Churches have always looked to accomplish two primary tasks. It’s the challenge given to us by Jesus to go into all the world and make disciples. Right there in that one sentence are the two basic jobs to be done by every local church.
- More growth. We are called to help the people in our congregation grow deeper in their faith, following Jesus with their whole lives. This is the call to discipleship.
- More people. We are called to go into the world and make new disciples. This is the call to evangelism.
In 2020, we were forced to examine new ways to do both of these tasks. We’re wrestling with important questions, including…
- Can you truly disciple people digitally from a distance?
- What does engagement really mean?
- How can we reach new people online?
A lot may have changed in your church, but your mission is still the same. We’re just looking at the opportunities ahead of us and trying to make sense of it. Besides, the challenges before us are really just opportunities for those willing to embrace some new ways of doing ministry. I want to share five practical things you can do today to begin to engage and ultimately reach new people online. These ideas are not expensive (in fact, they are all free). This list is the beginning of a simple strategy you can use to truly reach people online.
#1 – Really get to know your online audiences.
Just like shepherds should know the condition of their flocks, pastors should really be in tune with what is going on in the lives of the congregation Just like missionaries must first understand the context where they are called to serve, pastors should seek to truly understand the ups, downs, struggles, pain, and issues facing those who live in their community. If you want to reach people online in your geographic area, how well do you really know them? How well do you understand them? And how accurate is your information?
Here’s a free, customizable report based on your zip code that will give you a ton of information.
You can dive into demographics, family status, relationship with money, and even learning style. It’s a good starting point for anyone wanting to better understand their mission field.
#2 – Start sharing helpful content.
Since we engage with so many churches around the country inside the Church Fuel membership, I get to read a lot of church email newsletters and see a lot of church social feeds. And it probably wouldn’t surprise you to know that most of the information is announcements. Churches have gotten really good at talking about our own stuff. Our services. Our programs. Our events. Our new series. Justin Nava sums it up well with this appropriately snarky post:
Your new series? The outreach events? The church programs? Those are great things, but unfortunately, that’s not what people in your community are searching for online (or clicking on or sharing). That stuff is important to YOU but not interesting to them. What kind of stuff am I talking about. Here’s a list of posts I wish churches would do.
- 10 Local Shops We Love
- New in Town Guide: The Most Important Things to Know About (City Name Here)
- The Five Best Places to Go For a Run
- Where Kids Eat Free in (City Name Here)
- The Best Staycation Ideas in (City Name Here) Back to School Checklist for Kids and Parents
- Best Spot for Watching Fireworks in (City Name Here)
- A 21-Day Christmas Devotional Guide
- 10 Things to Be Thankful for in (City Name Here)
- Local Non Profits Who are Serving our Community Well
- Can’t Miss Activities this Fall in (City Name Here)
- Hometown Tourist: 5 Ways You Can Act Like a Tourist Near (City Name Here)
Can you imagine how your church would be perceived if you began publishing more content like this? It’s not that we should never talk about our new series or post about our events…those things are really important. But they are like posting selfies all the time. Use the other camera on your phone and start talking about stuff that is important to your audience. I’m going to give a lot of examples (and even share some free content that you can quickly customize) on this free training. It’s Thursday, January 21 at 1pm EST and I’d love for you to join us.
#3 – Ask your church members to share helpful content.
Here’s where it starts to get interesting. Once you share something helpful online, now ask your congregation to share it. This is how you expand your reach. This is how you knock on people’s door. If the content you create is truly helpful (like the stuff on the list above), your church members will want to share it. You’re giving them a pretty easy task, one that might even make them look good as they complete it. They just need a gentle reminder and some clear direction. When you post stuff like this to your channels, you’re reaching people who have probably already engaged with your church at some level. Maybe they have liked your page in the past. But when your members share on their pages, you’re reaching their audiences. You’re branching out to people who may not have a direct connection to your church. In a small way, you’re going into the world.
#4 – Make it EASY for your church members to share helpful content
When you ask your people to take action, make it very easy for them to follow through. Here are some ideas:
- Don’t just ask them to share, write a few sentences and ask them to copy and paste.
- Create an image for them. Or a handful of images so they can choose what is most relevant.
- Rally everyone at a certain date and time (even if it’s a little cheesy) like “Share it Saturday” or “Talk about it Tuesday.”
Remember, when your members share this stuff, you’re knocking on new people’s doors. Ask them to do it, but work very hard to make it easy. Tactically speaking, I’m a big fan of creating a page like yourchurch.com/invite and putting all your congregation-facing inviting resources in one place.
#5 – Start having normal conversations with people who engage.
If this doesn’t really sound like Biblical evangelism or discipleship, you’re right.
Everything here is like a knock on the door. But once someone opens the door by engaging with this content, you have an incredible opportunity.
Now you get to engage. Now you get to follow up. You’ve said hello, now it’s time to have a conversation. So make sure you have people ready to engage online, by liking comments, saying hi, and asking questions.
Not in a weird way, but like a normal human. You could even create a volunteer team or utilize volunteers to do this.
By no means is this a comprehensive strategy. And by my own admission, this is a very “light” way to “reach” people online. But my goal is to give you a specific way to initially connect with people.