4 Groups Your Hybrid Church Can Better Reach

Photo credit: Vonecia Carswell on Unsplash

Over the past 2 years of the global pandemic, people have had an increased interest in connecting with God, as evidenced by Google searches for prayers reaching highest level ever in March 2020. People have been forced to go online due to restrictions preventing us from gathering in person and staying in isolation at home.

Reach many more people digitally

Thanks to widely available digital tools, the majority of American churches offered online services through live video or on-demand sermons, even those with no prior experience. 96% of pastors said their churches were streaming their worship services online during the pandemic.

Many pastors and churches had an “aha!” when they realized their church could reach more people online than in person because there is no seating limit! A survey reports that 45% of pastors said online attendance was higher than attendance at in-person services in the first month of the pandemic. According to National COVID-19 Church Attendance Projectin the first year of the pandemic, churches in the US saw an average increase of 318% in online attendance, with a substantial increase of 558% among medium-sized churches (defined as between 100 and 999 people).

Improve the online worship experience

To make the worship experience more engaging than just streaming video, Church.Life developed the free Church Online platform to Online.church to serve churches around the world. Before the pandemic, 25,000 churches were already using the platform.

When the pandemic started, Another 42,000 churches have signed up to use it and the platform saw record traffic in March 2020. Rachel Feuborn, Public Relations Manager of Life.Church, described the incredible impact of this platform in the Oklahoma:

“We saw more than 7 million people attending church services over the weekend of March 21-22, up from 4.7 million the previous weekend and compared to the previous weekend’s average of a just over a million.”

Regardless of the size of your church, the Church Online platform won’t weigh on your budget because it’s free! And with over 60,000 churches using this platform, it’s probably safe to say that volunteers run the majority of worship experiences powered by Online.church.

Become a Hybrid Church

The pandemic has revealed that digital tools can reach people where they are, and church leaders are realizing that many people would be better served with a hybrid church model – providing worship and community services in person and locally, and digital resources for online worship and spiritual encouragement throughout the week.

In YouVersion for Churches announcement (youversion.church), Life.church Innovation pastor Bobby Gruenewald described what the post-pandemic church can be like:

“We truly believe the future will be a hybrid church model, both physical and digital. And you can see these examples in sports, where for many years people have been experiencing both physical and digital sport in a hybrid context; they go back and forth between them.

We have already started to see this in the churches. Some return physically; they want to reclaim those physical experiences they had before the pandemic and are excited to do so. But they also want to keep the best of what they have experienced with these digital tools.

It’s the genius of both/and: both online and in person. James Emery White noted how COVID has changed the church:

“While the essence of effective outreach will always be relational and embodied in nature, the dynamic of the relational invitation has shifted from ‘come with me’ to ‘you should check this online’. It’s no longer a physical invitation, but a digital invitation.

A hybrid church model brings together the best of the physical worship experience in person and the value of digital spiritual tools during the week. You already know the irreplaceable value of coming together in person: being with other people, the energy in the room, the immersive experience and the human touch. (Oh, and some of your churches have smells, too.) But, digital spiritual tools can also add tangible benefits beyond those experiences, including: on-demand content, real-time sharing, Bible reading and meditation, scripture study, prayer requests, and more.

Why Your Church Can Do Digital Ministry

Given that an overwhelming majority of churches were livestreaming their worship services during the pandemic, these valuable skills are already being developed. Your church can continue to practice and improve their digital ministries to grow your church. Move forward with hope for a better future, for God is always at work!

Here are 3 reasons why your church can do this:

In addition, digital ministry is very affordable:

  • It does not cost as much as the ministry in person
  • This opens up more volunteer opportunities for tech-savvy people
  • It can reach more people than your church’s limited seating capacity and beyond its geography

4 groups you can better engage with digitally

As your church reaches more people digitally, they will become part of your community, virtually and physically. These four groups of people are most receptive to digital engagement:

  1. People looking for a church. People look for churches where they live – there are some around 823,000 monthly searches for “churches near me”. Your church website should be SEO optimized and geotagged with your location(s) to be more visible.
  2. The next generation that is digital first. Research has revealed that only 41% of Gen Z say they want to return to worship primarily in person and only 42% of Millennials say they prefer in-person worship. In other words, digital ministry connects better with a majority of millennials and Gen Z.
  3. Those who want to worship alone. Then there is another 44% of people who say they prefer to pray alone. They still want to belong to church, but they just don’t like going to church. Your church’s online worship experience can serve them.
  4. Those who did not return to church. The average American Protestant church has 74% of its pre-pandemic attendance back in person. This means that more than one in four faithful have not yet returned to churches, often for health reasons. Your church’s digital ministries can be the very way to serve that 26%.

And what can happen as your church expands its digital ministries? Mickey Elliott (director of online campus media at the Champions Centre, at Cc.church) has achieved amazing results from their online efforts:

Streaming to our online campus has created about 20% more traffic to our site and we’re just getting started. Since giving our attendees the ability to donate online, we’ve seen approximately 70% of our total donations online.

Clearly identify that your church is online

As your church reaches an online audience, instantly show that you are online and relevant going forward. Use a .church domain to establish your web presence because it makes the best first impression as a digital front door.

Having your domain name match your church name exactly can mean getting 25% more traffic! Many of the larger churches use a .church domain to reach people, including Life.church, Menlo.churchand Freshlife.church.

Get your .church domain name today at name.church or your favorite registrar. Be sure to include “church” in your search.

This post is sponsored by Numeric identity.

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Jerry B. Hatch