Editor’s note: For the January 1 issue of the Illinois Baptist, pastors and leaders from IBSA shared their thoughts on the challenges and opportunities facing the church in 2021. You’ll see them here every Wednesday this month.
Fran Trascritti, IBSA administrative director of leadership development
Who would have thought even a year ago that churches of all sizes would routinely broadcast worship services? In the new year, churches will have opportunities to use these online services to start gospel-centered conversations with virtual worship attenders. Here are four ideas for churches shaping their engagement strategy for online worship:
1. Interact in real time. For in-person worship, the preaching of the word involves one-way communication. In a virtual setting, it can be much more interactive, as those online often use the chat features to share thoughts along the way. Church leaders who show a willingness to chat with guests in this way open the door to deeper conversations.
2. Assign virtual worship hosts. They should be friendly, capable, and eager to talk with people in this format. Hosts can ask questions and interact throughout the service to encourage engagement.
3. Offer prayer and connection opportunities. Toward the end of the streamed service, a good practice is for the hosts to offer ways for attendees to respond. This can be done by sharing a link for guests to share requests for prayer or pastoral care.
4. Pursue a strategy to move people to groups. Many churches now have virtual Bible study offerings, and if so, this is a chance to move online guests to a deeper engagement. Through the chat function, hosts can share group invitation links and times as the virtual worship wraps up.
Online worship is a unique opportunity to engage virtual visitors. It may also provide new service and evangelism opportunities for church members. Remember, regardless of the method, worship is about the life-changing gospel. May the Lord use us to change the world!
Eddie Pullen, IBSA church planting director
I was walking recently with a friend who works for a ministry that reaches out to young families. I asked him what has worked to reach them during the pandemic. He explained his current approach to ministry is praying for families first, then showing care for them, and finally sharing the hope of the gospel in a spiritual conversation. “Those among my people who actually love the families they are engaging have spiritual conversations on a regular basis,” he said.
Traditional ways of exposing lost people to the gospel have been unsuccessful during the pandemic. The most basic approach—inviting people to church to hear about Jesus—doesn’t work because many are afraid to attend. And missiologist Ed Stetzer tells us this approach may continue to disappoint even after the worst of the pandemic is over.
I usually have meaningful spiritual conversations only after I have begun to build a relationship with someone, and after they know I care. People around us usually know whether we do. Spiritual conversations will happen if we love well.
Does it take longer? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes! Let’s cut through the clutter of our current evangelism confusion by finding ways to engage people who are far from God, and loving them the way Jesus did—unconditionally.