When I was a kid, I was told that talking in church was not allowed. My parents would allow me to draw or put my head down, but talking was not permitted. As I got older, I was permitted to sit in the student section of church and keep quiet passing notes to my friends during the service. We would pay attention, but we also had our own conversation going on by passing notes. This was in the stone age that preceded text messaging and instant messaging available on a cell phone. We would actually talk about what we liked about the message and made plans for hanging out after church. It helped me solidify friendships in church and dig in deeper into conversation. Now imagine, I grow up and oversee Church Online now. Should I encourage people to be quiet during the service? No way! This is the big benefit of Church Online. You can encourage chat during the service. Online chat during the service builds community and helps people stay connected to the content of your church service. Online chat is a great way to begin the conversation that moves your online audience from a crowd into community. All this starts with a quality chat host.
Here are three things chat hosts can drive:
- Conversation: Your chat hosts are both greeters and small group leaders in the chat. They help people feel welcome, but also keep the conversation stimulating throughout the service. This is why it’s important to have primary and secondary chat hosts at each online service hour. Someone should be driving the conversation and someone should be supporting, as well. This way guests can also feel comfortable joining in. If two people are affirming guests, it makes them feel welcome and keeps them engaged throughout the service.
- Consistency: Having the same team on a regular basis drives community. Think of it this way, who was the person you constantly said “hello” to when you first began visiting your church. You felt like you knew someone. It was the beginning of community for you. You might have had someone notice when you were out. They said things like “we missed you last week.” We see the same kind of community developing in our chat at Christ Fellowship. Volunteers are building friendships with guests. Guests are feeling more comfortable and choosing their service hours based on the chat volunteers that are attending. It’s creating consistency in their online attendance.
- Conversion: I don’t just mean salvations. Yes, people are being led to Christ through our online services, but the chat helps get them connected to our church. Chat converts attendees by offering next steps and opportunities to connect to groups and attend our membership class. Chat hosts provide urls to forms and encourage guests to connect to our church. This is how we move from content to conversation to community.
Could you imagine if we offered chat, not just online but in physical services? I guess we’ll have to explore that idea soon. But in the meantime, think about how chat can make an impact on your digital platforms. Consistent chat volunteers can help you connect viewers to your church. It will require time and investment, so be prepared to build a core of people who are dedicated to serving your church. You can start small with just two volunteers at one service hour, but it is a great way to begin moving online guests into your discipleship strategy and get them connected to your church.