you're serving, that's a real good way to show the value in what's happening here, how it's bigger than just that individual time slot that you're serving at. But how it's connecting to the bigger picture in the mission.

Jeff Reed: 08:25 So you've got a Facebook, you've got one Facebook group that basically is for your entire online environment?

Evan Connelly: 08:34 Yeah. For that team. So that's not like an online campus wide one, but just for those who are serving it just for that volunteer team.

Rey DeArmas: 08:41 That's good. so keeping, keeping that in mind, how do you keep chat engaged? Do you have two chat hosts at the same service just to make sure that things don't die down? Or do you have one person, you know, even if things are dying down, they're still throwing positivity out. There are questions to try and get people engaged. Like what's, what's the strategy there?

Evan Connelly: 09:01 Yeah, sure. So we have a lot of prompts that we're posting, like it talks about from our brand account and those are going to be a lot of discussion starters. so like where are you watching from is one of the first ones we do. And we've found that that's a great icebreaker because people love, even if they're just crossing the street, it's really easy, low barrier to entry. It's not too, too personal. So we see a lot of people do that. We've found that once they comment once, it seems like they tend to comment more. So once you just break the ice that first time and get them in the chat, they're much more likely to continue as we try to start off with easy questions like that where it's just super easy to make that first comment and break the ice. And then throughout the service we'll do things like I talked about with, you know, if this message is speaking to you, let us know that, or let's take a poll and something like, how often do you watch, do you normally watch out at one of our in person campuses or do you walk the primary on that line?

Evan Connelly: 09:54 Things like that. And then depending on the message to like maybe we'll say, you know, the pastor, she made this point, Hey, who can relate, put your hands up and you can relate to what you just said, that kind of thing. And so a lot of that's coming from the brand account. But then we also do have those individuals who will also do things on their own. Very similar to that. Really like, you know, if there's a point that just hit home with them, they'll say, man, that just really stuck out to me. Who else here feels like that? Or I'm definitely, we're prayer praying forever. People that naturally keeps a check going that she has been really cool, not just with our team, but we've seen with these prayer requests to come in. A lot of times we'll get like five plus people who join in praying for someone in court on our team. Just they see, Oh Hey, you know what? I see someone praying for this person. I can do that too. And now you've got someone who would have just been watching. but because we have that chat that's active and you've got a few people who are breaking the ice and a barrier of entry there, now they see that I can do this too. And not only did they just watch service, but they just joined someone in prayer from wherever they're watching from.

Rey DeArmas: 10:58 Good. How are you guys, recruiting folks for this? And I know you said that it's kind of a select group that comes into this, but where are you pulling from? You're pulling from within the chat, like, Hey, this person's real active. They could be a potential volunteer or what's going on there?

Evan Connelly: 11:12 That's definitely one way. we have had that where we see someone is pretty much already on the team in a way and that they're doing everything that we ask someone who's on the same. And so it's like, Hey, do you want to just keep doing what you're doing? And I'll say, maybe talk to us a little bit more throughout the week. and that's actually a great way to find people because naturally you get some people like that who are just really interested in being a part of the chat and they're going to do it regardless. So that's fine as well, coach them up and pull them into that kind of thing. That's been one way. The biggest way has been on online connect card. So in person we have volunteer opportunities and you can check that you want to serve when you fill out a connect card and sure we didn't have that option for online before we had this role.

Evan Connelly: 11:52 That just felt like a real loss to me. And it was really the reason that this team came about was I was thinking like how can we create a way for people who are outside, especially outside of our physical community in too far away to serve in person. Like how can they serve here? And I didn't want it to just be a role for the sake of having roles so they can feel like they're on a team. But I wanted them to have a real purpose and to really be able to be part of our mission. And so it's good. The chat post just seemed like the right way to do that and that's how that came about there. so the online connect card I would say is the biggest way that we get people for that role in particular. It's actually a pretty wide in that anyone can do that. Decent number of signups from people who fill out the online connect cards. brand account would be the more selective one and we don't give out any sort of password or access to that. So you're going to be in person doing that on a church device, but it's good overall is pretty wide.

