How to Engage with Your Church Members When They are Attending Online

Pastoring is a hard enough job. Now, you’re expected to do it without being face to face with your people. Leading a church through these current challenges has forced us all to dig deep and get creative with how we fulfill our respective missions.

We’re always here to help provide you with an engagement strategy, a plan you can begin implementing today that will help you engage your church members, even if most of them are attending online.

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An engagement strategy should be designed to effectively encourage discipleship

With discipleship as the primary focus, you’ll be engaging with your people at a depth that will give them a solid foundation of faith that will sustain them through the current difficulties, not to mention whatever life will throw at them next.

Digest this material, brainstorm how it applies to your specific context, and get ready to cast a vision.

Announce the Church Engagement Strategy

The first big step in implementing this discipleship initiative is to clearly communicate the plan. Don’t be afraid to over communicate.

Use every means of communication at your disposal. Does your church have a Facebook page? Post your announcement there. Any other social media accounts? Utilize them. Send emails. Post the announcement on your church’s website. Church App? No? (We can help with that.)

Some of your people are going to hear the announcement three or four times. That’s okay. The frequency and visibility of your communication will convey the importance. If your people perceive that it’s a big deal to you, they’ll assume it should be a big deal to them as well.

What should be in this initial announcement?

Set the expectation. Tell your folks that you’ll be introducing a new initiative, that it’s crucial for everyone to attend, and that it’s an exciting and positive new thing for the church.

(Who couldn’t use a little good news right now?)

Also, let them know the basic details of how to tune in and that you’ll respect their time and end when you say you will.

Train Church Members on the Tech

Before the launch of your new discipleship initiative, try to ensure that everyone is up to speed on the technology you’ll utilize.

Do you foresee a need for virtual meeting applications like Zoom or Google Meet? If your people need a refresher (or an introduction) to these tools, make sure you train them before the launch.

It might be good to use some time in this first, big kickoff meeting to go over the basics of all the technology they’ll be using, and where to access those tools.

Don’t assume everyone knows as much about the technology as you do. And remember to extend a little more patience and detail for the less tech-savvy members of your church.

Family Meeting

The communication you’ve done up to this point has been leading to this kickoff meeting.

This meeting will accomplish many things. First, it’s a place where everyone in the church will gather and see one another. For some, this will be the first time since quarantine began. (Keep in mind that you’ll want to use a platform that allows you to see all attendees in a grid layout.) This visibility will contribute to a sense of community connection.

This kickoff meeting will give your members a clear understanding of what’s to come with the new emphasis on discipleship.

Treat the meeting like a family get together. You might even consider sending all registered attendees a gift card so they can buy lunch or dinner. Make it a virtual “family meal.” Stick to the time frame you promised. Your people will appreciate the attention to detail and respect for their time that you show.

As for the bulk of the meeting, you’ll be laying out the vision of a renewed focus on discipleship.

Church Engagement through Discipleship Groups

The actual structure of the discipleship groups ought to be small. Aim for three to four members per group. These smaller groups will help facilitate transparent conversations and connections.

Also, smaller groups eliminate the need for a leader or facilitator. Micro groups can manage themselves and be flexible around meeting times. Managing groups is easiest with reliable, user-friendly software.

The curriculum ought to be something that is helping ground and deepen your people in the faith. When trying to strengthen and enrich all of your people simultaneously, it’s best not to make too many assumptions. Choose something that will appeal to a broad group.

There are a number of resources available; books, bible studies, and curricula. Check with your denomination, network, diocese, or fellow pastors for their recommendations.

Depending on which resource you choose, the meeting of these groups should last between 8-12 weeks.

Pulse Check and Keep Going

Once you’ve built momentum, schedule another “family meeting.” (About 3-4 weeks after kickoff will be perfect.) Use this as a pulse check and time for Q&A and feedback from your members. If they love it, keep it going and reemphasize the value of discipleship. If your members have you as their biggest cheerleader, they’ll be more likely to continue.

If the curriculum isn’t resonating with folks, now is the time to assess and maybe pivot. Switching course now is going to be preferable to your people slogging through bad material for three months.


Remember, shepherding your people through crazy times is tough. Seeking to help deepen your flock’s faith through discipleship is going to build a strong foundation. Aim to improve engagement and give them the endurance to weather not only this current storm but any that may come their way.

At Pushpay and Church Community Builder, it’s our desire to help churches better engage with their members, become more efficient at making disciples, and ultimately more effective at fulfilling their missions. We do that with our world-class giving engagement and Church Management Software. Schedule a chat with one of our software experts to see how Pushpay and Church Community Builder can enhance your engagement strategy.

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