What Is Community Engagement And How To Implement It In Your Online Church
Community is more important to individuals than ever before, and yet it’s also more difficult to facilitate for modern churches. At Altar Live, we’re experts in community building and online engagement, whether it’s for a full virtual event or a smaller online gathering for faith communities.
Stephanie Antonucci Leathe
March 9, 2022
Community is more important to individuals than ever before, and yet it’s also more difficult to facilitate for modern churches.
The pandemic has seen many churches struggle to fill their pews, and few church leaders expect this trend to finish any time soon. Even live streaming ministry events haven’t completely filled the gap either as churches have had to work with technological challenges and more.
At the same time, we know that people are hungry for community and relief from the social isolation that we have all felt since 2020. In fact, the spiritual space has ranked highly as a place to find community, falling just behind family and friends in a survey published by Vox.
And that’s just the problem with streaming worship services alone - there is little more community in this than there is in watching a YouTube video or show on Netflix. It’s all about what’s happening on the screen and very little about what is happening for the participants.
So how are churches supposed to bridge the gap between the need for community and the difficulty to facilitate it?
At Altar Live, we’re experts in community building and online engagement, whether it’s for a full virtual event or a smaller online gathering for faith communities.
Not only do we know how to get people involved and engaged in your church online, but we also are happy to tell you just how you can easily implement these changes today.
Here are some of the ways that community engagement can transform your church:
What Is Community Engagement In Church?
Too often, online church is nothing more than a one-sided event in which you stare at the screen until it’s over. The problem with this is that it’s as engaging as seeing what’s on TV- you watch it, forget it and move on.
And let’s be honest, this time is usually spent flicking through our phones, getting up to look for snacks, and having to contend with other common distractions that you wouldn’t have in a regular church.
But we know that church is much more than just listening to the pastor. It’s greeting your neighbors, worshipping together in song, having smaller prayer groups together, and more. It’s a pastor taking the time to have one-on-one conversations with congregation members that are in need of spiritual guidance or support. Or maybe it’s a youth group made for various ages.
In other words, it’s a hands-on, interactive experience that connects you to other people of faith around you.
Community engagement in church also goes further than this by undertaking actions that support the good of the community itself, such as reaching out to the needy and providing them with necessary services and supplies. Charity work has always been closely associated with the church, and these efforts are also important to maintain.
Naturally, these are the things that church leaders and goers are most concerned about losing when moving to an online church environment. It’s not possible to do any of the above with a simple live stream… or is it?
What Does A Church Do For The Community If It’s Based Online?
We’re here to tell you that it is very possible to continue engaging with your congregation even if your church is based online. Will it be exactly the same as attending in person? No. But it will come much closer than you would first expect when reading about it.
If you choose the right platform for your online church, you can do much more than just stream a service. Having the right portal will help you access different features that can lead to better community engagement between you and your congregation.
In other words, you can still greet your neighbor. You can still get that one-on-one connection with your pastor in hard times where you need a bit more guidance. Your kids can attend Sunday school and get the opportunity to talk about faith with other people their age.
The key is to make use of something less limiting than Zoom, YouTube and Facebook. These platforms offer streaming capabilities, but they aren’t built for churches and this means time is wasted either getting people joined or keeping them interested without being able to contact them directly.
You need to choose an online platform that is built to do all the above and more. You need Altar Live.
How Altar Live Can Help You Build Your Online Community
Church is more than just watching a video. This is why we built Altar to host online services and events where your staff and volunteers can take initiative with people and make them feel seen.
So how does Altar go further than other platforms to engage your congregation? Take a look at the list of features we offer below:
- Hosts can initiate a conversation with every person who joins the event, answer prayer requests, and check in on people.
- Instead of sending people to a Zoom link after the live stream, seamlessly move people to the Lobby on Altar where you can create discussion groups and introduce people to each other.
- Get notified when someone joins your events or meeting for the first time so you can follow up with them. Plus your data can integrate with your Church Management system with our custom integrations.
- Bring your own stream provider to Altar Live. Use what you already have or we can help consult you on what stream provider to use with Altar Live.
- Engage people via chat, polls, and Q&A and through virtual tables and video conference watch parties
- Chat in a public channel, directly with Hosts, or through direct message
- Run unlimited and concurrent events
- Fully supported on mobile browsers and Altar Live apps
And that’s not all.
We know that your church might need a bit of help making the transition, which is why we went one step further and created Altar Academy. Signing up allows you to get access to our library of on-demand videos, training, and resources all about online ministry.
You can even book a time with an experienced online ministry consultant if you need help defining your online strategy.
Tips For Building An Online Community Around Your Church
Building community around your online church or ministry all comes down to choosing the right approach and giving it 110% from there.
But there are a few other things you can keep in mind when you are building an online faith community or congregation:
Tip #1: Use the right platform for your community-building needs
As mentioned above, using the right platform makes a big difference in your online church and your ability to engage with your congregation. This means you ultimately need to sit down and evaluate what your church needs from an online portal, what you hope to achieve by launching an online community and what you will need to do so.
Tip #2: Use the technology you have available
Many online church platforms allow you to use interactive graphics and more to help pastors add more visual interest to their sermons. Slides, video clips, quoted scriptures and other visual aids can be great tools to help you deliver your message and keep people interested in your talking points.
Some say that these visuals harken back to the days of churches filled with religious art and stained windows - imagery has and always will be an important part of the church experience.
Tip #3: Use small groups effectively
In smaller groups, everyone has the chance to make a meaningful connection with one another. Whether it’s a Bible study or Next Steps class, you can create dynamic meetings that keep the conversation going and increase participation.
Smaller groups also foster stronger bonds and relationships within the congregation.
Another great option for smaller online groups is to host Sunday school and other youth groups. The youth can join online, get to know each other in a safe environment, and even take part in online church activities together.
Tip #4: Use analytics for your online church
If you’re planning on growing your online congregation, analytics from your chosen church platform will be essential to understanding what is working and what isn’t.
With Altar Live, you have several options for analytics - you can:
- Get notified when someone joins your events or meeting for the first time so you can follow up with them.
- Get analytic insight into both anonymous visitors and regular attendees so you can understand who is engaging with you online.
- Keep it organized by connecting all this data to your Church Management system with our custom integrations.
Get Altar Live For Your Online Church
Altar Live goes the extra mile to help your church make the transition to an online congregation - without sacrificing the personal touch and connection that is so essential to ministry. But don’t just take our word for it.
We’ve helped over 1,300 churches take their online ministry to the next level and you can see what they’ve said about the process here.
What’s more, is you don’t have to commit until you’ve had a free 14 day trial with us. Start by meeting without a team to learn more, see how Altar Live works, and start re-imagining your church events.
We let you take the time to evaluate the platform, cover it with your team, and get their feedback.
From there, you are welcome to schedule training sessions with our expert Engagement Consultants and we'll make sure your entire team feels confident using Altar Live.
And that’s all it takes for your church to start reaching more people online.
Sign up for your free trial here.