Rey DeArmas: 12:46 That's good. And it's encouraging that you guys would at least be willing to empower people on the brand account because that, that for a lot of folks would be men not, and I understand you guys are very protective of the keys, but young kind of exit outside of yourselves there. There's still a little tension and a little fear there.

Evan Connelly: 13:02 Totally. Yeah. And that honestly, that came about really out of just a need. So, I was traveling, I forget where I might have been to a conference and at the time we didn't really have anyone else on staff who were, especially back then, a little smaller on staff. So we didn't have someone else on staff who could fill in for me and do what I was doing. So I realized I had to appoint a volunteer who at the time we haven't ever rolled, which is broadcast operator. It's just getting stuff started on the different networks, making sure the strings running, talking to audio if there's an issue. So that's more of a technical role. But we had one person in particular who I knew could do more and so I trained that person over the course of a couple of weeks and got them to cover for me while I was away. That just led to discovery. Hey, you can empower other people and they don't even have to be on staff necessarily as long as you've had some time to know them, train them. and so that's how that came about.

Rey DeArmas: 13:52 How do you guys, well, how do you guys manage the tension of the connect card? Because obviously it takes them out of the chat. And so how and when do you introduce that in the service? Because if you're going to throw a new link in a Facebook live or if you're gonna throw a new Lincoln YouTube live, obviously it's going to exit them out of the experience for the moment. Is it distracting? Like I, and I know that you found some success with that, but then kind of walk us through that as far as their engagement, their continual engagement.

Evan Connelly: 14:15 Sure. Yeah. We don't necessarily even put that in the chat every week, but what we do is, it's in the video description on Facebook and YouTube, it's the first link they see towards the top of the description of that video. So before, after they watch, it's pretty visible that it's there and now they're getting to it in a time that is not pulling them outside of the chat. Now we do have other links. We post occasionally if we're doing communion service, we post a link to instructions on how you can do communion in your home. we post links to small group sign ups when they open so that you can see what groups we have in person and online, that kind of thing. So we post them occasionally. but I would say we don't do them that often. Even some weeks we probably don't post a link that takes you up side of the video.

Jeff Reed: 14:58 You mentioned Florida, I think you mentioned Texas. Yep. so other, other States of how do you vet, how do you verify, how do you train? So like some person in a different time zone wants to, to serve at your, at your church. What do you do to verify that they're legit and that they're okay? Like what, what does that process look like for you?

Evan Connelly: 15:21 So right now, because they're doing this under their own name, they're not even like getting into, I mean, especially on Facebook and YouTube, it's pretty hard to give them any sort of like identifier. And it was just a little easier chap that they're volunteer, so they're pretty much under their own name. And so we don't feel like we have to be incredibly restrictive. It's not like a small group leader where we're going to do a background check or anything like that. there's an initial discussion, just like any of our serve teams just over email or maybe a phone call or text depending on their preference. But, when you first sign up for a team, just like, Hey, this is what we do, tell me a little bit about yourself. What's your background? Does it seem like a good fit? And then naturally it has a little bit of a discussion that goes about to get to know them.

Evan Connelly: 16:01 And then I have a training document that I put together. It's pretty simple. but it just walks them through what their role looks like, different ways that they can get involved, some suggestions on how they can comment and wording and that kind of thing for different parts of the service. And we make it real clear on that too, that as you're doing this, you're just talking to them as never person who's in this service. You're not representing the brand. So you're not saying like, Hey, welcome, we're so glad you're here. It's like, Hey, I'm so glad you're here. That kind of thing where it's not on the brand, but they're just doing this personally under their own name.

Jeff Reed: 16:34 That's good. And has that been, has that been well-received? Like are they okay doing that? Where there somebody in Texas is speaking for themselves and not, and not on the brand? Does that, do they struggle with that? Like how has that been received?

Evan Connelly: 16:50 As far as I can tell it's been received well. I have yet to have someone say that they were uncomfortable with that or that they didn't want to do that. so as far as the people who've said that they want to be a part of this team, everyone seems to be perfectly comfortable that I think they enjoy it. I think, I, when I'm talking to people who are new, I compare it to in person that we have greeters. You know, we have a response team that stands and turn on the stage for prayer after service, that kind of thing. And so it's very similar to that where you're kind of in your own skin, they see who you are and you're just doing that under your own name and your own identity a lot like you would be doing in person.

