The first digital Easter is almost here. You’ve scrambled. Pivoted. Prepared.
And while you probably don’t feel ready, you’re heading into what will likely be your biggest Easter ever for the simple reason that, as many church leaders are learning in real-time, digital scales in a way that physical church simply doesn’t.
The question is how do you make the most of it?
We’re all experimenting, which is wonderful. And we’ll figure out a lot of stuff in real-time because all of this is new.
Even churches who did digital church long before the coronavirus pandemic will be the first to tell you it’s an entirely new thing when all you have is digital. So this is new for everyone in one respect or another.
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So as we move into the weekend, here are 5 quick things to do during your first digital Easter that have the potential to make a long term difference.
1. FOCUS ON ENGAGEMENT, NOT JUST VIEWS
Attendance growth is like crack to pastors. And in the digital era, the number of views are the new attendance.
And please know I say this as a leader who can obsess over size and attendance as easily as anyone. Not blaming. Just calling us all out. (Note: those who say attendance doesn’t matter and criticize growing churches are often jealous of those who lead growing churches. There…now we’re all called out.)
Views matter because people matter.
In these early days, according to our weekly data at ChurchPulseWeekly.com, in these first three weeks of online church during COVID, 49% of churches have seen digital attendance growth compared to their former physical attendance. 19% say their attendance stayed about the same, while only 22% said their attendance was lower or much lower.
Online church is an accelerator for reaching more people. And that trend will only likely grow as more churches come online and all churches get better at sharing their services and ministries online.
However, it raises questions about what those views mean.
While views matter because people matter, views are less valuable than engagement.
One of the best things you and your team can do this digital Easter is to get viewers to become engagers. Viewers watch. Engagers participate.
Here are a few quick ways to do that.
First, use the comments in YouTube, Facebook or your LiveStream chat room to have people check in, identify themselves and say where they’re watching from.
Second, ask questions during the service. You can do this on video (e.g. During hosting, say something like “I’d love for you to share what your favourite family Easter tradition is in the comments”).
Third, have your staff or volunteers staff your channels to engage commenters, moderate discussion and get dialogue going.
Fourth, create a quick digital equivalent of the ‘welcome card’ via a text in number or a quick easy form to fill out on your website (Go to www.XYZchurch.com/new) that will help you follow up.
Finally, you may even want to invite people to leave questions they have about the message or service in the comments.
Viewers may watch, but engaged people are far more likely to return.
2. HAVE A CLEAR NEXT STEP
“Tune in next week” is better than nothing, but it doesn’t really help people explore, engage or grow their faith.
Also, the idea of ‘watching’ a service creates consumers and critics, rather than disciples and contributors.
Many congregations had a clear next step for physical attenders. It’s even more important to have one clear next step for digital attenders.
Some pastors have taken their ‘Pizza with the Pastor’ events online via Zoom. Others have moved their orientation or next step forum to a Facebook Group or to Zoom.
Honestly, as you’re scrambling to get ready for your first digital email, it could be as simple as capturing people’s data so you can give them a phone call or email next week.
This is even more important for people who make a decision to follow Jesus during a weekend experience. You want to somehow connect with them personally and build a relationship. Again, this doesn’t have to be the pastor’s job, but you need to have someone on your staff or volunteer team who can follow up.
The alternative to a clear next step is no clear step, which is the perfect way to lose the very people you just reached.
3. ASSUME INTELLIGENCE, NOT BACKGROUND
The reality is you will likely have more unchurched people this Easter than ever before. That’s how the internet works. Clicking on a link is much easier than getting in the car and driving down the road, and as we’ve seen, almost half of all churches have already seen an attendance spike.
There’s already been a spike in people googling ‘prayer’ and other spiritual terms, so you can safely assume many of those online viewers and spiritually open and curious people.
So how do you engage people who don’t have a background in the bible, in the Christian faith or even know what the resurrection is?
Don’t speak down to them. Assume intelligence, just don’t assume background.
Many of your new attenders will be open spiritually and have a belief system. They’re not all atheists. And they’re thoughtful people.
Just don’t assume they know the scriptures.
