Covid Changed Everything
It’s been about 7 months (at the time of writing this post) since Covid changed everything and forced worshippers around the world to go online. And with that came the blessing of reaching many more people who are searching for Christ online.
While some churches are beginning to open their doors for in-person worship, others have not been able to do so yet. If you’re still worshipping online, creating a warmer virtual atmosphere is a must.
Here are 5 ways to make your online worship experience more visitor-friendly:
1. Don’t force visitors and members to turn on their cameras.
We know what it’s like to want to see everyone’s smiling faces, but instead, all you see are black screens with names.
As much as you would love to see people when in a Zoom worship or leading out an online study, it wouldn’t be the most polite thing to insist that your visitors (or members for that fact) turn their cameras on. Not everyone is ready for that.
With that said, it is appropriate to encourage people to turn on their cameras.
You can say something like this:
“We understand that some of you might not be totally comfortable with your cameras on. We respect that and also want you to know that you are a valuable part of our online community.
We miss seeing your faces and we’ll be so excited to see you when you will be comfortable to turn your camera on. It is ok to turn your camera on at any time during the service.”
Or to add a touch of humor, you could quote Song of Solomon 2:14 which says, “Show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely.”
If visitors feel forced to turn on their cameras (or even turn it off) they might choose to hop off and go to another stream.
2. Create Zoom breakout rooms.
Zoom Breakout rooms can be an effective tool to help foster a sense of community in your online church.
It also helps visitors know they are a vital part of the church family.
Maybe you have someone tuning in who is not comfortable with sharing or turning on their camera in a big group. They may be more relaxed when there are just three or four others.
This is where breakout rooms come into play.
We recommend putting your visitor in a room with the person who invited them.
Keep the room small and teach your breakout leaders how to encourage engagement.
Make it a goal to have group members learn the names of other participants and share their thoughts on the subject being discussed.
The aim is to use breakout rooms to create safe spaces for visitors.
The more safe spaces we create for people, the more they can feel comfortable to share their hearts and experience Jesus Christ.
3. Invite visitors to join an online small group.
Small groups allow individuals to connect with current members and build relationships.
Those who are not completely comfortable with speaking to a large online group may let their guard down in a small group.
Jesus did not send His disciples out as one massive group. In one instance, He sent them out two by two.
When creating small groups, consider the needs of your members and visitors, their ages, your overall goals, and the mission of your church. Also, assign leaders who will emphasize connection, commitment, and prayer.
The small group is different from the breakout rooms as it is a completely different meeting.
Small Group Tips
Keep groups small with no more than 10 – 12 individuals.
Meetings that last between 45 – 75 minutes and meet on a regular basis (weekly or every other week) are ideal.
Create groups to cover a variety of subject areas relevant to visitors and members
4. Provide opportunities for growth.
People value communities that are useful to them. We lead busy lives and there is always an invitation to join one more Zoom meeting.
To distinguish what takes priority, we filter these invitations with one question: Is this going to be beneficial to me (spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically, financially, etc.)? And if the answer is not “yes”, then we don’t see the value of joining the online community.
People are making the same decision about your online church.
As you plan your worship service, you can ask:
Are you providing additional materials and resources to help visitors grow spiritually?
Are there tools to help them mature financially and become better stewards?
Will visitors become better people by joining your online community?
By providing additional resources at the end of your livestreams, you help visitors see that your online program is relevant to their lives.
Here are a few resources you can provide to ensure visitors receive materials to help them on their faith journey:
5. Study a YouVersion plan together
If you have not yet done a YouVersion plan with a group, you may be overlooking a tool that can help your visitors feel that they’re a part of your community.
The Bible app provides such a unique way to build relationships with others.
You can follow the reading plans, study a variety of topics, share prayer requests, and write your comments after each reading.
Ask members and visitors to download the app. Then, you can invite them to start a plan together.
They can also write down prayer requests and see when people pray for them.
This way of connecting, studying, and praying together online is a great way to bring your visitors closer and integrate them into your church family.
I hope these ideas will get you started on making your virtual church more visitor (and member) friendly!
And always remember that even though we might not be able to be together physically, we are still connected through Christ.