Rey DeArmas: 17:24 How are you helping chat host, navigate their online persona? Because obviously being in Facebook live and all this stuff, they're not just connected on Sundays during the service. Hey man, when I post my thoughts on Johnny's pizza place, it's all out there. And some of those folks may interact. In fact, Johnny May have attended service and he didn't like your posts. So, you know, how does all that workout talk

Evan Connelly: 17:47 to all of our volunteers and personally up on, we, talk about, among other things, social media and how you should be representing your testimony in a way that you interact online so that you don't want to be posting things that are negative or critical or that just come across the wrong way on social media. Yeah, that's just something, with any of our teams, you know, even if you don't serve online, we just wanna make sure that, you know, you're reflecting your testimony online and you need to be very careful about what you post and how that might come across to people.

Rey DeArmas: 18:15 Yeah, I mean, and this is always a tough tension to navigate because, you know, and especially when it's not quote unquote staff like staff, you know, we feel, I don't know, a little more ease to like lean in on a lot of that stuff with a volunteer. They understand, but they don't completely understand. Not a lot of that. I'm sure that's just gotta be a challenge, man. Do you have an example of man, we definitely had to like step in and we had to help this person navigate that kind of tension.

Evan Connelly: 18:42 I've yet to have to do that with something outside of the Sunday chat of all, it's fairly normal when people are new to the team to have to just chat a little bit about the type of comments that they're using during the shot. And you know, it'd be helpful if you talk about it this way, what let's say that or maybe avoid this verbiage and let's say that kind of thing. It's pretty, it's pretty normal and have coaching with that. But thankfully I've yet to have a situation where I see someone who's posting something and I'm like, that's not representing us well. Sorry not to say that that won't happen, but a, just being fair so far, it hasn't. With your, your church, how your church is structured with church online. the chat host, what's, what's the goal of, of the chat host, to get the person to stay connected to the service for the entire service, to invite them back to next week to get them connected into a small group.

Evan Connelly: 19:39 Like when you, when you empower a chat host to do something, what's a successful, what's a win for a chat host for a volunteer? CentOS so ultimately what they're trying to do is create a sense of community. And so at a, when would look like, a few of those things that you just listed, we have small groups and so sometimes they'll just post a link to a small group that they see that someone's going through something. Like just this past weekend we had someone who just said that they felt really lonely and so someone shared how much that a small group had helped them and share to link to small groups and just said that that could be something that would help that person through what they're going through. So connecting them with small groups would be an option. Praying for people is huge. I've been blown away recently just in person and online seeing how it moves people to have someone pray for you there.

Evan Connelly: 20:25 I think there's a lot of people who aren't used to people praying for them. If you're not in inside of the church world, which I think you get a lot of online people who don't normally come to church, people aren't used to having someone pray for you and when you share a prayer request and someone actually takes the time to pray for you, I think that really touches people. And so that seems like it really pulls him into a service and makes them want to come because they see that sense of community history, that people that care about them that will take the time to pray for them. and just other next steps like our connect card. that's not something that engagement scene would necessarily do, but questions would be a good one too. Whether they're creating their own kind of question that gets the discussion going or being one of the first people to respond to a church question. So that, that kind of breaks that ice there too. And then see if there's people commenting. Cause sometimes just like in an in person discussion, no one wants to be the first one to speak. So when you see someone else breaking that ice, then you're more likely to share as well. So it just all comes together to create community.

Jeff Reed: 21:25 You know, and I'm actually gonna quote Rey's boss here, which is awesome. We had been steeply on the podcast and he, we were talking about about chat host with him on. And one thing that he said that I loved, and it's, you have to model what you want to see. And he was talking about, you know, almost having like ringers in the room, often engaging and talking. And so you'd have volunteer a talking and just even positioning, volunteer B and C just talking like normal people responding and engaging. And it's because it's your point. No. And he even said it. He very eloquent story. Nobody ever wants to be first. And so a lot of times if you want to, if you want to create that culture, create that environment, you have to show the people what it looks like and how to respond and then it carries on from there. And so, you know, I love that, that idea. Have you, have you gone through model seasons like that where you've had to, to model what it looks like, how have you done things like that?

