Used by permission from Outreach magazine.
“What lessons about online church have you learned that you will keep when gatherings resume?”
That’s one of the most insightful questions friends in ministry have asked me during this season. Several have texted or called and posed, “what are you learning in this season during your online gatherings that will continue when you gather again physically?” I have started asking other leaders that question too because I believe it is helpful and clarifying. The question is optimistic and faith-filled, believing that there are great lessons to learn in the midst of the current constraint—lessons that are transferrable to our physical gatherings when they can resume.
As a church we have not gathered physically for several weeks and here are four lessons about online church that I envision will continue when we resume in-person gatherings. There are certainly more and several of these are simple and not earth-shattering, but they are small tweaks that I believe can have a big impact.
1. Pastoral Prayer Moment for Specific Groups of People
Each week we have taken time in our worship service to pray for specific groups of people: health care workers, exceptional families, single parents, those being served by our food pantry, etc. By doing so, we have been able to minister to people through prayer and invite our church to pray and care for one another. As is always the case, we find ourselves loving and rooting for those people we pray for. I don’t want to stop those corporate moments of specific prayer after this crisis is over.
2. Highlighting How We Are Serving Communities
Our church has a long history of serving externally, a legacy I am honored to have joined. During this season we have been extra intentional in communicating on a weekly basis what we are doing to serve the vulnerable because we know how important this is to our church. By doing so we have been constantly reminded of our own vulnerability and fragility and the tender grace of God given to us.
3. Texting as Our “Connection Card”
This is a small change, but I don’t think we will go back. While we have used texting before in our weekend worship services, but we also used printed “connection cards.” Suddenly we were forced to live without a printed “connection card,” and the texting is allowing us to follow-up more quickly with people.
4. Pre- and Post-Service Announcement Loop
One of the most surprising things in the seven weeks of “online only church” is how many people watch the loop before and after the services. We noticed this early and pivoted to using that time to communicate important information. Am hoping that will remain a strategic time for us in the future—which means I am dreaming about people coming to church on time!
I am thankful for what the Lord is doing in the midst of this craziness, and the lessons about online church he is allowing us to learn that will help us serve people better in the future.