Easter 2020 will not be forgotten any time soon and despite not being able to meet in person, the Gospel was still proclaimed and hope was shared, with perhaps even a bigger, hungrier audience than normal!
So now what? In this COVID-19 stay-at-home culture, it’s critical to keep your Easter guests interested and watching your church services online. What does visitor follow up and connection look like in an online world? Here are six ways to keep your Easter guests engaged:
1. Keep the lines of communication open
Church staff members are worn out and exhausted from adjusting to the new normal and hosting Easter online but this is not the time to let up. It’s important that you keep spiritual conversations going with your online audience.
This is the time for you to get to know your visitors. Depending on how you are hosting your online services and your ability to capture information on viewers, finding and communicating with any new people may be difficult. But even if all you have is their Facebook name, starting a personal dialogue through messenger will go a long way to making online visitors feel more connected to you and your church. Here are a few approaches you could try:
If you created an online connection card and obtained personal information like a physical address, phone number or email, your next step is to send a personal note welcoming them and inviting them to watch again or to join in other online activities. Or make a quick phone call and thank them for joining you online and inviting them to watch again.
If you only have their Facebook name, try sending a direct messenger note to each person thanking them for watching and asking how your church can serve them. Invite them to join you again.
If you have little to no information, try posting a thank you message on your page and/or in your group asking for anyone who is new to the church to reach out with prayer requests or any needs their family may be experiencing. One idea is to post an interactive question that helps people get to know one another some examples are:
- “Share the one item you wish you had in your house now that you have to stay home”
- “Who is the first person you will visit when the risk is over?’
- “What have you learned about yourself since the crisis began?”
- “If you could go back to Christmas, what tip would you tell your December 2019 self?”
2. Keep your social media pages fresh and relevant
Along the same lines, keeping your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages active, engaging and relevant will help visitors see that your church is active and interesting. This may seem a little daunting, especially with reduced stay-at-home staff, but with services like Outreach Social, which automatically posts to your Facebook page every day, it’s a lot easier.
Outreach Social also provides you with a huge library of graphics that range from Bible verses to inspirational sayings to funny comments that you can hand pick and post as you want (in addition to the auto-posting feature). There are categories for online church services, Mother’s Day and quarantine-related inspiration. And other members of your team can access them for a Facebook group.
3. Provide online content via Social Media and other digital sites
In addition to daily posts, the best way to connect with people during this time of quarantine is with online programs that are easy to access.
If you are using a service like FreeOnlineChurch.com, you can “go live” at any time and people on your website can easily join in. So offering a short daily or weekly encouragement, scripture reading or even a song gives viewers something to look forward to and reminds them that you are a resource for hope.
In addition, use Zoom or Google Hangouts to get a small group together. Here are few ideas:
- Start online Bible studies or discussion groups on helpful topics. You can do several using your regular small group leaders or staff. Be sure to include classes that non-believers will find interesting, some ideas are
- The God Questions or other Christianity 101 type curriculum
- Your Church 101 – could be a lighter version of your membership class. Since visitors can’t be in your building to meet and learn about your ministries and staff this would be a way to help them feel more familiar with your church.
- Financial Peace or other finance class – a lot of people are out of work or struggling to make ends meet, offering tips and a Biblical view of money can help.
- Create Facebook groups for different ministries in your church – let ministry leaders run the groups and provide online content that is relevant to their audience. This works particularly well for children and youth groups where leaders can plan activities and do live videos that are age appropriate.
4. Invite visitors to to get involved
Right now, people are looking for any type of connection that helps them feel less isolated. Asking your online church community to take some action to help others and be involved will help them to feel like they are part of your team and community. Here are a couple of easy, low risk things anyone can do:
- Be a Good Neighbor – New Neighboring resources are now available to help people connect with their neighbors and offer help and hope. Encourage your online community to get a yard sign and door hangers that they can use to let the homes around them know that they are willing to provide assistance.
- Ask for Volunteers – Many charitable organizations are in need of help during this tough time, and your church members can be key in collecting donations, answering phones and checking on people who are at high risk. Even just writing encouraging notes for the local retirement home that is in isolation, can help make both your church members and the recipient feel better.
5. Invite them back for a series or event
This may seem obvious, but not only do you need to say “Please Watch” next week, you may want to give them a good reason – like a relevant sermon series or a special online event, to pique their interest. Here are a few ideas:
- Mother’s Day – This year will be different, families can’t really go out to brunch or let mom have “alone” time even! But one benefit is that no matter where you are, families can join together online to watch church together! Encourage young families to invite the grandparents to watch church with them and encourage your older members to invite their adult kids to do the same. After the service, everyone can jump on Facetime or google hangouts to talk and ‘see’ each other!
- Kids’ Time Online – Set up a specific time during the week that is just for the kids. Invite families to join as you share a fun activity, tell a story, sing songs or share a downloadable activity sheet or coloring page.
6. Throw a Virtual Party!
Invite new online church members to “stay after” church to meet ministry leaders and ask questions about your church. Set up a Zoom or Google Hangouts link they can use to join in. Make it fun by having a couple ice breaker questions. Keep the topics light and interactive instead of a series of presentations so people feel like they are engaged in a conversation and not just listening to a sermon.
Finally, as we approach the time when we can meet together again, plan smaller “get to know you” events in person where you can connect with some of your new online members and they can have a chance to meet the staff and ministry leaders.