Evan Connelly: 22:29 Yeah, I think that's definitely one of the things that this team has brought about and I think, you know, like you were saying, this is something I've heard people do. I don't think it's even specific to online. I know all the I've heard they ask their staff to sit in the front of the sanctuary, especially if their broadcast location because they want to know that people who are that visible people who are pulled into the service, who are engaging with the service, who are going to be standing up, we're going to have their hands up and clapping. And I think it's very similar with online. You want to have some people that you know are going to model that behavior and so that's part of that training for that team is just responding to that message. Whether it's a question of the church posted or they hear a point that the pastor made and they're just like, amen.

Evan Connelly: 23:10 That really hit home with me. Those kind of things where you're showing over people who are new, there's an actual chat going on here. This is what it looks like to be involved in a part of that and I think that just creates a sense that something's happening there. Whereas if you just have a video feed without that chat, I really feel like there's a different feel there. I feel like you don't have that sense of community without seeing those individual names and people in them stories they share in a prayer requests. That doesn't, to me, I would say that the online chat makes it feel more like church. Seeing the different people there and it's kind of like your, you can't do it exactly in the same way unless you're like a church home. When you build that custom app where you can have a lobby before service. But for the most part with the existing technology like Facebook or usually we don't have much of a lobby before and after service that happens naturally during your chat.

Rey DeArmas: 24:02 So how are you guys dealing with, with the curls? you know, however they may come in, in terms of the chat, doesn't matter if it's cop, you have people find their way to your site and definitely on Facebook and YouTube live you'll occasionally get somebody pop in who has an agenda. So.

Evan Connelly: 24:18 Totally. Yeah. And that has happened. first of all though, I would say especially to a church that might be considering doing more enabling live chat, that it's probably not as bad as you think it is. Right. We got a lot of questions, especially if some of the different conferences that I've been seeing, you know, we'll have a Q and a time and we hear, well what about this or what happens if someone says this or you get this one person who's doing that? And I'll say, at least from my experience and what I've heard from other people who shared about doing online chat, I don't think it's really as common. A lot of people would expect it to be. You do have trolls on the internet. We have run into them, but they're far and few between with two or so years of doing online chat.

Evan Connelly: 24:56 I can only think of a handful of instances where that's happened. Even fewer times where I've actually had to block someone. So we try to give people a chance if they're not totally out of line, if they're not using foul language, if they're being a little critical but not to the point where they're attacking individuals or tearing anyone apart, we'll try to give them a chance because sometimes they're just hurting and they need to be there just as much as anyone else and we don't want to drive them away. So we'll try and give them a chance. And it just depends on the severity there. I can only think of one time where we've had to block someone outright for the most part. Sure it looks like giving them a couple chances or strikes before we go ahead and block them. We might hide their messages and it is various platform to platform.

Evan Connelly: 25:43 Like Facebook is great because you can hide their message and you don't even know that you did it and so they're just going along ranting. But they don't know that their comments gone. Whereas YouTube, I think it notifies them. It's more clear that that happened. And so you might have to address that a little differently. And then shop has a direct message feature, which I really like. I used that just a couple of weeks ago. We had someone who was being a little critical about the message but not terribly so. And so I'm sure I have a conversation on that person and just walk through, Hey, I'd love to talk through any feedback you have on this message. And, I tried to sort it out with that person. I'd love to say that we can't do a resolution and that person decided to stay, but the person made a couple of more public comments and that person didn't have to be blocked, but that was rare.

Evan Connelly: 26:25 That doesn't happen most weekends. I wouldn't even say that it happens once a month where we have to block someone or had comments. And the other thing we've noticed is that we have a very positive online community. And I don't know if we've done anything to build this or if it just naturally came about, but when we have a negative comment come in for one negative comment, we'll probably have three, five people who come back positively and say, well, you know defensively or just the count it out with positivity. And that kind of brings the discussion back. Sometimes you have to draw out to you because if it gets too defensive and not just positive, then now it becomes a distraction. And then we're going to try to hide all that and take that offline so that it doesn't come about that and it stays on the message.

