I’m sure your church has had a barbecue or pot-luck dinner. You may have had conferences or workshops. Surely every church has had a worship service. What do all these have in common? They are all live events that bring people together. It’s great! These events allow people to meet each other, strengthen social bonds, provide the means for discussions and group learning, create a sense of belonging, and much more. There is a reason the Bible tells us not to forsake the assembling of the believers. Community it important. But what about online?
Community is important online as well, but it can be a little trickier to create online community. After all, everyone is in a different location, you don’t see each other, and often times communication is not live. Even with all these limitations, there’s still a lot you can do to build online community. One of these things is hosting online events.
Events allow people to have a live, real-time online experience with other people. It creates a greater sense that other people are out there in your online community and allows for spontaneous interactions.
Here are 5 Online Events Your Church Can Do This Month:
1. Live Stream Church Services with Chat.
More and more churches are looking into streaming their church services online. It’s a great way to help shut-ins and traveling families stay connected with the church and experience worship on a weekly basis. These days streaming your service online can be as simple as using a consumer video camera, a computer with an Internet connection, and a streaming service that is pretty cheap making live streaming a legitimate option for most churches. A couple of Christian sites that offer live streaming are Sunday Streams, StreamingChurch.TV, and ChristianWorldMedia.com.
Most live video stream providers offer live chat with their service. Not only can they participate in the worship service live, but they can also interact with each other through the chat feature thus making the whole experience less like watching TV and more like being a part of the worship service.
2. Host a Webinar.
If you’re not familiar with webinars, it’s a term referring to a web seminar. It’s basically an online presentation that is given and viewed live. You setup a specific time for the webinar and people usually preregister. Then the presenters of the webinar deliver their presentation with video (usually slides) and audio. Participants of the webinar are able to chat and submit questions. One service that does a good job with webinars is GoToWebinar.com.
3. Have Sermon Discussions.
At most churches, the pastor delivers his sermon, they have the rest of the elements of the worship service, and that’s the end of it. Was there more information about the sermon topic that didn’t fit in the sermon? Did anyone in the congregation have a question? Probably, but most of the time no one ever finds out. Some pastors have started blogging about their sermons during the week to further explore the message and that format also does allow for questions in the comments. But that can also be done live. Simply have a pre-arranged time (maybe even a regular time every week) and a location. The location could be in a forum, Facebook Group, or maybe a Twitter Chat (http://tweetchat.com).
4. Online Bible studies and discussion groups
A lot of people have difficulty participating in Bible studies because of the time commitment. Between work, family, and other obligations, it can be difficult to fit in a couple hours to go to a Bible study, especially if going to the Bible study includes 30 minutes to an hour of driving time. How about doing the Bible study online? There are several online video conference call options, like Skype, if you want to have live vocal discussions with video. You could also use the chat format or webinar format as mentioned above. Whichever format best suits the type of Bible study or discussion group you have.
5. FB and Twitter during real world events and services.
The first four events are specifically online events. The entire event is intended to take place online. But what about taking a real-world event, like a conference or even worship service, and extending it online by allowing, or even encouraging, real-world participants to post comments, pictures, and videos on Facebook and Twitter during the event allowing the event to reach thousands of people who couldn’t (or wouldn’t) be there.
Have you hosted an online event? Tell us about it.
Do you have any other ideas for online events?