Church, online is hard. I get it. It's new, it's weird... Truthfully it operates by a different set of rules. While its so easy to look at the online environments and apply the same rules as we do to our physical locations, the fact is that Church Online needs to be different in order to succeed.
Six Things the Church Does Not Understand
1) The online church is not a replacement of the physical church. It's complementary. It gives the physical church an opportunity to expand it's ministry beyond geographical limitations. And, by the way, the online church is an incredible opportunity to plant future churches and future campuses.
2) A 75 minute physical church experience is may or may not work online. The recommended YouTube video length is five minutes. Facebook? Three minutes. Instagram put a cap of sixty seconds before IGTV, which is limited to 10 minutes. Remember Vine? Five seconds. Broadcast TV creates 22min or 44min shows (without the commercials!) Even Netflix, the experts on creating content for online, when they create serialized shows, rarely exceed an sixty minutes. Even with all the high production values of Netflix, they don't try to keep people's attention online for over an hour.
3) Online relationships are as impactful as physical relationships. Note: we're not devaluing physical relationships. It's truly amazing how the Church struggles with the concept of relationships online. With all the power that Online has to destroy a life, it can be just as useful to build one, or even restore one. We've seen it: true discipleship can happen in the online realm.
4) In online environments, people connect to Community before Christ. We hear this on a regular basis from churches who are doing Small Groups Online... When offered, Online Small Groups become an easy on-ramp for people to connect to your Church Online. Churches are finding, thru these groups, people are coming to Christ. Why? See #2.
5) Church Online isn’t about your church’s ministry, but empowering individuals to do ministry. A true game changer: Online to Offline is a very important philosophy to a healthy Church Online. Because online church services aren't as effective in evangelism... Because people connect to community before Christ,.. the relationships we have online should drive people to offline relationships. Disciple, train, teach, coach your online audience towards evangelism and discipling others!
6) Church Online isn’t about reaching the masses, but about reaching the individual. A dynamic worship service online probably won't make your Church Online explode exponentially... empowering people to disciple others, well, watch what God does.
One Thing The Church Must Understand
Which leads to this: Without some form of Discipleship Online, you’re not operating as a Church Online. You’ve become a spiritualized Hulu. God has called us, the church, to do more than create a 75 minute video broadcast each week. God called us to create disciples.