Evan Connelly: 27:08 But a lot of times they just come back with positivity, not even directed at exactly what that person said. And then that just brings a discussion back. And it's interesting too, we've found among the different platforms, so starting with Facebook and YouTube and now chop, the more anonymous you can get. So obviously YouTube is somewhat in between. They're starting to push real names. Facebook is entirely real names. I'll probably block you if you don't have her own room. And then chocolate's totally anonymous. Like you just enter a nickname. It's incredibly rare to have to block somewhere to find somebody on Facebook. It's a little more common on YouTube and then your mom's, we've been doing chop, we found that's most common there. So I think the more numbness that people can get, the more that they can open up in good things as well. Cause I've seen prayer requests on chop that no one would probably ever share on Facebook. Sure. But you also, I think the more anonymous your platform is, the more likely you're going to see a troll. It's fair.

Jeff Reed: 28:03 Your, your broadcasts, we've talked about this before, through the podcast, but there's basically, there's three different types of people that watch online services. so your first is the front door. These are people who are watching your online service and they will eventually visit for the first time, one of your physical campuses. Second is types of person as a side door. This is somebody who is, already active in your church. They're just traveling and, and so there may not be available or may they just want to stay at home one Sunday. They may not like, they're engaged in your church already. Part of it, they're just attending the online services in order to stay in touch. And then the third service would be third type of person. would be someone who basically it's, it's the digital door. It's the only door they're never set in foot in a physical campus. They're not engaged. nor will they be because it's somebody in Florida or in Texas, somebody who for whatever reason, they're engaging with you spiritually, looking for spiritual guidance, but not necessarily, wanting to do it in a physical environment. Sure. With you DDA, with your online audience, like would you rank those three like a front door, side door, digital door, which ones are, is is more active than the other with your broadcast?

Evan Connelly: 29:21 Yes. So we don't have a really detailed metrics on that. We don't have a good way to capture that right now. But based off of what I see weekly with a chat, especially getting to see people check in with their locations, how they're watching. You see a pretty good mix. I would say it's probably close to evenly split among all three of those. We get people who normally attend in line and they'll say, I'm on vacation in Puerto Rico, so I'm tuning in from vacation and we get people who are local and say they're sick, we get people. I've seen comments that, you know, I live out of state but we're going to be moving here. So we've been watching for a few weeks now and we can't wait to move down there and watch it in person for the first time. Or I'm, I haven't attended church in a long time and I'm really loving this message.

Evan Connelly: 30:03 I live locally, I'm thinking about coming next week. And then we see other people who just live an extended distance away. And a lot of times I see those same people checking through on a frequent basis and they're definitely doing church with us. I just checked off an online small group, this small group semester and we've got someone in our group from Virginia Beach originally lived here and now as part of our online community and watches pretty regularly and is taking part into online groups. So we definitely have people in all those categories and just based on the feel I have for it from our online shop, I'd say it's fairly evenly split among all those.

Rey DeArmas: 30:39 That's really good. It's tough to, it's tough to navigate that sense of community. and it's, it's really hard to navigate how a lot of people are going to engage in some of these different platforms. Those are things that we've talked about with some other folks. so tell us how else is the ability to be known, or the ability to stay unknown, impacting the way that people are interacting with, not just with the chat, but with your church and in general.

Evan Connelly: 31:06 Yeah, so this is coming from an online small group, this previous meeting, but I think it, we see the same thing with online too. So we had someone who started off camera off, wasn't really talking. and then in this, I've seen this transform through an entire semester, but with this person it was all at once and throughout the course of one meeting and then as we got into our discussion, the camera came on for like a minute and then turned back off and then the camera came on for a few more minutes and turned off. And then towards the end of the grade the camera stayed on and this person opened up and shared that they're dealing with so much anxiety right now, but they were just so thankful for this online group cause it got them to take part in something they probably wouldn't have normally done and just shared how powerful it was to be meeting with these other people online right now and to be part of this.

Evan Connelly: 31:54 And so throughout the course of that one meeting time, that person went from, you know, kind of hiding in a sense with the camera off to feel uncomfortable enough for a minute to turn it on, to leaving it on. And then even speaking and joining the discussion. And I think we see the same thing with the chat where people probably are watching for a few weeks before they take part in the shot at all. And then they start commenting a little bit. And then I have noticed like you see people who occasionally comment and then I'll start to recognize those names. And S he also had this person's commenting a lot and they just become more part of that community. I think for some people it's just a natural progression that happens.

