Online Church vs Traditional Church: How to Create a Hybrid Experience
Corporate worship has been an essential function of a church gathering since the first century. In the Epistle to the Colossians, the apostle Paul encourages believers to gather together by “singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
For many churches, the worship portion of a weekly service provides an opportunity for congregant members to re-orientate their minds and hearts around the presence of God after a busy week filled with distractions, anxiety, and work.
Worship can serve other essential functions, as well. Sociologists have found that corporate singing can go a long way in creating feelings of unity and harmony among people of different backgrounds. Additionally, corporate worship styles are incredibly influential factors in determining how a person picks a church home.
However, the past year has placed significant strain on how churches craft meaningful worship experiences for their members and guests participating in their services in-person or at home. Whether we admit it or not, the hybrid church model is here to stay. So, how can a church use technology to empower a hybrid experience without losing sight of their mission or adding to the workload of their staff?
The Right Songs at the Right Moments
Crafting meaningful worship experiences and empowering a hybrid experience begins with equipping your worship team with the best tools. And we’re not talking about instruments (though, those are important too).
Service plans and worship sets can change on a dime in the days leading up to a weekly gathering. No matter the size of your church or congregation, communicating these changes to everyone involved in the production cycle of your worship services can be an inefficient and costly affair. And suppose the changes aren’t communicated effectively. In that case, Sunday morning will likely be an anxiety-ridden and frantic experience for your staff – especially if your church offers in-person gatherings and live-streamed services.
Pastors and worship teams are often caught in the strange tension of adhering to a regular production cycle while also being open to the movement of the Spirit throughout the week. Therefore, church leadership needs to seek out intuitive, replicable, and reliable solutions, but also malleable enough to allow for spontaneity and inspiration.
Because when everyone on stage and behind the scenes is on the same page, it helps create a cohesive experience for your guests that is less likely to be marred by unnecessary distractions, missed cues, and dead air. And as worship services become more elaborate and complicated (especially with the addition of a new online audience), fluidity and clarity in communication will be an integral part of your church’s hybrid experience.
The Money Question
After the pandemic forced many churches to temporarily shift in-person gatherings to online, you could well argue that only two types of churches exist now: Churches that already had an online giving strategy and churches that now have an online giving strategy.
Church finance is often considered taboo, but the pandemic forced the conversation to the forefront of every church leader’s mind. Without an offering plate to pass during service, how were many faithful congregant members going to be able to continue to give? Without a reliable revenue stream, how would the church continue to pay its monthly bills, mortgage payments, employee wages, and operating costs?
Thankfully, the catastrophic decline in charitable giving that many predicted never materialized, but that was due in no small part to technological innovation in the faith-tech sphere that emphasized removing entry barriers to online giving. Undoubtedly, the pandemic served as a wake-up call for many faith communities to take cultural changes in their congregants’ giving habits seriously.
Securing the Future
In an eye-opening Barna Research report conducted in 2020, 52% of millennial churchgoers admitted to relying on podcasts, recorded sermons, and other digital media instead of attending a traditional in-person worship gathering “about half the time” or “often.”
Comparing these results of the same question posed to Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, it’s obvious younger generations are more likely to look to digital resources to supplement their church experience – and, in some cases, replace it entirely.
Most churches’ goal is to create disciples within their local communities through in-person gatherings – like a weekly worship service or small group. However, most people don’t visit a local church “out of the blue” anymore – they visit the church’s website, download the app, listen to a few archived sermons, and explore their social media presence.
It’s easy to see this generational development as a handicap, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Crafting an inviting and engaging digital presence has never been easier, and you can leverage this strategy and technology to empower a hybrid experience that can connect with more people within and outside your church’s traditional reach.
Online Church vs Traditional Church: Hybrid Church Examples
Interested in hearing how other churches have been empowering hybrid experiences this past year? During Church Disrupt 2021, Church leaders and staff came together to discuss the future of Church and creative ways to solve ministry challenges. During the Digital Discipleship breakout session, our panelists talked through their tips for creating the best hybrid Sunday experiences.
Hear how Timberlake Church, Churchome, and Real Life Church leaned more on digital strategies such as custom church apps, social media platforms, and ChMS tools to provide them with the feedback and data they need to support their communities.
Watch this free session and more by heading to our Church Disrupt website.