1. Validate Their Existence
It is easy for pastors to take the decline of in-person attendance personally.
However, if you can learn to embrace this new normal, you may be able to engage the virtual church.
The first step is to simply accept and validate the existence of members who now choose to watch online instead of showing up to a live church service.
Validate their existence by simply starting each service by welcoming the online community.
Speak to the camera as if they are present and let them know that you know they are watching and you appreciate their connection.
Close each service by thanking them for participating and provide them with ways to connect to an online community.
2. Formalize The Online Community
You have validated the online community so now you should formalize its existence.
Create a program that targets virtual members. Do this by creating a job that is specific to supporting this group of members.
Identify someone who is a little bit tech-savvy and give them responsibility for communicating and engaging with virtual members.
Create a job description for this person that clarifies the role and expectations for supporting and engaging the online community.
For example, this person may be the point person for online Bible studies, Facebook groups, or small group studies.
The primary role of this position is to develop and grow this online community – regardless of their physical location.
3. Determine Who They Are
This may be easier said than done but work toward creating an online participation list.
Try to identify who is a regular participant in the online service and create a contact list for this specific group.
Collect contact information so you can customize communication specifically for online members.
For instance, create an email or text list so you can share information that this group might be interested in.
Send emails or texts to thank them for attending and reminding them of the next church service.
4. Get Them Talking
The streaming audience can and should engage with each other.
Start the conversation by asking folks to simply say Hi and to let the group know that they are there.
Try to interact with the group during the church service and prompt them to react to the teaching.
For instance, ask the group to comment if a Bible verse or a teaching point really hits home for them.
When someone comments, recognize that comment and encourage more conversation.
5. Get Them Involved
The bigger the online community the more jobs there will be to manage it. Seek help from members to support the online group.
For instance, create a greeter role that simply welcomes people to the community.
Or delegate the chat responsibility to someone to keep the conversation going by asking questions and prompting discussions.
Communicate opportunities that are available within the larger church for involvement.
For instance, if the church is hosting its annual picnic, reach out to this group to help with these campus events. These interactions with other members will help them feel part of the church.
6. Solicit Feedback
Your online community will be the best consult for how to make the community stronger.
Reach out to the group with your communication tool and simply ask them how the church can support them.
Create a quick, simple survey to drill down on topics or issues that would benefit a virtual church.
For instance, ask the group for ideas of ways the church can support them or ideas for opportunities for involvement with church activities.
7. Encourage Occasional In-Person Attendance
Most church leaders recognize that some people may never consistently attend in-person church.
However, you may want to encourage the online community to make an effort to attend occasionally to support church programs or events.
Provide information on specific church programs or Bible studies and encourage this community to participate.
The New Norm
The streaming service has become the new norm. For the old-school pastors, this will be a difficult transition