Rey DeArmas: 32:26 And I agree. I think that's, I think it's difficult in church in general. as far as folks wanting to go from being unknown to known, especially in a mega church, which is, you know, many of the opera, the environments that we're operating in, in terms of who want to come into a service either cause they've been burned in another church or coming in and they're fresh and they just want to sit down and, and just be for a moment, they don't really want to connect yet. They don't want to be part of the community yet. They just want to kind of soak in. So Italy and especially in the online environment, I mean they're, they're trying before they buy it, right? Like they are there to engage in that kind of experience before they really partake in the community cause they're still trying to build trust. Right?

Evan Connelly: 33:05 Yep. And I think online can meet them where they're at in a really good way in both of those. Because if they want to be anonymous, you can't be more anonymous than on your computer without taking part in the chat. Like you can literally just watch that video and no one's gonna know you're there. So if that's what you want right now, or you just want to hear that message, but you're not ready to be known, then online does that really well. But I think online you can be known better than in person in a way when it comes to a larger venue. Because if you've got 1000 people in a room, you might not notice that new person. You can certainly create them and say hi to them, but you don't, you can't ask someone when you've got a thousand people in a room, is this your first time? Cause that can come across wrong to someone who's been there for a year. Whereas online I think it's a lot easier to have those discussions and to get to know people in the chat because you can talk to all those people individually if they choose to start commenting. And I think you get to know them better than you might in an in person service. Did you, cause we don't have that front of interaction generally in a larger environment.

Jeff Reed: 34:04 You know, one thing that I've seen, several churches start to experiment and start to move well as like a next step beyond that service broadcast that the chat hosts can push to, is, is a church wide Facebook group. you know, talking about having like a anonymity. It's a softer sell. It's, it's less intimidating. They're coming in as their person and it's not, they're not hiding behind a nickname or something. or, or you know, invisible with, with a YouTube or chop. And so, but it's, it's, there's hundreds of people in this group and your util hunt may be thousands of people in this group, but you're utilizing the group to ask questions to, to push ideas, to meet people, to engage with people and to route them into, into a small group and so, or into a community or whatever your next step is.

Jeff Reed: 34:56 And so it's, it's really seems to churches that have done it well. you know, it was El elevation. I think it talks a lot about that, about how that they had had a huge success with that, Facebook group, and pushing it over. They're designed for the online campus and, and then using that to, to route people, effectively down the road to really get to know them. And the thing that I love about it is it's not tied to that one hour on Sunday. You can have a conversation with them on Tuesday or Wednesday and get to know people in that space and engage with them, on a regular basis. It's not just when that service is being and even ask your chat host to help engage the community in that space where they're not just doing that one hour on Sunday, but they're actively meeting and talking with people in that, in that Facebook group as well.

Jeff Reed: 35:49 Like there's there, I think there's an opportunity therefore for churches to really use, you mentioned before there's no lobby. and that's been like the biggest problem I think with church online is you get people connected to ministry into those next steps in the lobbies of our physical buildings. We don't have a physical building online and for some churches that are experimenting with it, that, that Facebook group for the entire online service really does become the lobby of the church. So, man, I, I would check that out. I, I'd kick those tires. Rey, you guys, you guys have experimented a little bit with, the Facebook group for the entire church, right? How'd that work?

Rey DeArmas: 36:26 We are, and you know, it's one of those things where it's, it's doing good. It's not as good as I would want it to be because it's not something we promote very heavily outside of CF online. And I think we will continue to, as we find more power here, especially as Facebook favors algorithmically the groups, right? Like they're, they're putting more of an emphasis on community. So known in John's always talking about how Facebook is favoring community and favor and groups, and, and how we want to put more of an emphasis on that. But then Brad Sheer, came up with a great strategy that, that it was like, Hey, listen, even just kind of posing it question a day to just keep people engaged on the Facebook, on the Facebook group or, you know, and that's the strategy just to get them. And it's been a good way to kind of get the ball rolling in terms of getting people involved, getting people praying for one another, finding different ways to have them connect, creating that lobby experience because there's gotta be some kind of strategy behind it. We can't just have a Facebook group for the sake of having a group. We're really trying to continue exactly what Evan's doing. Trying to continue that conversation.

