4 Things Churches Should Learn from Netflix

4 Things Churches Should Learn from Netflix

Every single day, over 117 million people collectively watch more than 140 million hours of shows and movies on Netflix. That’s about 1 hour and 11 minutes per person per day.

Can you imagine if people spent that kind of time with your church? Most churches would probably run out of things for their church members to watch, listen to, and read pretty quickly.

Recently we’ve heard a lot of church leaders share that they feel like they’re competing for their church members’ attention, and they’re often losing the battle to media platforms like Netflix. You aren’t producing hit movies and award-winning shows. What you do is not entertainment. But when it comes to captivating your church members and maximizing engagement, your church can take some lessons from Netflix.

Here are four things churches should learn from Netflix.

1. The experience matters

People don’t spend hours on Netflix simply because there are so many shows. Netflix is constantly refining the way people discover new shows and find the movies they know and love. And they’re committed to providing the best possible streaming experience. Because they know people won’t keep coming back after repeated bad experiences. Their users will only put up with so much.

A lot of churches understand the importance of providing the best possible experience on their campus, but they take a minimalist approach to their website, app, online giving, and digital presence. Simply offering a digital experience isn’t good enough. If your app is clunky, your website is slow, or your giving platform is frustrating to interact with, people won’t use them. Remember, they’re comparing your digital offerings with the apps, websites, and digital payment options they use every day.

2. Content needs to be consumable

Once you start watching a show on Netflix, it’s hard to stop. The next episode plays automatically. And the next. And the next. (Until Netflix asks if you’re still watching—they don’t want you to miss anything if you fall asleep!) While you’re still trying to decide if you want to watch another episode, Netflix starts playing it. Can you stop the episode and go do something else? Sure. But it’s almost easier to keep watching than it is to stop!

But Netflix doesn’t just steamroll their users into watching more content. They put their best, newest, and most popular content front and center. So instead of sifting through thousands of shows and movies, you can simply choose from a curated list of the best Netflix has to offer.

That’s not the kind of experience most churches provide online. But it could be. Whether someone is visiting your website for the first time or they’ve visited a hundred times, your church should put the best stuff front and center. That means highlighting new content and making an effort to showcase your most popular sermons, posts, and podcast episodes. 

Even within individual sermon videos, there’s often a lot of room for churches to improve the experience. Consider creating shorter sermon videos to cut straight to your most clear, profound, helpful, or relevant points. These can serve as hooks to get people to watch your complete sermons or simply to give more exposure to your teachings. And make sure you’re considering which next steps and related content you can recommend at the end of each piece so it’s easy for people to continue engaging with your content. 

3. People want more of what they like

One of Netflix’s greatest strengths is its ability to use the shows and movies you’ve watched to identify and recommend more content you might like. Instead of just seeing popular movies and shows, each person gets a curated list of options based on what they’ve already watched.

This is pretty easy to do in a blog—you just mention a related post and link to it. But it gets more complicated with videos and podcast episodes. Most churches don’t have a convenient way to suggest related content, so they miss out on a huge opportunity to keep engaging their audience.

Thanks to our new “related content” feature, that’s not the case with Pushpay. When people explore your church app and dig into your content, they’ll see recommendations to read, watch, or listen to more relevant content. And you get to handpick what related content people see when they’re in your app.

4. Want better engagement? Create more (and better) content

Imagine if Netflix only had a handful of shows or movies. And they were bad. It wouldn’t matter how well-connected that content was or how easy it was to stream it. Netflix thrives because it has so much content and it’s so binge-worthy. There’s not just something for everyone. There’s a lot for everyone.

In fact, Netflix is so committed to this that they’re throwing $14 billion into producing original content this year.

If you want people to spend more time in your app, you need more for them to watch, read, and listen to. You also need to make sure that the content you produce is worth watching, reading, and listening to. 

When it comes to creating content, a lot of churches seem to forget: you have a major advantage over other content creators your congregation can find online. Your church members know you. They trust you to help them grow. They want to know what your staff believes and feels called to share. They’re curious about what God’s been teaching you. And blog posts, videos, and podcasts are great ways for you to show them.

You want people to feel like your app is a hub for them to learn more about the Bible, theology, your church, and their relationship with God. That only happens when you create the best content you can and create as much of it as you can.

Engage your congregation

You’re not in the entertainment industry. But you are competing for your church members’ attention. And you want them to spend as much time with you as possible. So maybe it’s time to explore why people spend millions of hours on Netflix every day, and how your church can use similar tactics to engage your congregation.

Ryan Nelson

Ryan was a volunteer youth leader with Young Life for eight years. Now he teaches people about the Bible on OverviewBible.com. He lives in Bellingham, Washington with his wife and three sons.