An Online Church Opportunity
The Church is in trouble. While the world has adapted, the church has stayed behind. While Amazon.com continues to innovate, the Church looks more like Sears Roebuck, blissfully ignoring the current wave of technological advancement.
The Church doesn't necessarily do this intentionally. There are hurdles that get in the way. For some, it's aging leadership's lack of vision for what is possible. After all, it's better to do what's been done than to try something new. For others, a lack of budget dominates mindset. Why take a financial risk on something innovative when the church is operating fine without it?
As a result, churches today look pretty similar to what they looked like 50 years ago. Sure, the music has changed at some places. But while there's more technology in that Apple Watch than in the entire Apollo 11 Space Mission, churches have yet to truly take hold of the technological advancement. I fear the day when the Church completes the culturally irrelevant path of Sears Roebuck. A time is coming when churches will have to adapt, or they will get left behind.
- Lack of Vision - Many churches today lack vision for what is ahead. In general, the Church has struggled to see the purpose of online ministry. A prominent and nationally recognized Pastor once told me that online avatars don't count in the biblical context of Hebrews 10:25 "Let us not neglect our meeting together". Now most progressive churches do use online as a front door to invite people to their physical campuses, or even to connect their existing members deeper into ministry. The Church is slowly wrapping its mind around the digital communication channels currently available. What it struggles to see is the potential to create biblical community online... actually doing church online.
- Lack of Community - Churches today struggle to see the value in online community. While most churches have some sort of biblical community available in the physical space through classes, small groups, Sunday school, etc, churches have failed to recognize the value of virtual groups. While corporations have been hard at work connecting people from around the world virtually, the Church shows little interest.
- Online Discipleship - Following the lack of community online comes a lack of true discipleship online. This isn't inherently related to a lack of trust with online environments, but digital/online is an ever-pressing way to solve these problems. Churches today spend so much time preparing for their one hour service on Sunday that they forget there are another 167 hours a week where they can help people grow deeper in their faith.
- Potential Political/Cultural Climate - The cultural climate towards churches (and Christians overall) is getting significantly more difficult by the day. We're seeing evidence of this even right now in the state of Wisconsin, where pressure is building as the tax exemption that churches benefit from is being called unconstitutional. Many experts are saying it is only a matter of time until churches lose their tax exempt status nationwide. Can you imagine the cost to the churches once they have to start paying property tax? Or the loss to the Pastors who have had housing exemptions (estimated total at $800 million a year)? Churches who have giant properties may soon find themselves unable to afford the tax bill. Or, as difficult as it is to imagine, what happens in a world where churches are prevented from functioning the way they currently do? What if Churches aren't allowed to purchase land? What if Christians had to create a system that wasn't centered around a brick and mortar building to survive?
- Cost to Engage - Perception among Churches today is that technology is too expensive and that churches cannot afford to be innovative. Interestingly, the cost per person is much cheaper online than at brick and mortar churches... drastically cheaper! The cost to reach thousands of people at a brick and mortar building involves a massive building, seats for thousands, audio, video, lighting costs, plus the costs of upkeep on a massive building. Online church can reach more people much cheaper and much quicker.
Back in 2000, Blockbuster had a chance to buy Netflix for $50 million. A successful brick and mortar company had a chance to invest into a struggling dotcom, but didn't due to lack of vision. Eighteen years later the next generation doesn't even know what Blockbuster was,
yet "Netflix" is a common household name. Unfortunately, the Church's opportunity is closing soon. Will it listen?
The solution to this problem is to make it easier for churches to do viable ministry online. This is not just to communicate effectively to members online, but to look at online as a digital mission field. We need a solution where a church can effectively run completely online. We need
a solution that is effective for evangelism, where people are told of a God who loves them. We need a solution where churches can disciple people online, helping them grow deeper in their faith. We need a solution where people can serve others, showing others the love of God. We need a solution that is low-risk for churches to get involved with, and one that can walk with them every step of the way... helping them understand what's possible.
TheChurch.Digital has a three-pronged approach to address this:
- Casting Vision - The biggest problem with the Church today is a lack of vision of what could be. While many churches understand the need for digital communications in the church, few are grasping the potential of a digital mission field. Churches are made up of Pastors and people who are strong in ministry. However, the majority of churches do not staff technological people. Churches need someone to come alongside and help them understand what is possible with doing ministry online. Small is the new big, and online is an incredible way to help create BIG numbers while setting up systems to process them in a small, scaleable ways. Online Small Groups and House Churches are both powerful methods of creating biblical community through online distribution. But solving the vision problem also requires solving hurdles that will prevent the church from joining.
- System Design with Pastoral Direction - The are so many different options out there right now. Which church management software is right for the organization? How does our mobile app integrate better with the church database? What questions should we be asking to evaluate the online campus? How can the online church help with plant future multisite campuses, or even future churches? Vendors are great at selling a product. With THECHURCH.DIGITAL, churches get someone who understands the strengths and the weaknesses of each vendor... and someone who is finely tuned to the church's vision, mission and strategy. In conjuncture with the church, we develop online systems that will complement the direction of the our clients and prepare you for the future of church.
- Coaching, Training and Connecting - The more technological our systems become, the more relational we as a company need to be. Once we get your systems designed, our work isn't done. Maybe your organization is looking to take that next step online. Regular check-ins will be necessary for quality control, but also as we continue to help the church expand their ministry online.
The potential applications of online ministry are tremendous. Rather than building expensive buildings for hundreds or thousands of people, churches now have a solid solution where they can cheaply stream video from a broadcast center to homes, House Churches, Microsites, or Pop- up Churches. For churches, the burden will not be to think larger, but to think smaller. With this platform we can reach people in small packets, whether they are in the same city or on the other side of the globe.