Today, an increasing number of religious organizations and churches are becoming interested in the principles of online community building as the concept of virtual church takes hold of the public.
The reasons for this are clear - using virtual communities, churches are hoping to help their congregations connect with each other better, learn and share their faith testimonies and collaborate in a whole new way.
Many pastors and church leaders now are beginning to examine the possibilities that come from future-proofing their churches in this way, believing that it will lead to higher growth in the future. Others fear that this shift is just the beginning of the end for church as we know it.
What’s clear is that now that online church has become possible, there is no going back from here. But how can churches get familiar with the idea of running an online community, and what are the true benefits and drawbacks of making the transition?
So if your church is considering launching its own online communities, make sure you read this article to understand the advantages and disadvantages first:
The Advantages Of Online Communities For Churches
Online communities in various industries have become popular in the past two decades, but churches and religious groups have come to the party late. The pandemic hitting mid-2020 changed all this, forcing churches to shutter their IRL doors and look for new ways to connect with their members.
The silver lining of this problem was that the infrastructure needed to run a great online community was already well-established by this point. Using the internet, churches now can access a new, limitless world that allows them to gather new congregation members from anywhere.
Just picture it - places that used to be accessible via mission work only can now be reached with dedicated online messaging from your church without anyone having to leave their location.
But that is not the only benefit available to churches planning on launching their own online congregation.
Just a few of the other reasons churches are going for this approach include:
- Your congregation gets to be part of building a new support system for your church. Think about it this way - sometimes, individuals need counseling. Using an online platform means that congregation members can meet with their pastor one-on-one or join a dedicated virtual prayer group to help deal with their troubles. They no longer have to leave their homes to get this support either. All they need to do is log onto any internet-capable advice, and their community will be there for them.
- Launching an online community for your church does more than just improve accessibility. It creates new bonds and encourages further growth as members bring their families, friends, and neighbors to your online church offering. This participation and act of sharing your message is one of the most effective ways to increase the number of churchgoers you have.
- When a community comes together in this way, it creates room for incredible creativity. Online youth groups and church activity nights offer all kinds of exciting options that can drive up engagement and return-visitor rates. Think running about Youth Group activities like virtual show and tell, online gaming or crafting nights,
- Hosting your church events online allows you to make use of something real-life attendance does not: analytics. Using the right online community platform, you can keep track of different datasets to maximize the level of growth your church will achieve. Think of live church, how do you know who has attended your service, who wants more information, and the feedback they have on their visit? An online platform can provide this.
- Having an engaged, online community discussing how much they love your virtual services is the best recommendation your church can get on the internet. Members can share tips for use with each other and even set up their own church-related events. It’s basically free marketing for your congregation!
- Realistically, church is limited to the days that you have services scheduled, usually towards the weekend only. But having a space for your congregation online means you can easily schedule additional events and smaller groups during the week and really help keep your members on track when it comes to their faith goals.
- Running a church online is much more affordable in comparison to the cost of a physical church. In the future, it will be more common for religious organizations to invest in an online community platform than to invest in real estate or new construction.
- Going online means your church attendees will no longer just be limited to your church’s physical location. As a virtual church your congregation could be from anywhere across the country or even the world - it’s a new globalization of faith, one without any borders. Since churches have been struggling with attendance in recent years, this could remove the barrier that leads to higher numbers.
With these benefits and many others available from online church services, it’s easy to see that churches shifting to online services will become steadily prominent in the next few years. Fans and critics of this approach alike can agree that there is validity to the points listed above.
On the other hand, going online is not without its own barriers to entry. So what are the drawbacks, and are they enough to outweigh the positives of an online church?
The Disadvantages Of Online Communities For Churches
Like we all know too well, not everything can be sunshine and roses and the same goes for online church. While it does have numerous advantages, there are also some things that church leaders will need to keep in mind when shifting to this medium.
The first challenge your church will face is how it will go about the process of going online. Churches are traditionally paper-heavy industries, and the introduction of new technologies can be challenging at the start.
This is especially important to church communities that have a large number of elders as part of their congregation. If you’re asking individuals to join using an app or website, the process needs to be easy enough to access without having amazing tech skills. It also needs to be a platform that will be able to meet all your diverse church needs, such as being able to host big events as well as small groups.
Next, there is the issue of adoption, including training church staff on how to use your new platform. You’ll need to convince people to join your online services, and be sure that your church leadership will be able to manage them effectively. For this, you’ll ideally need support from a platform expert that can help you set up courses for your staff and teach them about best practices.
Lastly, there is the question of interaction and engagement. Attending a physical church means that you are removed from the distractions of everyday life - is this still possible when people are attending church from their homes? Your services will need to adjust to be more than just a video, and really focus on engaging the community.
In our professional opinion, the disadvantages of switching to offering online church services are far fewer than the advantages. If your church makes use of the right online community platform, these challenges can be reduced even further. Let’s discuss the best platform for online church below:
How Altar Live Takes Online Church Communities Further
Altar Live is the online church and community platform designed specifically for religious groups and their communities.
But what and who is Altar and how can it transform your approach to virtual church?
Altar allows you to offer online church services, live stream events, and small groups for your congregation. We provide video conferencing software, consulting, and training specifically for churches. You can use Altar as the virtual front door to your church or an online campus, plus replace all your Zoom subscriptions.
Use Altar to get analytic insight into both anonymous visitors and regular attendees so you can understand who is engaging with your service online. Then, keep it organized by connecting all this data to your Church Management system with our custom integrations.
Built by a team of entrepreneurs, software engineers, and people of faith, we began to create a worship and event platform designed for real human-to-human interaction. Every feature has been designed with real people, ministries, and communities in mind.
And that’s not all. We know you’ll need help establishing your church online and onboarding your members of staff, which is why launched Altar Academy. Using Altar Academy, your church staff can attend a self-paced training and workshop series to help you grow your digital ministry and engage people effectively online. Do more than just stream church - learn how to build community and disciple online.
Ultimately, the best online communities are built based on the feedback of the people that join them, and it’s key to always bear in mind that the community itself will also drive the evolution of your congregation online. With a platform like Altar Live in your church’s corner, you can be assured that you will get the support you need to build a truly safe faith community over the internet.
We’re ready to help your church make the change. Contact us today and one of our Altar Live onboarding experts will be in touch with your church to discuss the next steps. The best part? Your trial is completely free, and we’re happy to throw in a product walkthrough to help you understand what is possible for your congregation.
Let’s keep the conversation going - message us at email@example.com