I work for a state-level denominational entity. When our state issued a safer at home order in the weeks leading up to Easter, each staff member was assigned a group of churches in our network to contact. Our primary task was to make sure that pastors and members of the churches were well- physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Our secondary task was to ask questions about the church’s strategy for ministry in this time period and point them to any helpful resources.
While the vast majority of pastors and church leaders had already taken steps to move their churches to digital platforms, most did not have a strategy for ministry engagement beyond putting their services and groups online. As these conversations have continued over the past month, it has become evident that most of us don’t really know how to evaluate the effectiveness of digital platforms. Terms like “views”, “impressions”, and “engagements” are, for most of us, a foreign language. And while it certainly is encouraging to see that your Sunday service received 2-3 times more views than the number of people who traditionally attend your services, if the vast majority of those views are classified as “3-second views,” is it truly something to celebrate?
Beyond evaluation, many were not prepared to leverage digital environments for ministry. Having your gatherings available online as quickly as possible is certainly a tremendous benefit to the time in which we live, but few were able to intentionally think through the ways in which our gatherings would need to be tweaked beyond determining whether or not music could be included. This was especially true regarding evangelism. In many churches, the central evangelist moment is the call to respond at the conclusion of a service. But how will you call people to respond if they are not gathered or if they don’t watch your service through its conclusion?
Evangelism in a Digital Age
Evangelism has been a challenging subject in this season as well. We know that gathering digitally requires changes for other aspects of our gatherings, but how does it impact effective evangelism? How can churches effectively present the Gospel while under safer at home orders?
Certainly, there is no silver bullet. What works for some will be completely ineffective for others. It is important to be flexible and adaptable as you try things out and figure out what works for your content. However, below are 5 best practices for digital evangelism:
1. Present the Gospel early and repeatedly. Most views of your service will be for short periods of time right at the beginning of your broadcast. The traditional method of presenting the Gospel would have you build to it towards the end of your gathering. Our digital moment calls for the script to be flipped. Leaving a gathering is as simple as clicking a button, and we’re finding that many people do just that before we have traditionally built to the moment of Gospel presentation. In response, we should get to the Good News quickly and repeatedly, including a call to respond.
2. Make it easy for your people to share your gatherings online. Provide graphics optimized for various platforms and a short sermon snippet for your people to share and promote your gatherings. Encourage your people to include direct links to your gathering in their posts: “Click here to join me!” not “Go to our website and click this button.” Make it as easy as possible for guests to join.
And if you don’t have a follow-up system for all of these guests who will be joining your services, feel free to grab your FREE Text In Church account so you can follow-up with guests and stay connected with your members! Text In Church is free for 60 days for any church that can use!
3. Invite people “personally”. Posting on social media is great, but people are inundated with information online now more than ever before. Encourage your people to send direct messages or texts to friends and co-workers. Provide them with scripts of what to say, like: “Hey, you’ve been on my mind recently. I wanted you to know that I’ve been praying for you and would love for you to join me at my church’s worship gathering…” This small, intentional step increases the likelihood of a guest checking out your gatherings.
Text In Church has all kinds of text templates while you’re meeting exclusively online that they’ve compiled in this free resource! Go ahead and download it now and tweak the messages to fit your needs!
4. Designate online “hosts”. If you’re using a platform that allows commenting during your service, utilize it! Identify a few of your people to chat with guests as they check out your service. Be friendly, but not pushy. Strive to get a conversation started in which people feel free to participate. When someone is willing to engage, invite them to “lunch” or “coffee” later in the week. Offer to have their favorite restaurant delivered to them while you video chat.
5. Have easy-to-follow instructions for responders. New things are scary. In a digital moment when someone who would respond to the Gospel is sitting at home, giving complex or elaborate instructions on how to respond to a Gospel presentation might push them over the threshold of actually responding. Provide 2-3 easy ways for people to respond: text a keyword to a phone number, send us a message on social media with one word, go to this dedicated page on our website, etc. Display these options on your feed if possible and reference them after every Gospel presentation.
Evangelism looks much different in this season, but sharing the Good News of the Gospel can and should remain a priority for God’s people. Following the above 5 steps will help you create more effective Gospel presentations without having to add any new gatherings or events.