The last two weeks in my Wednesday Enote I have been sharing learnings from two groups that met for several months during this COVID-19 season; one made up of large church pastors, the other a more representative group.  This is the 3rd segment of learnings from those meetings.

Hybrid Worship Opportunities

Hybrid is a term that became integrated in the conversations - how churches will integrate online opportunities with in person opportunities?  This indicates worship not as it was before March 13th of this year.  The typical online worship experience in the past, (if a church was online) was adding virtual seats to an existing worship experience. This meant people could watch an existing worship service online that usually was aimed primarily at those who were present in person. Watching might have been the operative word many times.
  • Online worship service as a distinct New Faith Community
    We are seeing more and more distinct worship services that are designed specifically to reach those who are attending remote. Some of this was happening in a few churches already.  Most are doing this now. Many will continue to evolve in this direction in the future.  Churches will keep or design an online experience aimed only at online participants. This will include worship, groups, and a variety of other connections. This is a fundamentally different approach.
  • Online worship where those who are attending remote are included more in the worship experience                                        
    We have learned and are still learning how to do this well.  This includes intentionally helping online attenders in the worship experience feel connected. This is true with any online platform.  Helping people feel connected, integrated, participatory, and known as present is the future of effective online worship. The purpose is to help the attender participate and not just watch others participate. It is about making disciples of Jesus Christ.
Online and in person worship, groups, and other activities will become a partnership in the work and life of the church in making disciples of Jesus Christ.  Typical Sunday times will not be the only connector in the church. Many more daily and weekly online opportunities will continue to be offered, and opportunities that will be aligned with the mission and vision of the Church more intentionally.  Online will not take the place of in person but will be a much more important supplement.  This will create a broader base and offer more entry points to the church and its life and mission, and to a relationship with Jesus Christ. Innovation and creativity have been key to this season and will become a part of the DNA of the new church being born.

Online opportunities will keep evolving, opportunities that will focus on the unchurched and those who have not yet been reached, younger people and young families.  Older people who may not be able to attend in person will be targeted more specifically with offerings aimed at them.

We are growing to understand in this hybrid form, that in person is more important than we might have thought.  How can we strengthen in person where the benefits of being present can more directly impact making disciples and transforming our communities? Church as usual will never be church as usual for those churches that have learned in this unique season.
In the season we are moving into:
  • What do we keep that began after March 13?
  • What do we stop that began after March 13?
  • What do we change that might have been long standing practices?
  • What needs to keep evolving if we are going to make disciples that change the world?
  • How do we continue and create hybrid (in person and online worship and groups) that will accomplish the mission and vision of the Church?
If I were leading a church today, one thing I think I would add would be an online worship service, or even a discipleship group, that was aimed directly at the unchurched, and those we were not already reaching. It would be in addition to our regular worship service we also have online. I would figure out a way to market it into the community our Church served.  I would want it to be an evangelistic, disciple making tool.   I would want it to have a way to feed into the rest of the life of the Church.  It would be transformative.  I would want it to grow the Church.

Rev. Mike Ramsdell, Executive Director
Center for Evangelism, Mission & Church Growth