Online Church: What Are Churches Doing & Does It Work?

Online Church: What Are Churches Doing & Does It Work?

July 9, 2018 by

We’re talking about online church this month with a wealth of resources for our Courageous Storytellers members (not a member?—join now).

Sometimes when we say “online church” we think of expensive live streaming setups and virtual congregations with chat rooms and digital pastors. Those are great ministries, but there are a lot of churches who aren’t there yet. Social media, email, online content, and, yes, live streaming are all ways churches are being present and connecting with people online.

What does your church do to reach people online? Is it working?

We asked seven church communicators what their churches are doing online. Here’s what they said:

Sharing Content

Sandy Hughes, pastor of communications at Central Peninsula Church in Foster City, Calif.:

I’m a year and a half into this role after serving as our pastor of student ministries for almost 17 years. One of our first projects was building a new website as well as redeveloping our app. Many of our pastors and directors deliver amazing content week in and week out so having it online is imperative.

We did not have analytics on our old site, but with our new site we discovered how many people use our content all over the world on a regular basis, specifically our women’s Bible study. They post all of their studies, materials, as well as their audio and video of the teaching so churches and Bible studies anywhere can use that material for free. We are also seeing the same kind of response through our app with people within our body. We have a long way to go as we think about our reach and reaching people, but I think we are off to a good start.

New App, Search Rank & Reviews

Charla Wilkerson, director of communications and administration at Fairfax Circle Church in Fairfax, Va.:

We are so excited to launch our app! Up until now, we have been trying to drive everything to the website but that’s gotten clunky. We hope that by upgrading our technology, we can upgrade engagement.

In addition, I’ve been working on how we can get more visibility for our website. With Google AdWords, our index score has improved significantly—we are now hitting the first page for searches for “church in Fairfax!”

I’m going to be working on getting Google, Yelp, and Facebook reviews over the summer from our core people. Also, keeping a good eye on our analytics has already given me a couple of leads for websites that funnel people in our direction for different events. Social media and Facebook ads.

Live Streaming Is Working

Kelon Moore, director of communications and technology at Concord Church in Dallas:

We rely mostly on the ever-evolving world of social media. Engagement is growing but we don’t know if conversions are happening. We love engaging with the membership though! We could stand to get better at gathering insights from data and automating where appropriate. What’s working well is live streaming! Since upgrading our stream quality and expanding to Facebook Live, we’re averaging between 1500-1800 unique viewers a weekend.

Christy Farrell, director of communications at First Christian Church in Columbus, Ind.:

We have a church app, stream our services online and on Roku, and the sermon audio is available Monday afternoons for those that missed but were not able to watch. We are getting a few more folks commenting on how nice it was to feel like they were at church when they were home sick. This is a fairly new venture for us and we are learning daily how to do things better.

We also work to engage our congregation on our FB page but have not gotten much traction on this yet. I am always looking for ways to engage others online—I have tried several different suggestions with not much luck but I am not giving up.

Social, Email, & Podcast

Rebecca Llenos, communications director at First United Methodist Church Pearland in Pearland, Texas:

We do a lot of social media promotion for events and ministries. We also just started a podcast for our sermons (like last week) and I am interested to see what happens and if it does increase our audience. We are starting discussions about live streaming and if this is the right time for our community to use the resources and volunteers to make this happen.

We are very good at gathering contact information from our events and programs (VBS, Trunk or Treat, etc) and we reach out via email often. I find this is a good way to continue to invite them back for the next event and ultimately to our services.

Video Works

Sarah Murry, communications director at Rock Bridge Community Church in Northwest Georgia:

We try to stay really active on social media to continue the conversations that are happening at services each weekend. I’m really intentional about posting content from the message, or tying in next steps in getting involved—especially if they were talked about from stage during the service. We don’t live stream our services, but we do post video of the message natively to Facebook and to our website after the weekend. The videos of the message on Facebook in particular gets great engagement. I think what we are doing now is working, but I also think that we could be doing more to intentionally reach people online. There’s always more you could do to reach people!

Facebook Audience Is Growing

Molly Reichard, minister, community engagement at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Edina, Minn.:

We have a website (that is in desperate need of updating and possibly replacing, which is a focus for me over the summer). We also do weekly emails which have a high readership, as well as a Facebook page on which we are very active. We have seen a steady increase in traffic on Facebook and are looking at ways to improve that experience. This summer we are also exploring other social platforms, texting apps, etc. The jury is still out on the ROI of those options.

More:

Need help doing church online? We’ve got resources that can help. Check out the latest Courageous Storytellers resources for doing digital church. You can join today to get immediate access.

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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