This is the craziest season any of us has ever lived through.
If ministry wasn’t difficult enough, leaders now face critical decisions daily.
And though there’s never been any such thing as an “easy” ministry decision, today, life and death actually hang in the balance.
And fear about the future? It’s never been higher.
But back in March of this year, when state governments began to ask churches to stop gathering, I asked pastors across the country what they were doing about it.
They discovered how to get their message into homes and living rooms. They even started to spend more time in prayer.
The Church, as a whole, went back to basics.
As I spoke with leaders, their words reminded me of the book of Acts:
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42)
Many churches began to cultivate their online audience for the first time. Their online numbers skyrocketed, and they weren’t sure what to make of it. (This resource will help you make sense of your online numbers.)
But they did more than stream their message.
Churches who found ways to thrive during this season learned how to use online tools to engage their people in brand new ways. And it’s exciting.
Here are some of the creative ways I’ve seen churches take their ministry online.
Online Game Shows
Online gatherings don’t always have to be worship, prayer, or Bible study.
For example, newlife.tv hosts weekly quiz shows. People can sign up, log in to their platform, and participate together. It’s fun and helps reinforce a sense of community.
Behind-the-Scenes Updates and Inspiration
Being online doesn’t have to mean “perfect.” Authenticity will always connect with people.
I’ve watched pastors use the Stories feature on Facebook and Instagram more effectively than ever. Going live “selfie-style” with a quick word of inspiration or prayer makes a difference.
I’ve even seen pastors share their perspectives and struggles concerning a current project. People need to see their leaders show vulnerability right now.
I saw a church leader grab a few of his more gregarious staff members and put them live via Zoom in a talk-show environment. The show was full of inside jokes and a ton of laughter.
I can only imagine those watching felt like they were sitting at their church, laughing with their favorite people.
At the beginning of the lock-down, many churches reached out to their entire phone and email list. Some pastors even gave out their cell phone numbers.
I have no doubt the personal connection was significant in many people’s lives. It’s something we can and should repeat as we call more people into community.
Remember, your ministry does more than preach.
You facilitate connections and relationships. You cultivate fun and friendships. Those elements don’t have to stop even if you still need to limit your gatherings.
And though many of us are eager to get back together, many of us are still apprehensive. This crazy season isn’t over. We need to think differently.
This brings me to what I call “Hybrid Ministry” — facilitating church both online and in-person.
And I think it’s here to stay.
So, what does Hybrid Ministry look like?
Here are a few things I’m seeing emerge already.
Don’t stop getting better and better at using the online tools of today. Church Online Platform is fantastic, free, and interactive. (Here’s a kit you can use if you’re recording from your home or office.)
Blended Worship Teams
TheCrossing.Church has some of its musicians pre-record their parts from home, both on audio and video. The team then incorporates those tracks and videos with the live band.
This kind of integration between live and pre-recorded musicians sends a powerful message to those who are watching. It says, “Whether you’re here or at home, you’re part of this.”
Online Small Groups
Five years ago, when I was leading a church I helped start, my wife hosted the most successful small group we ever created.
It was a Zoom group for moms!
Because it was online, moms could tuck their kids into bed and then connect. They watched videos together, read together, cried together, and laughed a lot.
Your groups can flourish in this season.
People don’t need to get together in person to interact, share ideas, help each other through struggles, and connect.
Whether it’s consistent small groups like the one mentioned above or a place to share resources, provide your people with online communities through Facebook, Zoom, Mighty Networks, or another platform.
Invest in ways to allow your people to stay connected online. Now’s the time. And when you see what ministry happens there, you won’t ever want to stop.
Jesus is still responsible for building His Church. We can trust Him.
Our generation faces a crazy hurdle. Ministry as we know it is changing forever. But we also have tools for communication that far exceed the imagination of past generations.
I mean, consider this: At some point in eternity, the Apostle Paul may ask you to tell him about the Internet one more time! He’ll say, “You could reach how many people? How fast?”
The Internet is a communication tool. We have an unprecedented opportunity to share the news of Jesus. Lean in.
Now, I have a request.
We want to resource the Church with all of your great ideas. Use the form below and tell us how you’re growing into hybrid ministry so we can help other ministries reach more people.