2 - Engage

Engaging Your Audience

You’ve built a platform. Your church has great content to stream. But how do you engage the people who visit your online church? In the last session we learned three different ways you can showcase online content. Your platform doesn’t matter, though, if it can’t connect with people and the gospel. In this session, Jan Touchberry, Online Campus Director at Christ Fellowship in McKinney, Texas, will suggest various ways your online community can engage with each other, your larger church, and most importantly, Jesus Christ. 

Jan Touchberry splits her time between running the online campus, overseeing its team of volunteers, and working in other online ministries, including social media, for Christ Fellowship.  

“Let people know that they’re not just a name on a screen and an icon; they’re real people with real needs, and we care about them.” That’s the heart and hope of online church. As Jan said, the people worshipping at your online campus are just as important as the ones who step foot onto your physical campus. She suggests several different ways online church pastors and volunteers can create an engaging experience:

  • Greeting guests effectively and making them feel welcome
  • Creating a safe place where people feel known
  • Connecting viewers to God and the larger ministry of your church 
  • Closing your service well 

What do you think of online church as a first step to greater church involvement?
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What do you think about online church (or any online community) as a sufficient community, in and of itself?
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Jan talked about the importance of having a welcoming presence online and greeting guests effectively. She has a volunteer set apart in their church’s chat room whose sole job is to identify and visit with new people who come in. This volunteer or others also monitor who comes in and goes out of the chat room, which can be done through your selected online platform or simply by keeping track with a pen and paper. 

Have you ever thought of this kind of interaction and tracking as a part of online church? Why or why not?
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Imagine yourself popping into one of these church chat rooms. How would you be feeling? What would be really important for you to experience in that place?
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Safety is an important component of online church. Jan encourages leaders to make an effort to get to know the people online so that they feel safe. This includes remembering who comes back from week to week and recruiting a team of volunteers who can share the joy and responsibility of ministering to the community. She says representation from both genders is important, as well as people who are willing to actively encourage conversation and connection. 

Does anyone come to your mind who would be particularly good at creating and maintaining this kind of ministry? Take a minute to write their names down.
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In what ways might people be shy to chat online? What might you do to encourage them to share?
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Is your online campus going to be one that remains online only, or will you create opportunities for viewers to connect to others offline and in-person too?
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Connection is an important part of online church: connecting to each other, the larger church, and to God. The chat room is an obvious place for people to connect with each other. Jan shared some ways their online community connects with the larger Christ Fellowship community:

  • Joining online and in-person groups
  • Giving
  • Utilizing their care card and other downloadable resources from the worship service live stream

Is part of your online mission to get your online community involved in your larger church mission and practice? If so, what can you do to make that happen?
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A few ways Jan says online viewers can connect with God is through asking for prayer, taking notes on the message, and taking communion. Later in this course you’ll hear some of the online church pastors talk about online baptism.  

Does taking communion and/or viewing an online baptism at home alone or with others align with your personal understanding of the sacraments? What about your church’s tradition?
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1 Corinthians 11:17-32 (ESV)

The Lord’s Supper

17But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse.18For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part,19for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.20When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat.21For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk.22What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.

23For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread,24and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”25In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”26For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.29For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.30That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged.32But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

In the Scripture we just read Paul references Christ’s last supper with his disciples. In what ways do these verses challenge or support your understanding of online communion?
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The sacraments, online prayer, and note-taking have the potential to be transformational for the people watching your service. Who knows how God will move in your viewers’ hearts and minds as they watch your service? Take a minute now to pray for your audience or potential audience. 

Jan shared several other helpful suggestions to consider when thinking about your online experience: adding a polling feature to make your site more interactive, keeping the service in line with your larger church’s DNA, recruiting volunteers, and more. Future sessions in this course will dive deeper into these thoughts.  

When you think about closing your online service, what are some personal touches you want to consider so that viewers feel valued and encouraged to come back?
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What did you find most helpful or encouraging in this session?
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What other ideas do you have? Jot them down.
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When Jan opened her session she noted that she oversaw the online ministry of her church, which is essentially a team of volunteers. All of the online ministry they create at Christ Fellowship takes people! The next session will dive deep into how your church can move from mere technology to being a vibrant, Spirit-filled community of people who love Christ and each other.