Evan Connelly: 37:25 Yeah. It's funny you guys bring that up because just an hour or so ago before this, I was talking to our arts director about our strategy of online groups or Facebook groups and what we're thinking about how we're going to roll that out. So that's something we're not doing currently, but we're, I'm talking through our process and looking to roll that out fairly soon. We want to have an online one like you guys are talking about. We also want to do that for our in person campuses to create those people and stay in touch throughout the week. And even some of our groups like that. we trying to figure out how we can do that to tie them into small groups and maybe link them to individual small groups that are going on. That's something that we're looking at as well. And I'm part of a few online groups from our churches.

Evan Connelly: 38:06 Um, on the elevation one, life church, I think rock church and I've been blown away by the amount of community that I see happen in these groups. It's just, yeah, like you said, those questions like you see a question like that get posted and so many people will open up about that or I love it when, you see someone ask a personal question like they're trying to work through something or I'm not really clear on this text. What do you think this guy, this means? And then you have people who just, just like church, I mean they're coming together and they're wrestling throughout together and are praying for one another. I think you really see a lot of church happen in those groups. we do have a Facebook group for our amendments right now and I see a lot of that happening there where people open up about what they're going through. They have a question and you just naturally see that community created. They do church with one another in a Facebook group.

Jeff Reed: 38:57 Rey, You ready for my hot take? Here's a hot take. I don't think I've ever heard anybody say this before. It's coming right here. I think I would rather somebody join a Facebook group, a private Facebook, a campus Facebook group. I would rather someone join a Facebook campus group, then fill out a connection card because if they're in the group, I now have a relational connection to get whatever information I want out of them and only know in a one on one engagement. So I would rather them identify themselves as part of a Facebook group. Gives me an opportunity to dialogue rather than them filling out a card feeling like that. I'm coldly trying to peel information out of them that I'm going to utilize it in some other way.

Rey DeArmas: 39:47 I think Facebook needs to offer more tools to help integrate people into groups. Cause for instance, whenever we're going on live chat on Facebook live and you know, when we've pushed the group, you know, whenever we copy the link over, it's this massive disgusting link that gets dropped in, in the middle of the chat as opposed to having, you know, a button or something a little more simple that's attached. It should be integrated well into Facebook. And so I know that Zuckerberg is listening to this podcast. And so if you're listening to Mark, you know, go ahead and get on that. But, but in the meantime, you know, it is, Jeff, is proving to be one of the best things, to get people to do because they're going to engage in it on a regular basis. It does provide opportunity and more expressive place. You know, they could drop gifs into it. That can drop a whole bunch of things into it that you can get some fun responses and keep people engaged in the fun side of the community or Facebook, which is what it originally was before it became ads and all this other stuff. And so and it's so niche and internal in that you know, you're, you have people who are there who want to be there. They weren't advertised into it. It wasn't anything else. You have people who are part of your community that want to be there, that wants to take part in community. That I agree with you 100%. I think more and more there needs to be ways to connect with people through your Facebook group and not just in some, in some kind of way I'm just receiving data.

Evan Connelly: 41:04 I mean it just, it seems like it's so much more relational. when you fill out a connect card, especially at a larger church, like what does that process usually look like? You might get look at generic template email, which I think more and more people are starting to recognize that even if you auto fill their name and their, they can kind of tell, okay this is the exact same email everybody else gets. Maybe you even send them a letter in the mail, but it's probably just going to be something pre printed, like not super personal. If you're at a larger size where you probably can't hand write a card each person. But if they, you know, when you join a Facebook group, like it tells you that you're new, you can see who's new and if you have a one to one chat with them there that's very specific. It's very personal, quite. I don't think you can really do with more traditional new guests processes.

Jeff Reed: 41:50 That's good. Well, and relational really is, is the, is the answer to online ministry, right? because, and especially as, as cold as this and as technology is, we're trying to prevent people from not doing church in isolation and years of my life, I, I honestly just transparently, I didn't understand this, which is one of the reasons why I've been so distant on chat hosts cause chat host is really the vehicle that you get people to not watch church in isolation, to not experience that they're that front line. I used to equate them to guest services and I'm like, eh, who cares about guest services? Sure you don't need them. But, but it's, it's, it's more than that because you've got people who are watching on devices not engaging in effective chat. Host ministry is really going to engage that and get them connected into a more relational thing with a Facebook group or, or into a unto a small group or something like that.

