The Interactive Church

January 25, 2012 by

Our broadcast world is quickly giving way to an interactive world. One-way broadcasting is being replaced with multi-way conversations. People no longer passively consume media, they interact with it. They talk back, through Twitter, Facebook, text messages and more.

Widespread events are especially prone to this kind of treatment, from last night’s State of the Union to the upcoming Super Bowl, and anything that’s experienced by a large group, whether it’s national elections or natural disasters, or something closer to a home like a blizzard or local conference. Hashtags spring up on Twitter. Facebook has started collecting statuses about a popular topic.

How will your church service become more interactive?

I think this is a crucial question for pastors, because as this interactive approach becomes more common place, people will do it whether you encourage it or not. In some churches people are already tweeting about the sermon or having their own back channel discussion about it.

Churches can either encourage this conversation and shepherd it into something useful and productive. Or they can be left in the dust, once again seen as hopelessly out of date.

Encouraging interactivity can be scary. It means acknowledging that the pastor isn’t the only source of wisdom in the church. It means allowing for disagreements (and agreeing to disagree). But it can also be amazing as the body taps into the collective wisdom of the crowd.

A few ways your church service can be more interactive:

  • Create a space to continue conversations about the sermon. Maybe it’s an online discussion board or a blog post with comments or even a discussion group that meets for coffee after the service. If you really want to get interactive, add a ‘talk back’ portion of the sermon where you actually discuss the sermon. Media Social might be another platform to allow for this conversation.
  • Ask questions. Encouraging conversation is easier when you ask questions. A pastor could even include them in the sermon to stimulate ideas and push people to those spaces for conversation.
  • Invite people into the sermon. A pastor could give a preview of the upcoming sermon, maybe sharing the passage being preached on or pointing to some research. There’s likely material a pastor goes over in preparing a sermon that isn’t used, but still might be of interest to the congregations (it’s like bonus material on a DVD!). A pastor could make that material available ahead of time and ask for people’s thoughts. Maybe there’s a question that’s troubling the pastor and they could ask for input.
  • Interactivity shouldn’t be limited to the sermon. The age old congregational testimony is a standby for a reason. It’s a powerful way to show what God is doing in your church. Encourage the same kind of discussion as you would for a sermon. After the testimony, encourage your congregation to share their own stories is another forum (again, online or after the service).
  • One church recently encouraged their congregation to Instagram the church service, taking pictures at church and posting them online. That’s a powerful way to encourage interaction and help your congregation spread the word about church.

How else can today’s church service become more interactive?

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks


When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998 and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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4 Responses to “The Interactive Church”

  • deb Christensen
    January 26, 2012

    This is one reason we’re REALLY looking forward to the new version of ProPresenter – it’s ability to interact on-screen with Twitter.

    A $24.95 Flickr Pro account could be the best $25 of good will you can buy every year. Photographs of events can be downloaded in full size.

    deb


  • Lynn Partridge
    January 27, 2012

    This is low tech interactivity, but nice:

    At our church, there’s a men’s bible study on Tuesday mornings, in which the men (including the pastor) discuss the bible passages for the coming weekend’s services. Then, on Thursday evenings, there’s a very informal worship service called Pub Chat at a local bar, and the pastor discusses the same passages again, but with an almost entirely different group of people.

    By the time the pastor delivers the sermon on Saturday and Sunday, he’s gotten a lot of non-scholarly and even non-Christian input, which enriches the sermon considerably.

    I love the idea of having people get together over coffee after one of the services to discuss the sermon. The idea of an online discussion afterwards is excellent and should be easy to arrange, even for a small, fairly low-tech church like ours.

    Thanks!


  • Zach Lorton
    January 31, 2012

    This past Christmas, we began promoting a website, EnjoyChristmas.tv, on October 1st. The idea was to ask people to submit stories of memorable Christmas moments that they experienced, and those stories that were submitted were gone over and approved, then posted to the blog on that website. We didn’t have an overwhelming number of entries, but the ones that people shared were great and heartfelt. We took 3 of the stories that were submitted and recorded a testimonial interview with the person that wrote it, and used those as connecting moments during our Christmas Eve services. Those stories really spoke into a lot of people’s lives because they were honest and true. And we’re going to do more interactive things in the future.

    There have been a few messages where our pastors encouraged people to submit questions regarding specific topics (sex, myths about Christianity, frequently asked questions about God, etc.), and those questions were then answered at some point during that sermon series. It helped make people feel like they were not only contributing to what was being taught, but also like they were becoming more unified as a church body. There’s something to be said for getting people involved.

    Zach Lorton
    Media Production
    EnjoyChurch.tv


  • Brenda Hauser
    February 3, 2012

    We “live” Tweet and Facebook our Midweek Bible study. Lot’s of likes and comments on Facebook, but no response on Twitter. Next week we will try asking the pastor to invite the audience to send a tweet with comments, insights or questions. We’re hoping to create a “buzz.” Best Facebook post responses come from “heart” posts. In both of the churches I have done marketing for, church family members respond best to insightful posts about how much God loves them.

    Blessings,
    Brenda



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