Would you be ready for online church? Set up your attendees and staff for an easier pivot when you cover your bases and get ready for the possibility of another online church season.
Don’t we all hope that the online-only days are behind us? But with cool weather, flu season, and a million other variables, we just don’t know what to expect.
Hopefully, churches can continue hybrid in-person and online gatherings. No one can guarantee that, though. Choosing to think through what you’ll do if your church experiences a COVID-19 outbreak or another potential disaster will serve you well if (some would say when) that day comes.
Get Ready For Online Church By Considering These 4 Critical Areas
1. Create a “drill” for your team and develop plans to cover every part of the ministry.
Some questions to guide your preparation:
- What methods will you use to communicate what’s changing? Is there anyone who still might not hear the update?
- How much information will you give to avoid oversharing or scaring anyone? (For example, you could share that there’s been an outbreak on your church staff without naming names. Then, you could follow it up with how you’re making sure your facilities are clean before the next gathering.)
- Who’s on backup duty if the people who fill your key service roles (pastor, kids minister, worship leader, A/V, etc.) aren’t available?
- How can people stay connected with others in the church? Having an app with built-in online community is a fantastic tool to help everyone keep in touch when they can’t see each other.
2. Is your congregation ready for an online church scenario?
Change fatigue is a real thing, and chances are good that your congregation has felt it off and on for the past 18 months.
In 2030, everything changed more quickly than anyone ever thought it could—from work and school to how people shop for groceries. Throw in changes in the way churches and small groups gather, and it’s no surprise people are tired of the constant change.
LIMIT CHANGE FATIGUE
Here’s how —
- Keep your church members focused on Jesus despite the surrounding chaos.
- Help your people stay healthy (spiritually, emotionally, and physically).
You could sum up both objectives with one word: endurance.
The biblical concept of endurance (Jas 1:2–4, Rom 5:3–5, Heb 12:1–2) can shape the way you present changes to your congregation. Instead of simply announcing a change (particularly large ones) and expecting people to get on board, you can start by acknowledging how exhausted many people are.
The simple recognition that people have very good reasons to feel the way they do is a powerful thing. Then, you can explain the heart or mission behind the shift you’re making and invite people to come with you.
Now, there’s no need to be dramatic about potential changes, but the more you can quietly start preparing your people now—before you absolutely have to make a change—the more ready they will be when you have to adapt again.
The simplest way to start: in your private and public prayer, ask God to help his people endure this extended time of upheaval.
3. Are you running lean?
During the events of 2020, many of us ran on a lean team. At the same time, we beefed up in other areas—areas that might now be weighing us down and preventing us from being online church-ready.
For example, lots of people started new subscriptions to things that seemed like a good idea at the time (sorry, Masterclass—I only logged in a few times!). And lots of people found shortcuts to save their sanity while practically everything else was up in the air.
REVIEW BUDGETS & WORKLOAD
But now that we’ve been living in this pandemic reality for a while, it’s a good time to review your church’s budget and staff workload and get lean again.
- Are there any recurring tasks that could be automated?
- Any regular purchases or subscriptions that could be bundled?
- Anything you should outsource?
AUTOMATE WITH FAITHLIFE PROCLAIM
In the church technology world alone, development has sped up quickly, so you may be able to automate many tasks that used to take a ton of time. For instance, if you spend hours each week downloading, editing, and uploading your sermon podcast, you could get software like Faithlife Proclaim that automatically records the sermon so all you have to do is hit publish once the service is over. (And yes, you can edit out that awkward cough into the mic!)
Or, you could bring all your church’s technology into one integrated ministry platform, which gives you the benefit of bundled pricing without making you do the same tasks multiple times (import/export can be a thing of the past).
Changes like these can help you better steward all your resources—money, time, and even facilities—without cutting corners or causing unnecessary disruptions.
4. Are staff/leaders cross-trained so nothing slips through the cracks?
When I was an admin, there was a moment when I realized that if our kids minister disappeared, I wouldn’t know where to find the curriculum for next Sunday. Whoops.
And when I started working at Faithlife, I learned a cool new tech word: redundancies. That means if a server goes down, there are other servers to back it up. In the airline world, if one jet engine quits mid-flight, you can still land safely because there are three other engines backing it up.
Everyone in church leadership needs a similar perspective. We don’t all have to do the same job to be able to cover for each other when something comes up. No one should be the only person with knowledge of how to do something. What would happen if your kids minister left for a mission trip or your worship pastor got sick? To be ready for online church, if that becomes necessary, you’ll need to have multiple people at the ready to step in where needed.
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3 HELPFUL CROSS-TRAINING TIPS
- Ask each person to write a handbook for their job, including their service responsibilities, any software or tools they use, and contact info for a few key volunteers.
- Have your key weekend staff do a few Shadow Sundays where a staff member or volunteer leader can observe what needs to happen for each service.
- Use a digital asset manager to organize your files. You could use a service like Google Drive, Dropbox, or Faithlife. No matter what you choose, make sure everything is saved in one spot, shared with your whole team, and organized in a way that people can find things.
By running an online church “drill” for your team, preparing your congregation to be flexible, running lean, and cross-training leaders, you’re positioning yourself well for another possible shutdown.
And if that shutdown never occurs, your church body will function in a healthier way with many lay leaders prepared to step up when called upon, and with a body of worshippers who appreciate every single in-person gathering.