So when you go to a Biblical story or idea, give a 30-second introduction to orient everyone watching to the passage “We’re going to read from the New Testament, which is the section of the Bible about Jesus. Jesus had taught for three years, died on a Friday, and his body had been put in a tomb. The disciples, like everyone else (and maybe like you,) thought dead people stayed dead. But early on that Sunday morning, we meet some of the women who followed Jesus on their way to the tomb to pay their respects. And that’s when they discovered something they never expected.”
With someone as simple as that, everyone is up to speed. And you didn’t assume. And it didn’t take forever. Plus…there are many church attenders who will be grateful you brought them up to speed too. They didn’t really know the background either.
Be inclusive without being condescending. Everyone will thank you. And respecting your audience and making it easier to join the conversation will make them far more likely to want to come back.
4. THINK MONDAY…NOT JUST SUNDAY
It’s easy to see Easter Sunday as the finish line. The (hard) reality is that it’s the starting line.
Please, take a day off and rest up. You’ve been through a ton.
But do think about how much opportunity online presents Monday-Saturday. And trust me, the people you reach on Easter Sunday will be online again Monday looking for hope, insight, guidance and meaning.
So think through your social channels and how you can come alongside people the week after Easter with encouragement, questions, reminders, and maybe even an online gathering or two to follow up.
If people live every day in need of hope and resources to live out their faith (or to find faith) every day, church leaders have to start coming alongside people every day. Again, don’t take this all on yourself.
Get your team (staff and volunteer) to help. Online ministry is a team sport.
5. GIVE PEOPLE MORE ACCESS TO THE REAL YOU AFTER EASTER
While many pastors love production, the rest of the world is getting to know people personally.
COVID has been the great equalizer. Suddenly we’re all in our homes and the world get flatter overnight.
Perhaps as a post-Easter follow up, do something live from your home with your family and take people ‘back-stage’.
One of the chief challenges unchurched people (and churched people) have is they don’t think pastors are real. I know that sounds weird to put that in writing but just probe a little deeper with people and you’ll discover they have a hard time relating to pastors personally. Kind of like when you were in 7th grade and finally realized your teacher was an actual person with a family and normal life, not just a ‘teacher’ who went back into a box and came out 5 days a week at 8 a.m.
So think about doing a Q and A from your house, or taking people into your kitchen, or doing a video call with a staff member or friend just to chat about faith and life and take questions.
Deeply personal beats highly produced right now.
In fact, the more produced you are the less engaged people will be.
In an age where everything is uncertain, people are looking for authentic.
So do something real and personal the week after Easter to connect with people in real life. Your real life. Their real life.
YOU’RE UNSURE OF WHAT’S NEXT. THIS WILL HELP…FOR FREE.
I get it. You’re scared.
As hard as it is to admit, it’s just really hard to know how to lead in times like these.
While no one has all the answers, there is help and a strategy that can guide you, and I’d love to come alongside you.
To that end, I’ve got a brand new online, on-demand course, called How To Lead Through Crisis, that can help you lead your team, your church and yourself through the massive disruption.
The course is the gift from me and my team to you and leaders everywhere. In light of everything that’s going on, we decided to make it available 100% free.
Inside How To Lead Through Crisis, you’ll learn how to:
- Cultivate a non-anxious presence that inspires confidence and trust.
- Care for yourself so the crisis doesn’t break you.
- Master the art of fast-paced, clear decision making.
- Gather and interpret the most reliable data that will advance your mission
- Advance digitally to scale past physical barriers and grow your outreach.
- Lead your team and congregation remotely
While no one has all the answers in a crisis this big, in the course, I share the mindsets, habits, tools and strategies that I believe will help you lead through crisis to get you and the people you lead to a new (and better) future.
CRISIS BLOG SERIES AND THE FUTURE CHURCH
I also have a free blog post series on the current global crisis:
Hope this helps you and your team lead well in a very challenging season.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING FOR THE FIRST DIGITAL EASTER?
This is a season where no one has all the answers.
What are you doing to reach and engage more people on this first digital Easter?
Scroll down and leave a comment!