Online ministry was once a nice additional option for churches - something they could offer and a few members took advantage of, but it wasn't a core part of the church community. That shifted during the pandemic, when online worship was the only option for an extended period of time.
Even as life began to return to normal as the pandemic faded, a significant chunk of churchgoers continued to prefer online services over in-person worship. Whether it's the convenience of being able to participate in church from home, watch at a time that works best for them or having a way to attend church when they're sick or on vacation, online ministry is now an essential element of church life.
Online ministry also offers additional avenues for connecting with members and church outreach ideas, including email, social media and a church's online giving page. All are ways to keep in touch with members and share what's going on at the church, how they can be involved and where their support is needed. When you learn how to start a ministry online, you create a space where these connections can occur.
Stepping into a church can be intimidating, especially for someone who is newer to faith or any type of organized religion. By offering online ministry, churches can reach outside their walls and offer those who might want to learn more about them a chance to connect to the church community without having to attend an in-person service.
Additionally, starting a ministry online extends a church's reach and create more bonds and connections. They remove many of the limits that are attached to in-person ministry and help members stay connected throughout the week. Between a church website, social media and other online tools such at YouTube, you can reach a wider range of people and engage them in a more conversational, relational way.
Online ministry tools help improve communication as well. For example, if your church is located in an area where winter weather includes storms that disrupt life and travel, you can use your website or social media to alert members when church services and activities are canceled or postponed due to weather. Starting a ministry online is a great way to take advantage of these tools and better connect your church community. One example is a church hospitality ministry guide, given the importance of creating welcoming spaces within your church. When used effectively, online ministry tools play a vital role in church revitalization.
Church membership is down. From just 1998 to 2018, it dropped from 69 percent to 52 percent in churches nationwide (Gallup). That’s why your church needs to join the thousands of others across the country that have successfully innovated by expanding their church ministry online.
Churches who have brought their physical ministries online see increases in engagement among members and new guests. They enjoy more donations and keep their churchgoers satisfied and fulfilled. Fortunately, expanding your church’s ministry online has never been easier. You don’t need to be a megachurch with deep pockets to set one up. In fact, many of the tools we cover are either free or cost very little and, the steps for starting an online church ministry are simple. Here's how to start a ministry online.
Before your church can start a ministry online, you’ll need to build it a virtual home. If you don’t already have a website or yours is either out of date or difficult to use, there’s no need to worry. Gone are the days of paying a web developer thousands of dollars to build a website. In our eBook, we cover a few low-cost options that look great and can be set up within a day, even if you don’t have a ton of technical expertise.
Having a website will allow you to more easily accept donations, set up recurring giving, inform members and guests of upcoming events and much more.
Having a virtual space for members and guests to meet and chat is equally as important as your website. An online church directory creates one centralized hub connecting and facilitating your church activities such as online prayer groups, virtual Bible studies, livestreamed and recorded church services and much more.
Managing this may seem complicated and expensive, but it isn’t. It's free if you use the tool we cover within our eBook, and the process is very simple.
Churchgoers need spiritual guidance and fulfillment beyond your weekly church services. Unfortunately, they can’t always make it to your church to meet for essential committee meetings, Bible study or prayer groups.
Hosting and managing these groups is easier than you might expect, and it can be done without any expense to your church. The eBook covers these tools, along with key strategies you need to follow to make sure your online groups are a success.
What makes your church’s community strong is the various individual conversations that happen throughout the week. These conversations build friendships, trust and help members get the support they need. With group and direct chat, you allow these connections to occur throughout the week, even when the church’s location is closed and with a free tool that we highlight in our eBook, offering and managing group or individual chat won’t cost a thing.
You don’t need to have fancy cameras and equipment to create a high-quality video stream. With the right set of tools, any church, no matter their technical experience, can create a quality production of a church service. All your church needs is a smartphone and a few gadgets costing less than $100 total. In the eBook, we outline an inexpensive and easy-to-use setup. We also show you where you can livestream for free and how to do it.
Many churches overlook this easy step, missing out on their chance to not only keep their existing members engaged, but to connect with new or potential members. Having YouTube links on your church’s website promotes one of your church’s most valuable assets, spiritual guidance. Individuals interested in your church will be able to look at past sermons and see the value they’ll receive by attending. They'll be more likely to give your church a try and become members.
One of the reasons so many churches overlook this step is because the thought of recording and posting videos of services sounds difficult or expensive. It isn’t. Aside from the video equipment, a smartphone and a few accessories, it’s free. And, setting a recording up is simple. In the eBook, we’ll share all the tools you need along with guidance on how to set up a recording.
