Estimated reading time: 10 minutes
Live streaming and on-demand online services became the norm due to the pandemic. But, now that things are starting to get closer to normal, churches are wondering if they should continue with online church services.
Unless you have zero online attendance, there’s no real reason to stop now. In fact, many people have fallen in love with the online option as an alternative
With all the extra engagement potential, churches should definitely consider continuing to offer services online. This goes for both live streaming and on-demand videos.
Table of contents
- 1. Stay Connected With Your Online-Only Members
- 2. Reach Potential New Visitors
- 3. Grow Your Church Family Online
- 4. Give Members An Alternative
- 5. Allow People To Re-experience Services
- 6. Reach Members Who Are Out Of Town
- 7. Better Connect With Younger Members
- 8. Increase Online Tithing
- 9. Ensure Church Is Available For Those Stuck At Home
- 10. Creates More Engagement For Online Viewers
- 11. Opportunity To Host Special Virtual Events
- 12. Encourage Regular Attendance And Worship
- 13. You’re Already Set Up
- 14. It Doesn’t Hurt Your Church
- Further Reading About Online Church Services
1. Stay Connected With Your Online-Only Members
There were benefits to online church services long before COVID hit. One of the biggest benefits was connecting with online-only members. There are people who can’t attend your church in person, such as someone who discovered your church’s site or Facebook page, but lives across the country. However, they might love your blog posts and social media discussions.
Whether it’s online or offline, worship is still worship. Providing your services online for people to participate from all over the world helps you stay more connected with this part of your church family. You’ll encourage more discussions online and people are more likely to share invitations to watch your online services with their friends and family.
Take advantage of any opportunity you have to connect with your online members as well as your in-church members. Together, they combine to create a large faith-based community spreading the word to others.
2. Reach Potential New Visitors
Often, people are hesitant to attend a new church without checking it out online first. They’re not sure what services are like, what to expect from other people or how diverse your members might be, especially when it comes to ages. For example, a family with young children might want to see if your church has other younger children in attendance too.
Offering online church services is the perfect way to let potential new visitors worship with your church family before attending in person. In fact, it’s a great way for new churches to help reach more people as well, especially since you don’t have quite as much word of mouth recommendations yet.
It’s also an ideal way to reach people who are looking to move into a new area. Often, people who are looking for new churches before they make a move will view different online services to see which church fits their needs best.
3. Grow Your Church Family Online
Every church wants to grow. But, don’t discount the power of online growth. Whether it’s just an issue with finding a church in their local area, medical conditions or anything else, some people aren’t able to attend in person. By offering online church services, you’re able to reach out to these people and grow your church family online.
Despite the common misconception that online friends you haven’t met in person aren’t real friends, a close knit online community can be just as close as friends who meet in person regularly. In fact, as Living Theologically points out, younger generations don’t see any difference between the two. They have in-depth conversations, depend on each other and even worship together.
If you’re trying to build a more active online community, it’s well worth continuing with your online services. Pair this with a strong social media presence to allow even more socialization and real-time interactions during before, during and after services.
4. Give Members An Alternative
Even though church is extremely important, everyone has days when they just don’t feel up to going. They might have had a rough week, woke up with a headache or are feeling sick. Online church services offer an alternative that’s easier and safer at times. Instead of missing a great sermon, they’re able to worship along with their fellow members. This allows them to jump into conversations during the week when they visit, call or text other members.
They can also get on social media to talk to other after services are over. Or, if your services are available 24/7 on demand, they can watch later in the day when they’re feeling a bit better. It’s much better to offer an alternative versus church services being an all or nothing in-person event. More worship options opens up your church to more members, especially when they see you’re willing to help people worship from anywhere and at any time.
5. Allow People To Re-experience Services
It might seem odd, but many people would love to check out a particularly engaging sermon again. Maybe there was something specific the pastor said that really spoke to them. They can re-watch your services online and write down what the pastor said and keep it to inspire them later.
A member might talk to a friend about how great a service was and want to share it. They can then sit down with their friend and watch it with them. This allows them to answer questions and worship together with someone who isn’t in your church, yet.
If someone’s having a bad day, they might want to go back and watch previous services to renew their faith. During times of loss and grief, this is particularly helpful. Church members who experienced the sermon live also re-experience that feeling of community, which can help bolster them when things are hard.
6. Reach Members Who Are Out Of Town
It’s not that members don’t believe attending church in person is unimportant. Often, it’s something as simple as they’re out of town temporarily. For example, someone in the military might be deployed but want to worship whenever possible with their spouse. By offering online church services live and on-demand, the couple can share the same service and talk about it later. It’s a way to keep military personnel feeling more connected with their community while they’re away. Plus, their fellow service members may enjoy worshiping along with them.
