How churches can continue to offer spiritual growth opportunities online

How churches can continue to offer spiritual growth opportunities online

By Bryan Gill
Special to The Alabama Baptist

As social distancing continues in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus, many churches have moved their weekly services entirely online.

Instead of walking down aisles and picking their favorite seat before the church service starts, congregants now walk to their couch and await the live stream to begin. Sunday school rooms with donuts and coffee have been replaced with of a cluster of screens in a Zoom meeting with kids running around in the background.

While the modality of gatherings has changed significantly through the last few weeks, the purpose of the Church meeting together — to grow closer to Jesus — has not.

But how do you disciple your church members well and offer meaningful online spiritual growth opportunities during these times?

Focus on the mission

Start with the mission, not the technology. Tools are to be used to accomplish tasks and should not be the focus of the mission. Don’t use a tool just for the sake of using a tool. Come up with a plan and a purpose that the tools will help you accomplish. The key is to find a sustainable rhythm that doesn’t confuse or overwhelm your congregation.

Choose the best tool

Two essential categories of content delivery are: synchronous and asynchronous. Synchronous delivery happens in real time (think Facebook Live and Zoom chats). Asynchronous delivery allows people to view the material at their convenience (think recorded videos).

Both methods have their strengths, and it is important to thoughtfully choose the best tool to communicate with your intended audience.

Synchronous activities are best for small groups or Sunday School classes because they allow for discussion among participants. Zoom and Microsoft Teams are good tools for interactive synchronous meetings.

Asynchronous activities work well when the live component is not necessary, such as for sermons, devotionals, announcements or general text-driven communication.

To ensure a good quality video in either format, utilize these tips:

  • Choose a spot with good lighting to ensure a clear video.
  • Be sure audio and video are both good quality. (Smartphone and tablet cameras are fine, but without a wireless microphone, the farther away you are from the camera, the poorer the audio quality will be.)
  • Turn off all background noise, such as radios or TVs. If possible, turn off notifications on the device you are using too.
  • Dress appropriately.
  • Construct an organized plan but be flexible.

Develop a strategy

Simply putting something online does not mean you are discipling your church members. Churches need a strategy for online ministry. Be sure to think ahead and lead well during these unique times. Start with what you want to accomplish and then find the right tool to get the job done effectively.

Your strategy might look something like this:

  • Deliver a weekly 20–30 minute sermon via livestream at your church’s usual worship time or post a recording of the sermon. Another option is to record a 30-minute sermon in three 10-minute sections. Close each section with two reflection questions for your church to ponder before moving to the next section.
  • Meet in small groups or Sunday School classes by hosting a Zoom meeting for class members. Email the link to all class members and also invite those who don’t usually attend a Sunday School class.
  • Conduct a mid-week Bible study. Promote the study by posting a 30-second video on your social media platforms.

Consider other ways to continue discipleship during this time too.

  • Record a 10-minute devotional or lesson and post it to YouTube. Send your class a link to the video and use GroupMe or another text messaging app to conduct an asynchronous text discussion afterwards.
  • Use email or apps like Facebook Messenger to maintain continuous contact with your members.
  • Set up groups in a text application like GroupMe or Teams to ask for prayer requests from the group.
  • Send out daily or every-other-day Bible verses to the group via Instagram.

Keep moving forward

Embrace this opportunity as a new way to serve your people. Don’t try to re-create your face-to-face church service online. You’re not going to be able to do everything the same as you did before moving online.

Also, don’t feel like you need to be an expert in online tools to continue the ministry of your church. Find someone who is comfortable using these tools and engage that person in this ministry opportunity.

When this is over and the church returns to the buildings, you might find that these online methods worked well. You might even decide to incorporate some of them into your ministry strategy moving forward.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Bryan Gill is the director of the men’s ministry at Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Birmingham. He holds a doctor of ministry degree in higher education from Gateway Seminary.