With the free tools at your disposal, livestreaming and recording is easy, but like anything, it takes practice. Your members will be okay with that. Virtual church services are an extra value, which they’ll appreciate no matter the result of your first efforts. However, we cover several best practices in our eBook that can help you hit the ground running.
By broadcasting your services on your website and external channels, you can reach new guests and reconnect with old members. There are plenty of tactics your church can use that won’t cost you anything extra and won’t take a large time commitment from staff or volunteers at your church.
Although attendance and membership is down for churches nationwide, churchgoers are still connected to their church’s missions. Philanthropy Daily found that 62% of religious households donate to charity compared to only 46% of unaffiliated households, a clear indication that they are inspired to give.
The most common cause for the dip in donations that so many churches have seen and continue to see is that members simply forget, and with churchgoers attending less frequently than they did in years past, that means their usual donation doesn’t make it to the church as often.
In our eBook, we outline the tools that 25,000 churches and counting have used to increase giving and make the donation process more automatic.
Develop a routine for sharing online devotionals, encouraging members to engage with daily spiritual content. By making these devotionals part of their own daily routine, members can grow their faith and make God a bigger part of their day. As they build their relationship with God and fellow church members through this practice, they’ll be equipped to have a more active role in your church.
Encourage members to share their reflections and thoughts on social media platforms, fostering community interaction. Social media is a platform many people, including churchgoers, already spend time on each day and it’s a simple way for them to share their faith as well. With social media often filled with negativity, many people will appreciate a positive, uplifting message.
Set up a virtual prayer wall on your website where members can post prayer requests and others can offer prayers and support. While it’s not always possible for a group to gather and pray, a virtual prayer wall allows members to lift each other up in prayer at any time of day.
Consider using social media platforms for congregational prayer sessions. At times when prayer is needed most, these platforms can connect people and allow them to lift their voices to God collectively. There’s great power in prayer and when members of God’s family gather in any form to lift their voices to Him, it’s impactful.
Offer online volunteering opportunities within the church community, such as virtual mentorship programs or online assistance for those in need. While connecting in-person is a great way to develop bonds, volunteering digitally can also create connections and allow members of your congregation to bless others even if they are unable to get together at a single physical location.
Provide a platform for members to showcase and share their talents online. For members with busy schedules or who travel for work, the chance to serve through online channels is a great way to continue making an impact. It also creates a pathway for people to connect who might not necessarily do so in person for various reasons, opening doors to potential new connections within your congregation.
Develop online courses and workshops that cater to the spiritual and personal development needs of your members. It’s important to invest in the continued personal and spiritual growth of those members and when they know their church supports their growth, they’re likely to be more committed as a member of your congregation.
Cover topics such as leadership, marriage enrichment or personal growth. The Bible has plenty to say about these topics, providing a wealth of verses and insights you can utilize as key components of these courses and workshops. These could be one-time sessions for a set number of hours on a given day, or you could do a longer series that takes place over the course of several weeks. Investing in the growth of members in these key areas of their lives uplifts not only those who take part in them, but your entire church.
Create podcasts featuring sermons, interviews, and discussions on relevant spiritual topics. Podcasts are increasingly popular and provide a convenient way for people to consume content they’re interested in while they’re on the go. Whether it’s behind the wheel of their car, in the window seat on a flight, at their desk at work or any number of places, people can connect with podcasts and learn from them.
Share audio content on platforms like Spotify or Apple Podcasts to reach a broader audience. Streaming services are the top choice for audio content for many people and by offering your messages and other content on them, you’ll increase your ability to connect with members. Rather than relying on a person navigating their way to your church website and finding your content or doing a specific Google search for it, sharing it on a streaming platform makes it easier for them to find, as they’re likely already listening to music and other podcasts on these platforms.
Launch social media challenges or campaigns that encourage members to share their faith-related experiences, stories, or acts of kindness. Uplifting tales of people caring for and serving one another are a great way to bless others on social media and by hosting these challenges or campaigns, you’ll help foster a spirit of service.
Use hashtags to build a sense of community around these campaigns. Hashtags are terms people can search for on social media, allowing them to find content about a specific topic. By utilizing hashtags with a high search volume, you ensure your content is visible to more people. When someone searches for a particular hashtag, they’re able to find posts about that topic and like a snowball rolling downhill, as more people find and share your content, the more momentum it picks up.