While mega-churches have the resources to establish and grow their presence online, smaller churches may struggle to establish a digital foothold.
However, small churches have one thing going for them that mega-churches don’t — a smaller, more tight-knit community is actually easier to pull together and engage online. It’s harder for members to fall through the digital cracks.
Small churches need to take advantage of this.
To make digital ministry work, you need to take many of the same steps to get members engaged as you might for in-person ministry.
Here are some tips for how to increase online engagement and make your digital ministry efforts successful.
1. Take Advantage of the Group Chat
Many online services, like Zoom and Webex, have a chat function. This is a digital space where members can talk during an online service about just about anything they want to, something that isn’t possible with an in-person service.
There are opportunities here for something unique. Congregants can talk to each other during the service, which means they can do things like make comments on the sermon in real time.
This presents an immense opportunity for church members to engage with each other. They can take notes, discuss what’s being said, and form small groups afterward to discuss.
The chat function also allows members to simply introduce themselves to others and have a side discussion that can become lively, supportive, and positive.
Rather than having to come in quietly and “sit in the back” as they would in an in-person service, they’re able to announce themselves and even be greeted by an online greeter.
2. Have Some Digital Greeters
One of the unfortunate drawbacks of an online service is that it’s easier for congregants to essentially hide. They can turn their camera off, stay out of the chat, and essentially stay anonymous.
A greeter can potentially turn that around.
The greeter should have their camera on and, before the service begins, welcome people as they come in, either through the chat function or verbally. As the service begins, they can send private messages to latecomers, welcoming them and seeing if there’s anything they can do to help or be of service.
The private messaging option is particularly unique because in-person greeters are often inundated with swarms of congregants who all show up at the same time. Interacting with everyone is not an option, and most interactions are pretty brief.
By sending a private message to everyone individually, they can have deeper interactions and give congregants a personalized welcome that they just can’t do in person.
3. Utilize Breakout Rooms
Another really exciting feature of Zoom is the breakout room. This is where you create multiple Zoom “rooms” where a smaller number of congregants can speak in a more relaxed, less intimidating group.
For in-person services, members who know each other will tend to clique up, providing little opportunity for those on the fringes to interact, meet new people, and talk about what’s going on with them.
This is a great way to get congregants who normally might never talk into the same digital space, and because the groups are small, everyone will get a chance to talk to each other.
These can be simple meet-and-greets, or they can be a place where congregants can talk about the sermon — or really anything that’s going on in their lives. In fact, congregants who are struggling will be able to talk about their struggles in this more intimate setting and get support, guidance, and prayer from the other congregants.
Check Out the Digital Ministry Podcast
Looking for more insights into spreading the gospel online? Check out our podcast for small churches, “How We Do Digital Ministry” for some great insights and ideas from other small church leaders.