Jeff Reed: 42:47 And you're starting to build this discipleship pathway. And the, as much as probably earlier in my online ministry years, I was really, negative. I was more negative on the chat house and I was like, it's not, it's not really necessary in the grand scheme of things today. It's, it's vital. It's essential towards that because it's the first line of defense from discovering front, first line of defense to discover who these people are. and so, and Evan, man, you've, you've done a great job of putting together a program and, and talking through not only, you know, discovering these people who they are building these relationships, funneling them into use some sort of a, a community to engage in. man, I'm excited to see, what else is going on down the road with, with lighthouse and, and how this, this continues to, to grow. Hey. Okay. So let's, let's land the plane here. it's been great, but, but let's, let's call it a day. So, Rey, what do you got anything to land?

Rey DeArmas: 43:46 having Greg job, I'm talking through and help and guidance through as far as some of the chat stuff. I, man, I hope to learn from some of the things that you guys have done and, man, if you guys have any, anything, any kind of resources that we could throw in the show notes just to help some of our listeners, that'd be great too. Just because I know that for us and we're still experimenting, we're still working with us here at Christ Fellowship Miami where I'm at. Chat hosts has improved the community of where it's been. And like you said, it's definitely helped people take that next step. And so for everybody who's listening to the podcast today, that's just kind of, if you're just broadcasting your online service but not necessarily creating community around it, let me encourage you to take that next step. Even if it's you, yourself as a staff member, find a way to create community around getting a started during the service.

Evan Connelly: 44:31 I just want to have resources that people can steal and make their own. and that was, we'd been growing. That's been really helpful for us to be able to find people who are already doing something and just be able to learn from that and grab some of what they're doing and apply it to what we're doing. So I intend to have some resources that are just easy to take hold of and make your own. And so I can definitely get those to you guys by the time this goes public.

Jeff Reed: 44:55 Yeah. So we'll, we'll put, we'll put that on on the show notes as well and we'll link to it and make, make it public to everybody so I know that'll be a huge asset. So man, Evan for you as we're landing the plane, anything, anything specific?

Evan Connelly: 45:07 I just want to thank you guys. It's been great to talk through this. I've listened to several of your episodes now. I love what you're doing in the podcast and I just really think it's a great resource for church leaders, especially in the online space. So I'm just thankful for what you guys are doing.

Rey DeArmas: 45:21 That's good Evan. Cause it's you, my mom and Jeff's mom, they're listening to the podcast and we're fired up just to know man is good. Your mom still listens. I don't, I know what I, I'm kidding. Only podcast, she knows about it so she can't, just to get her to open Apple music on her phone is a win. You know what I'm saying?

Jeff Reed: 45:45 It certainly has been fun. And you know, having conversations like this, like yours, Eva,n guys who are doing a piece of church online and maybe experimenting with things one way or another way, or even w being willing to experiment. Nobody really has the answered at church online yet. There's not a solid answer. And how Elevation or how Saddleback or how North Point's going to execute church online is gonna look different than how Lighthouse in Maryland is going to execute church online, which is going to look different than the church plant that's going to do church online. And so how we all can utilize this online tool to not only broadcast services but to engage with people and to create disciples. That's really the answer to this in the heart behind everything that we're doing here and in chat hosts, I've learning is a, is a essential part of that and is something that, that we as the church need to engage with specifically in the online environment. So man, Evan, thanks for the time here. Jumping on this and Rey once again, it's always great to hang out with you, but I am Jeff with The Church Digital and we're going to wrap here. This has been great and a hope to see you next time. Thanks for joining in. Bye.

 

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About Author

Jeff Reed
Jeff Reed

With about 20 years experience serving the church in the digital/technological realm, Jeff loves working with churches. As passionate about Discipleship as he is Technology, Jeff uses his passion to help Churches develop technology systems to bring people far from God closer to him. Oh, and he loves Church Online.

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