There are also families who are out of town visiting relatives, enjoying a vacation or away on business. They might only miss one or two services and don’t want the hassle of trying to find a temporary church for one or two services. An online service lets them continue attending their home church even when away.
There’s also members who may be off at college. While there are usually campus chapels or churches nearby, they love the church they’ve attended for years. Plus, they’re able to watch services live and discuss them with their families after services are over. This keeps families more connected and allows them to worship at the same time with the same pastor.
7. Better Connect With Younger Members
Another important factor Living Theologically pointed out is many younger people socialize online. They have close friends via social media, video games and online church communities. Even if they’ve never met the friends in person, they easily recognize them by screen names and real names, if shared. They have lively conversations and see zero difference between their online and offline friends.
Churches who say online friends aren’t real could alienate younger members. These same members could be inviting their online friends to worship with them via your live streaming services. Their online friends could be joining your social media pages, engaging in conversations with your members and helping grow your church online.
As Carey Nieuwhof says, everyone in your church doesn’t need to know everyone else. As long as they know someone, it’s still a community. For younger generations, they’ll feel like a member when watching online simply because they know other online worshippers or even a member in your church.
Showing younger members that you understand this proves that you have their needs in mind too. It also allows them to more easily share their faith with others their age.
8. Increase Online Tithing
Tithing doesn’t just happen in church. In fact, online tithing continues to become increasingly popular. Even during COVID, people were giving online. However, if you don’t have a strong online presence for your members, they might not even realize you offer online tithing as an option.
Online church services serve as a reminder when someone’s not attending in person to give what they can. You can mention giving at the end of your service, as a pop-up at the end of the video, a page on your website or on social media. There are a variety of online giving platforms to make this easier.
Plus, anyone who discovers your online services, even if they’re not anywhere near your church, are able to give. They may even start attending regularly online and give regularly too. By providing online services, you’re growing your audience and potential tithes.
9. Ensure Church Is Available For Those Stuck At Home
People who’ve been injured or suffer from a severe illness may be homebound, either temporarily or permanently. While many churches visit these members, they often still feel lost because they’re not able to worship with their fellow members.
Online church services give them the chance to worship in real-time. Despite being stuck at home, they can still experience that sense of community with their friends and family. In fact, family members or friends might even take turns joining them at their home to watch the services with them. As simple as it might sound, this is an incredibly meaningful experience for anyone who’s unable to leave their home.
10. Creates More Engagement For Online Viewers
This only really applies if you’re offering live church services in addition to on-demand. While filming and uploading to YouTube or your website works well, live services online creates even more engagement for your online viewers. They feel like part of the church family, all worshiping together at the same time.
You might even have a few volunteers on social media or a chat app responding to comments throughout the service. This makes your online viewers more active during the service itself. You could even ask your in-church members to comment back. Or, host a virtual meet and greet hour after church for in-church members and online followers to talk about the service together.
11. Opportunity To Host Special Virtual Events
If you’re already offering online church services, it’s much easier to host special virtual events. These are activities for your members and online followers throughout the week. You might have special mini-sermons mid-week or let so many people reserve spots for a video call all together.
People who are already used to online services are much more likely to attend. This keeps engagement going outside of regular worship times.
12. Encourage Regular Attendance And Worship
For many churches, the fear that online services could cause attendance to drop is the main reason they stop. But, it could actually encourage more regular attendance and worship. Members and online followers are able to attend your church from anywhere. While a member might only attend church in-person half the time, they might be viewing services online the other half. This means they’re attending every week.
Allow viewers to check in to keep track of regular attendance both online and offline. The goal is to ensure people are worshiping every week. Offering two ways to attend encourages people to attend your church more regularly, even with busy schedules, vacations and anything else that comes up.
13. You’re Already Set Up
If your church offered online services during the pandemic for the first time, why not keep offering them? You invested in the setup and already have the process down. Keep the momentum going and just add online church services as an extra option. Those who would rather attend in person can still attend. Those who feel safer or can’t attend in person are able to watch online. Plus, you’ve likely picked up a few online followers as well who would love if you continued with the online option.
14. It Doesn’t Hurt Your Church
Finally, it doesn’t really hurt your church to offer online church services. One study found that 59% of churches actually experience physical growth as a result of online services. Usually, the most growth occurs with a full online church experience, including ministry programs, prayer and more. Only 15% said they weren’t sure if they saw any real impact, but 58% said they saw a positive impact. Plus, 38% saw increases in online giving. So, unless you have no online attendance, you have everything to gain by continuing with online services.
Increase engagement with members and online followers by ensuring easy access to your online presence via a church website. Learn how our church websites help your church grow and thrive online.
I really think that live online church sermons has really helped lots of churchgoers during the pandemic and is here to stay despite our situations normalizing. I really would like to thank our church for really doing a great job on really innovating during those hard times to make sure we get our “soul food”!