Let’s face it – we are running 21st century churches. We need to adapt our technology and scope to gain a greater audience while at the same time maintaining the pure message of the cross. One method that many churches are turning towards is streaming their services. While this is a great way to increase exposure, you need to be careful that you aren’t simply throwing technology at a ‘connection’ problem, expecting it to solve itself. What you do AFTER is equally if not more important then actually setting up the online video. Here are 4 tips on how to make a more meaningful connections with your online viewers.

1. What’s your purpose?
Hopefully you asked yourself this BEFORE you spent the money to stream your sermons or services. The purpose of your broadcast is crucial when assessing what you want to accomplish. For example, are you streaming your services simply to increase their reach to members who can’t make it? Are you hoping to give potential guests a taste of your services so they know what to expect when they visit? Or are you aiming to expand your message and influence to hungry people around the world? Spoiler alert, there is no right answer here. You need to decide for yourself what your goal is. Once you have your goal set, you can start moving forward with creating some meaningful connections with your online congregation.

2. First impressions
Let’s assume that you setup video streaming for potential guests that will visit your building or for hungry christians around the world that will never get a chance to physically visit your church. First thing is first: you need to STOP treating your website as an afterthought. MANY more people will visit your site and view your streaming services then will ever walk through your doors. You need to spend the same time and energy on your web experience as you do on your physical building. Create an easy to use, welcoming experience for your virtual guests. People make snap judgements within the first couple seconds… either when they walk into your building, OR when they visit your website. If something is to hard to figure out, most people won’t even try. Make things as user friendly as you possibly can. Make it easy and enjoyable to watch your services, not tired and frustrating to get a connection. First impressions are very important.

3. Meeting your virtual visitors
There are 2 kinds of people who will be watching your services… viewers and participators. Viewers simply want to watch and listen… they are content being off-site in front of their computer. Participators on the other hand act as if they are actually at your church, participating in the service. They give, they amen, they worship, they want to feel like they are there in the house of God with everyone else. The more you engage these people the more they will become an active part of your church. While that may seem daunting at first, it really is quite easy. Give your online congregation an avenue of reaching out and making contact with someone during the service. Post your phone number and have someone standing by throughout the service – this is a great way for people to make a quick connection. As your online congregation grows, consider higher volume solutions such as a chat agent installed on your streaming page (Zopim is what we use). The more connection you can make with your online congregation, the more they will participate with all aspects of your church!

4. Encourage Interaction
Finally, encourage your online congregation to join in on the conversation. If they were sitting in your building they would be talking about the sermon with their buddies after church. With an especially inspiring sermon, there’s practically a buzz in the air as people talk about how the sermon impacted their lives. We should be encouraging our online congregation to do the same. Social networks are the best avenue for this, plus it has the added bonus of also generating a buzz about your church. Encourage your streaming viewers to tweet their prayer requests, post their thoughts on the sermon to Facebook, and pin the sermon illustrations that were used that morning.

The more involved you can make your online congregation, the more your church will begin to evolve past its four walls into a true world-wide ministry. Expand your message. Make meaningful connections, and advance the message of Christ!

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Written by David Belich
David Belich is the Media Director at World Revival Church, and an avid technophile. David has a passion to grow the kingdom of God by helping churches utilize media and emerging technologies more effectively.