It's a well-known fact to the Church Online world: Chat Hosts serve as the Guest Services of Church Online. If you've ever been a Chat Host, you've personally experienced one of the most rewarding, most frustrating roles of Church Online. Chat Hosts are literally on the frontlines of the digital mission field, and it's a hard battle. Here's what we know:
- Rough guesstimates show that 15% of Church Online viewers will take the time to chat online.
- However, when Chat Hosts are engaged, even if viewers are not engaged in the Chat Room, the length of viewers watch increases significantly.
So, even if the viewers are not chatting, Chat Hosting does make a difference. It's easy for the Chat Host to feel like they're talking in an empty room, but for Church Online the Chat Host is as vital as that Greeter in the physical location lobby or that person working the Guest & Information Center Desk.
As we gear up for one of the biggest Church Online services of the year, let's take a moment and make sure our Chat Hosts are ready for the big day.
- Level One Tech Support - Christmas Services will bring people who are not familiar with your church, but also not familiar with your platform on a technical level. Chat Hosts need to be able answer on a rudimentary level "how come I can hear you and not see you?". Usually the answer is as simple as "Get closer to your Wifi Router."
- Empower with Next Steps - Hopefully your Christmas Service Online (as well as in physical venues) have a "next step" off of the service. What are we encouraging people to do next? Come back for a new sermon series? Join a Small Group? Give to a specific cause? Whatever it is, Chat Hosts needs to be comfortable communicating this verbiage with passion.
- Keep it festive; but remember: not everyone will be - Christmas is a joyous time for most, but not all. There's a lot of pain wrapped up in the holidays too. Depression and loneliness are amplified at Christmas. Chat Hosts should be overly sensitive to this. Be ready for difficult conversations; pray in advance during the services and be ready to pray with people during the service as well.
- Involve Chat Hosts in follow-up post-service - I've seen several churches be very effective with this lately. Chat Hosts spend time during the service building relationships with people. Take advantage where possible and let the Chat Hosts continue to build that relationship with the viewer after the service. For Church Online to become effective for discipleship, we need to first discover who the Church Online viewers are. Using Chat Hosts for follow-up simplifies the relationship early on, preventing people from falling between the cracks.
- Expand to other platforms - One of the ways we talked about how to grow your Church Online this Christmas was to expand to other platforms. If you're not broadcasting on Facebook Live, do so. If you're not on YouTube, start now! Well, that goes for Chat Hosts. If you're breaking in a new platform, then have Chat Hosts available on those platforms too! Facebook Live and YouTube Live are both easy platforms for volunteer Chat Hosts to engage in. The challenge with new platforms is they bring on new viewers who may not understand how to interact, which leads us to number 6.
- Put in some ringers - Okay, you're going to have a bunch of new people at your Christmas Church Online services... I'd encourage you to add maybe a couple more people too. Not just the Chat Hosts; get a person or two to just pretend to be a viewer, and have them interact with the Chat Host. With all these new people viewing the Service Online, new viewers need to see a model of how to interact with a Chat Host. Set the example (and create the culture for the future). This can be an encouragement too with new Chat Hosts! BTW, if your Church Online doesn't chat well, I'd encourage you to do this for a couple months to create the culture thoroughly. It will catch on!