How Online Church Can Grow Your Physical Church

One thing you may be wondering, discussing, or even worrying about is: Does an online church actually grow the physical church?

The exciting conclusion from this data: yes! The online church is actually growing the physical church exponentially, which Vanderbloemen and Jay Kranda learned in their 2018 survey of online and digital church leaders. The results of the survey are analyzed in The State of the Online Church free ebook. Spoiler alert: The data shows is that it’s possible to reach someone in your online church and start them on a journey to becoming an in-person member.

Online member to in-person member

Church leadership may be worried or concerned that support for online ministry will result in a diminishing presence in in-person ministry. But the truth is, online church ministry reaches a different demographic that collaborates with the in-person ministry. Through community and fellowship, resources, content, preaching, and interaction, people come to understand the Gospel and engage in person.

This process starts off with some well-known forms of content your church might be using right now, like social media, ebooks, podcast sermons, online curriculum, and virtual community groups. These play important roles in online ministry. As people watch more and more of your church’s online sermons, they may decide to join one of the community group that meets nearby. Once they feel settled into the group, they may then read your online curriculum to deepen their faith journey.  Finally, as they become committed members of the church, the discipleship process continues as they live and work out their faith with other members of your church community.

The question isn’t whether or not online ministry will compete with your physical church. The question instead is: How can digital media and ministry reach people that wouldn’t otherwise be reached? How can an online ministry collaborate with and support the local church in moving the hope of the Gospel farther and faster out into the world?

How are churches taking attendance from online to offline?

  • 51% of the churches are considering using online ministry to launch future churches and multisite locations—17% are already embracing this strategy.
  • 58% of the churches said “100% agree online ministry is helpful to their church.”
  • 35% of the churches said “75% helpful, but still unsure how it’s helpful.”
  • 59% of the churches have seen physically growth since launching their online ministry.
  • 75% have reported people attend online first, then show up in person.

The local church isn’t going anywhere. Online streaming will not stop the need for local churches all around the world. Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google or any future addition to the digital monopolies cannot detour God’s Bride. Online ministry is an amazing first impression ministry for your local church. Technology, boosted by the decentralized nature of the internet, can enlarge your church and the global church.

Driving growth of the local church

vanderbloemen graph

Here’s how online church impacted physical attendance at the churches surveyed.

Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, provides some powerful insight about how a personal computer in the hands of every person could positively disrupt the future.

“I remember reading an article when I was twelve years old. I think it might have been in Scientific American. They measured the efficiency of locomotion for all these species on planet Earth, how many kilocalories did they expend to get from point A to point B. The Condor won, came in at the top of the list, surpassed everything else, and humans came in about a third of the way down the list, which was not such a great showing for the crown of creation. But somebody there had the imagination to test the efficiency of a human riding a bicycle.

Human riding a bicycle blew away the Condor all the way off the top of the list, and it made a really big impression on me that we humans are tool builders and that we can fashion tools that amplify these inherent abilities that we have to spectacular magnitudes. So for me a computer has always been a bicycle of the mind something that takes us far beyond our inherent abilities. I think we’re just at the early stages of this tool. Very early stages and we’ve come only a very short distance and it’s still in its formation but already we’ve seen enormous changes. I think that’s nothing compared to what’s coming in the next hundred years.”

The personal computer wasn’t created to replace humans. The device from the beginning could—and would—expand humans’ potential. Jobs saw this future. In the same way, the online church can expand the potential of churches to spread the Gospel. It’s not a replacement for the local church; rather, it can have a positive future impact on the Kingdom.

If you’re exploring what your church’s online church strategy should be, download The State of the Online Church ebook, a resource by Vanderbloemen, Pushpay, and JayKranda.com.

state of the online church