Online communities are a great opportunity. Getting members connected through Facebook and Twitter is great. But as much as all these online activities can help build community, real-world, in-person meeting is still very important.
People still need personal contact. A good 30 minute in-person conversation can usually create a stronger bond than weeks of online communication. So, online events and communication are not a substitute for real-world events and conversations; rather, they enhance each other. Better off-line relationships will create better participation in online activities. Online activities allow for more frequent interaction between people.
Of course one of the biggest benefits of online events and communication is the opportunity to reach more people who you would not be able to reach otherwise, people who are not currently a part of your congregation. But even then, the purpose is not just to get people connected online, but to get them to become involved with the church in the real world.
So, when you host an online event, be sure to either tie that event to a real-world event or use the event to invite people to visit the church, meet up for coffee, etc. Don’t just say the event is hosted by the church, include a call to action. It could be something as simple as, “Thank you for joining us for such-n-such event. Please visit us this Sunday at such-n-such church for a message about this subject.” If the event is about a specific topic, have the next sermon about the same topic so inviting people to church the next week is a direct tie-in to the event they just participated in.
The Follow Up:
One of the great things about online activity is people almost always leave a way for contact. If they participate in a Facebook activity, you’ll be able to see who they are and friend their Facebook profile. If it’s a TwitterChat, you can follow them and invite them to follow you back. If the event requires registration, then you probably have an email address. Whatever the format, having a way to contact a person after the event is huge. Don’t waste it. Have a plan for contacting people and staying connected. The more personal you can make this contact, the better. This event should be the start of a relationship, not just an event someone participated in.
How important do you think real-world contact is?
Do you think church’s with ministries that are entirely online are as effective as ministries with real-world involvement?