Most churches had to pivot their strategies with the onset of COVID-19, changing the way they gathered and how they used technology. It’s likely your church was one of them. You may have had to move to livestreaming or recorded online services, drive-in services, online small groups and staff meetings, or a digital children’s ministry. You may have even implemented online tithing or Text to Give. Now that your church has adapted to using technology through this crisis, has your perspective on church technologies shifted? What if there were even better ways to do things moving forward? What if God is putting these opportunities in front of your church as ways to reach more people for Him?
The Future of Technology in Your Church
Now that you have been using some new technology and digital communications over the past few months, what digital tools will you continue to use that you have adopted during this time? What do you need to stop doing? What advances in technology will you use moving forward?
How Does Technology Help the Church Reach People?
Historically, the church has lagged behind culture when it comes to innovation and technology. It’s been a game of catch-up rather than the church leading the way. Sometimes that has been due to financial choices or lack of resources in various communities. Many times it’s because churches do things the way they have always been done and don’t make the effort to innovate. Will every church look the same? Of course not. Churches will all have to evaluate what’s best in their context and what technology they will use in the future.
If you’re wondering where to start when it comes to technology in the church, why not get together with some key church leaders and staff, and ask: How have you seen God reach people through your church during the pandemic?
If your church wasn’t already livestreaming your services, did you move your services online? Whether you used social media or another platform for streaming, hopefully you have some data to look back on. What do you see when you look at the data? Many churches experienced higher than normal attendance when they moved online, at least initially. Where were those people coming from? Were they local, or did you notice pockets in other geographical areas?
The church has never been a building. The church is the people, and God is putting them right in front of you. So why wouldn’t your church meet them where they are? Overall, the church will continue to assemble in person. But it may take months or years for things to resemble what used to be considered normal. Because of this, many churches are also embracing technology and online worship services moving forward. How will you incorporate livestreaming into your church’s future?
2. Online Small Groups
Did your church start or continue to utilize online small groups? Have you found that online groups worked for your church during this time? What were some of the benefits? What were some of the drawbacks? Did you see discipleship happening during online groups?
Some churches were surprised at the true connections being made online, although anyone who is a gamer would not be surprised at all. One of the findings many church leaders discovered when starting online groups was that people went deep with one another faster than in-person groups. It may have something to do with having a screen between them and others that offered a sense of protection so they were able to open up and let themselves be vulnerable quickly. Being in the comfort of their own homes likely enhanced that perception. Will you continue to offer online groups or use them in a hybrid situation along with in-person groups?
3. Your Website
For a lot of churches, their website is their hub. It’s the central way to share information, connect individuals and families, and point them to their various ministries. Not every church has a website. But should they? If you do have a church website, what trends did you find? What do the analytics tell you? What has been effective and what hasn’t? What do visitors see when they go there, and what are they actually looking for? If sections for prayer requests, asking for help, and sermon podcasts were the most utilized, but your homepage focuses almost entirely on in-person events, or it’s outdated, maybe it’s time for a redesign. What areas do you need to add? What areas can you get rid of because they are no longer relevant? How will you strategically use your website moving forward?
4. Social Media
Hate it, love it, or accept it, social media isn’t going anywhere for the foreseeable future. How has your church leveraged it during this time? What has worked and what hasn’t? How have people engaged on your various platforms? Look at how your followers interacted with your posts—not so you can get more likes and comments, but so you can use the platforms better knowing what your congregation is looking for. What are some takeaways for how your church can effectively use social media in the future? How can you utilize social media to help guide people spiritually so they can grow in their faith?
5. Online Worship
If you offered worship through singing online during your services (with the right CCLI streaming license), will you continue to do so? What has worshiping in homes looked like? How are families learning to worship together outside of a church building? How do you see worship in your church changing, if at all? Do you still need to produce a performance-driven program, or has your congregation responded more to simpler acoustic sets?
How can worship and technology work together in your church in the coming years? If your music is already being recorded for online services, will you look at what it would take to create a worship album with your own voices? Have you thought about writing some of your own songs and publishing them to share with others? If your church doesn’t have the equipment for that, would another one in your area be willing to share theirs with you?
6. Digital Giving
Did you introduce digital tithing options, like online giving or Text to Give? How will you utilize those tools moving forward? If you continue to offer online services, digital giving options are essential. Even during in-person services, the ability for someone to tithe in the moment right from their seat is powerful. The technology for churches is usually pretty inexpensive. Plus, if you use online giving or Text to Give through Aplos, it will automatically be tracked in your accounting.
When it’s also easy for the user, there’s no reason not to offer it. If giving isn’t easy, you’ve missed the opportunity because no one wants to jump through hoops. Younger generations generally don’t use cash at all, and checkbooks are unknown to them. All their transactions are digital. If you are not offering digital tithing as an option for them, they won’t give. Make your finances transparent and your giving platforms easy, because when you make giving convenient, people will be more likely to give. Even those who still use cash or checks may forget their wallet or checkbook when attending in person. But when was the last time you heard someone say they forgot their phone?
7. Phones and Tablets
Some prefer their physical Bibles, earmarked and worn from years of use, verses highlighted and underlined, and the margins covered with scribbled notes. Others prefer reading on their phone or tablet, with bookmarked passages, digital highlights, and cleanly typed notes that are easily searchable. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Neither option is wrong. In either case, people are reading their Bibles. But some may not even have a physical Bible in their home. How will you accommodate those who primarily or almost entirely use digital tools in their day-to-day lives?
Has your congregation become accustomed to pulling information up on their phones or tablets when asked? Is it finally time to retire the paper bulletin after all these years? Will you use the YouVersion Bible app or something similar to encourage people to read their Bibles and connect with each other over a shared reading plan? Is your church at a place where you should start looking into using an app geared specifically to your congregation?
Expanding Your Reach
Since the church has never been a building, and the ministry goes beyond a Sunday, what is your church doing to expand its reach? What does your mission look like in your local community or outside the constraints of geography? How do you see God working through your church to reach those who have never set foot in one of your buildings? How can technology help?
The Gift of Technology in Church
Technology is a gift churches have been given, and they should utilize it to reach people, care for them, and disciple them. Changing your methods doesn’t mean changing your theology. Methods, forms, and technology will continue to change. How much more could God do through your church if you took advantage of new or existing technology, viewing it as a gift He has given to call more people to Himself?