Arguably one of the greatest benefits of attending church is the fellowship you feel with the people around you. It’s that sense of togetherness that you get from being supported by your faith community, an important part of feeling connected and accepted in a world where we’ve been increasingly isolated from each other.
So what happens to fellowship when the church can’t meet in person?
This has been one of the difficulties faced by people transitioning into online church communities - the fear of losing that fellowship, that sense of togetherness that makes it really feel like you’re worshipping as part of a whole. Church leaders and goers alike have worried about the implications of switching to online services only. Will people still attend? Will they still feel like part of a greater mission?
The question of community engagement is also a big one. Many churches have turned to live streaming and other online options to keep services going, but this comes with its own drawbacks. How engaging is the stream and will it keep people interested when they are in their own homes and faced with the distractions of their everyday lives?
In our humble opinion, these concerns are borne out of the wrong approach to online church.
There is virtual church, and then there is virtual church. How people experience your services will highly depend on the effort that goes into them, including offering services on a platform that maximizes the engagement and fellowship potential for the people that are attending.
In fact, this approach could even lead to better church attendance and improved connections between your congregation. Virtual church can enable your attendees to bond in new ways that they couldn’t necessarily do in person, and be more attractive to the younger generation of churchgoers.
So what kind of fellowship is possible with a virtual church? Take a look at our fun ideas to get your faith community engaged below:
From Big Events To Small Groups
The church is more than just a big congregation meeting, although these are great too! But realistically, your online church needs to cater to big groups of people just as well as it caters to smaller ones.
Many churchgoers look for smaller prayer groups and even one-on-ones with their pastor in addition to attending normal church services. These sorts of connections need to easily integrate with your normal church operations.
Picture it this way - after praise and worship are done in your virtual meeting room, you can split people off into smaller groups to allow them to meet and greet, pray together, and more. All done with one seamless platform that gives you full control over analytics and many other features.
These smaller groups offer more power than just our traditional ideas of worship, however. In smaller groups, you can play around with many fellowship ideas to keep your congregation engaged and growing.
- Panel Discussions And Studies
As mentioned earlier, there is a lot more to church than just your usual Sunday service. Many people also attend bible study groups or panel discussions created by their church about specific themes like marriage, grief, and other topics that they need guidance on.
These groups are a great way to get your congregation more familiar with each other, talking about the important topics and supporting each other like a true community. They also help your church attendees to become more attuned to the messages of the bible and work on integrating them into their daily lives along with the prayer that comes from this type of fellowship.
Having these groups earlier in the week helps people check in with each other outside of just normal church Sundays. As the facilitator, this is also a great opportunity for your church to offer more online events and really establish a name as an online meeting place of faith.
A smaller group is also a great place for prayer groups - something that is more sought after since the start of the pandemic. People want to seek solace in their faith and their community while the world is an uncertain place, and these concentrated efforts will make them feel closer to their fellow churchgoers.
- Youth Groups
One of the things that virtual church is ideal for is for youth groups. Engaging young people is essential to the future of the church, and keeping them interested will take more than just your traditional conversations and services.
We know that today’s youth is the most technologically-advanced generation thus far - and online services like digital youth groups are meeting them where they are spending most of their time already. This group is usually one of the most difficult to bring into regular services, so customizing your approach to meet them will be much more successful.
Having your youth groups meet online means that a whole new world of engagement is opened to them. Imagine your teens building their own Minecraft server where they can explore their creativity with a faith framework, or play other online games and ice breakers all using their webcam. Your church assigns a moderator to ensure everything goes smoothly, and soon you’ll have a fully-fledged youth group, or several, on your hands.
Virtual show and tell or even craft hours spent together laughing online regardless of their location empowers young people to come to church and find their own community in faith. Relating to their peers and the church is key here, which is why it’s best to also talk to the youth in your church community. What do they feel they are lacking? What would they want from this type of group? Use their feedback as a guide.
- Church Activity Nights
One of the best ways to get your community engaged and talking online is to offer interesting and unique events related to your church. This will help your congregation get to know each other, bond, and even bring new members to your flock.
Some of the examples of online activity nights you can host for your church include fun things like faith-based trivia nights, collective movie watching, virtual board games, and more.
Maybe your church wants to arrange a special guest speaker with a Q and A session afterward - offering this event virtually makes it easy for people to get tickets, access the event, post their questions in a moderated chat, or even ask them directly. This could work great for a general service or for those smaller bible study and prayer groups.
Or, if you’re one of those lucky churches led by a pastor that can give Seinfeld a run for his money you might consider setting up a Christian comedy night!
Encourage all your attendees to bring their friends and family along online and you’ll soon grow the numbers of your congregation.
Why Fellowship In Church Matters
Fellowship in its purest form is about strength and faith. Spending time with others that share the same beliefs fosters growth in both the community and how people feel about the church as a whole.
The other key part of fellowship is how it provides a safe harbor from hardship. Being able to share troubles, pray on them together and find strength in Christ helps build bonds between believers and strengthen their faith.
In Hebrews 10:24-25 it says "Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near."
Spending this time with a congregation that offers true fellowship reminds people that they are not alone in their lives and that they can rely on their faith community to uplift them when they need it - whether they are online or in person.
Virtual Church Platforms For Maximum Engagement
When you’re building a virtual church that you’d like to offer all the above with, you’ll need to choose a platform that can get you there. Something that can host engaging online events for big and small groups, enable you to run presentations, and do so much more than just streaming a video.
This is where Altar Live comes in. Altar is a platform built specifically for churches, allowing them to host online services and events where your staff and volunteers can take initiative with people and make them feel seen.
So, what is it that really makes Altar stand out above the rest? Well, with Altar Live, your church can:
- Connect any live stream source
- Host multiple meetings at the same time
- Assign multiple Hosts
- Keep Track of Attendance
- Web browser-based and mobile app supported
- Customize the look and feel
- Create Polls and Announcements
- Connect your Giving tools
What’s more, is that Altar knows that not everyone in your congregation is the most technologically inclined. As a church, you need a simple and easy experience for elders and the non-technical. Altar is designed with intuitive tools for screen sharing, video sharing, and moderation controls so hosting small groups is simple and easy.
Want to learn more about how Altar can radically change how your congregation views online church? Schedule time to meet with us by clicking here.
You will learn how you can:
- Keep attendees engaged with a dynamic video conference experience
- Host multiple meetings at the same time with one account
- Integrate attendance with your ChMS
- Get access to online small group training and best practices
We will contact you for a session with our Engagement Consultant to teach you a workflow that works best for you and your church. Bring yourself, your entire team and we will demonstrate how you can bring engagement back to your community.