Last week LifeChurch.tv, one of the trailblazers in online ministry, launched the Church Online Platform. We talked with Lori Bailey, director of communications at LifeChurch.tv and Center for Church Communication board member, about this new opportunity for churches:
Can you give us an overview of what Church Online is?
Lori Bailey: For those who have never experienced it, Church Online is a community of people who gather for services that include an interactive video presentation of worship and teaching, a live chat environment translated from multiple languages around the world, opportunities for one-on-one live prayer, and the ability for users to engage their existing social networks like Facebook and Twitter.
The Church Online Platform is a free tool to help churches launch an online ministry. It removes the barrier of technology so they can reach the people they are uniquely equipped to reach.
Can you tell us how this project came together?
Lori: Ever since the early days of Church Online (or the Internet Campus as we called it back then), one of the most frequent questions we received was, “How can we develop something similar?” So eventually we gathered some like-minded churches who shared an interest in developing a free tool for churches around the globe. They helped fund the development and also served as the first group to beta test the platform over the course of many months.
What’s the cost involved?
Lori: The platform is completely free, but that doesn’t mean it’s free to launch a church online. Churches have to be in a position to capture their experiences on video, and they also need to secure their own video streaming. We developed the platform to work with most major streaming providers so churches have flexibility in their choices.
How does offering an online church experience integrate with a real world church experience? Are these two separate communities or is there usually overlap?
Lori: At LifeChurch.tv, we’ve noticed the community could be loosely described in four segments:
- Distant: People who are outside the physical reach of the church.
- Curious: People who would prefer to explore their interest in spirituality in an online context.
- Mobile: People who are a part of our church, but are looking for an option to worship together because they are traveling or displaced.
- Digital: People who prefer to experience much of their community in an online context.
So there’s definitely some overlap for us, but at other churches it will depend on how leaders cast vision and integrate the ministry into the life of their church.
One of the biggest critiques against online church is the lack of community and person-to-person fellowship. How does Church Online overcome that?
Lori: Though community and fellowship looks different in an online environment, we’ve found that many people are more open and feel more comfortable sharing details that they might hesitate to share in face-to-face conversations.
The key is to not expect it to mean the same thing for each person. For some, online ministry is a supplement to help them stay connected to their church when they can’t attend in person for various reasons. For others, it’s where they find Christ. Some individuals see it as their mission field. For some new believers, it can serve as a front door of sorts which eventually helps them get connected to a local church. And for others, it’s a full-fledged church home.
But there’s no doubt that amazing life change can take place in an online environment.
Thanks Lori. Learn more about the Church Online Platform.