Your church building has all the bells and whistles when it comes to the Sunday morning worship experience. Your staff, music, gatherings, and ministries are all amazing. People arrive excited, ready to worship, get fed spiritually, and be in community.
But then they leave. Most will come back for another hour next Sunday, but some might never return.
So what’s a church to do? How can you keep people engaged in the local church? How do you build bridges and relationships with people to reach them with God’s word beyond what’s happening inside the church walls?
The answer is a hybrid church that delivers online services.
With a hybrid church, your ministry reaches people anywhere, at any time, and in any situation. As Carey Nieuwhof describes it, “People will be in the building one week, watching solo online the next, and the third gathering with some friends in a home or (better yet) serving in the community to be the church.”
Although most churches were ready to reset and return to in-person services after the pandemic ended, most church attendees aren’t! In fact, data shows that the hybrid model is here to stay.
- 46% of church goers are either primarily attending online or attending both online and in-person. (Pew Research)
- 67% of respondents say they learn just as much from a streamed message as from an in-person sermon (Lifeway Research)
- 8 in 10 U.S. churches now provide hybrid services, offering options for congregants to worship in person or online (Hartford Institute for Religion Research)
Let’s dive deeper into what a hybrid church looks like and strategies for running an effective hybrid church in 2023.
What is the Hybrid Church Model?
The hybrid church goes by so many other names: digital church, online church, metachurch, omnichannel church, or even “phygital” church. All these terms are used to describe a church experience that blends the physical and digital worlds together for a seamless worship experience. A hybrid church uses technology hand in hand with their in-person church to intentionally open up the ministry to everyone.
Ultimately, a hybrid church uses technology hand in hand with their in-person church to intentionally open up the ministry to everyone.
It’s an approach that fully engages people in a community without necessarily requiring them to step inside a physical building every week. When you do church online, you can include people who are housebound, sick, or far away from your physical campus. Now no matter where they are, people can worship God, form connections, and find hope through prayer.
Whether you’re just getting started with your online campus, or ready to jump into the metaverse, we’ve got some strategies to help make hybrid even more effective at your church.
5 ways to effectively run a hybrid church
There was a time when the Church focused solely on physical ministry. Over the last few years, its put all its energy into digital, learning how to do ministry online. But how can these two methods work together?
Here are 5 ways to connect in-person and online ministry for an effective hybrid church.
1. Put your mission first
Your church’s mission always comes first. It drives everything you do in your ministries, from which events you host to how you spend your annual budget. Things change so quickly in the digital world, but one thing that holds constant is the God-given mission your church has been given.
2. Set out your digital welcome mat
Mark Matlock, Insights Lead at Barna, said, “We know the Church is more than a building. The question is: is virtual church more than a sermon?”
The answer should be yes!
With a hybrid church, you’ve got a new campus for people to gather—online! It combines your website, app, social media, and even digital spaces like the Metaverse. Those digital spaces shouldn’t be an afterthought anymore. It’s time for them to work together as a full-blown, intentional campus, not just a video of Sunday’s sermon.
When was the last time you updated your website? And we don’t just mean uploading the latest sermon series image on the home page. Set aside time to refresh your digital presence and make it as welcoming as your physical building. Your website and church app should reflect your ministry’s values, mission, and faces. They can house information about how you serve your community, what discipleship looks like, and events for people to get connected. Your social media and emails can reinforce Sunday’s message all week long.
3. Stop separating physical from digital
You might be thinking, “Wait, didn’t you just say I needed to be intentional about treating online like its own campus?” Yes, yes, we did.
The beauty of a hybrid church is that people can experience the both/and of your church. The hybrid church model brings together in perfect harmony two incredible types of church into one so the church can have the biggest impact possible.
They can have face-to-face connections and join the community on Facebook. They can visit on-site and online. These different “campuses” work together to deepen engagement and connection in your community.
Connecting physical and digital could look like:
- Livestreaming Sunday’s gatherings online
- Having a Bible study that meets in person and with a Zoom link
- Using a digital connect card for attendees
4. Focus on connection
Ultimately, the goal—whether you’re in person or online—is connection and community. It’s time to shift the focus off of gathering and onto connecting.
We know that Sunday is so important. But there’s something that happens in circles that doesn’t happen in rows. Hybrid ministry lets your church connect people regularly and do everyday life together.
Connecting with people starts with meeting them where they are—with resources, next steps, and ongoing support. Digital forms are a great way to capture information in-person and online, so you can connect with your attendees. Offer a QR code for in-person, and drop the link in the chat for your digital audience. You can use forms to collect information that leads your attendees to the next step, like signing up for a newsletter, a small group, or volunteering. That form submission is their first step into your discipleship process! It’s the perfect opportunity to walk alongside them, giving them resources and relationships as they move from lost to church leader.
5. Be willing to experiment
In an interview, Craig Groeschel, lead pastor at Life.Church said, “I’d rather be wrong trying something than being a critic of something.” While not every church may be ready to dive into the deep end and test out the Metaverse like Life.Church has, you can try new things with the hybrid church model.
Some smaller ways to experiment with hybrid church are:
- Testing different formats for your Sunday sermon stream, mixing live and pre-recorded clips
- Creating a podcast for an extra weekly message
- Automating administrative tasks like sending digital giving statements
- Creating a virtual prayer wall or group for prayer requests
- Sharing discussion guides to keep the conversation going after Sunday’s sermon ends
There are endless possibilities with hybrid church
Whether online, in-person, or somewhere in between, the Church’s opportunities for growth and impact are endless! As you’re engaging with people online, you’re reaching into their comfort zone and bringing the Gospel to them in a way that can transform their lives. We’d be honored to join you in your mission and make hybrid church even easier with the data and tools you need to support your communities.
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