Don’t Stop – Embrace the “New” Normal

11/13/2020

By Jane Horstman, Regional Director and Database Manager

The coronavirus may be the greatest technological accelerator in recent history. Now that we’re over the initial shock, it’s time to reevaluate and make plans for permanently sustaining online ministries – even when our doors are open.
 
Every church is vital in our mission to make disciples for the transformation of the world and each congregation needs to celebrate their unique identity, rich history, community relationships and divine calling. However, with the pandemic still going on, we need to acknowledge most people who are not connected with a church are unlikely to attend an in-person experience in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people.
 
Churches cannot wait and hope for things to “go back to normal” or think that in-person services will bring people flocking back. We can’t assume that the things that worked for us in the past will work for us in the future. Nor can we continue to do church the same way we’ve always done church and expect to get different results. If we can come to terms with that, we can begin to look at ministry with new eyes and look at ways to engage the next generation.
 
Since COVID-19 hit, many of our churches met the challenge and pivoted to offering online groups, online worship, etc. That’s a good thing! However, there have also been some challenges:

  • Many churches started replicating their in-person experiences online – even when their in-person strategy wasn’t working.
  • Most of the effort was to accommodate people already connected to the church and not designed to reach new people.
  • There’s no online strategy designed to reach an online audience.
 
Currently, because there are more people who are not being reached than who are, we have to prioritize reaching people digitally. Now more than ever, every church needs to implement a digital marketing strategy/plan, to meet people where they are — online! Your weekend experience is no longer the front door of your church. Your digital ministry is. Who you focus on matters! Who you elevate, celebrate, even target… really matters!
 
Your church’s digital marketing strategy/plan must be an integral part of the whole, not separate from or different than your “real” ministry plan. Digital strategies must be elemental and essential components of what you do to help people take the next step in their relationship with God.
 
Here are three vital components to your digital strategy:
  1. Help people take that first step toward faith. This is your new front door. Be sensitive to “new” people who may check into your online worship. Is your online worship experience seeker friendly? Are you offering an online experience that offers engagement, relevance and life-application to someone who is new? Do you reference things that are foreign to outsiders?
  2. Mobilize your church members to reach other people in their lives – their neighbors, friends and family, finding ways to help them along the discipleship path.
  3. Clarify who you want to reach, then design a strategy specifically for your online audience. Who are they? What challenges, opportunities and needs do they face in their day-to-day lives? Nurture online connection, engagement and relationships. Leverage online tools, content and clear next steps to connect.
But most importantly, don’t stop offering online experiences once you resume in-person worship!
 
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
There are many resources at your fingertips from a number of sources. Here’s a few:
 
Mississippi Conference Website Resources  
United Methodist Communications Resources

Learn digital ministry skills - The United Methodist Communications have developed a series of Local Church Learning Sessions to support local United Methodist churches now and into the future. Learn more here.

Develop a church marketing plan – If your congregation needs guidance about how to reach out to your community effectively, turn to the free Church Marketing Plan Tool. This resource will lead your team through a research, vision, strategy and implementation process as you create a customized, realistic marketing plan. Learn more here.
 
PODCAST: Live Streaming Tips with Kathryn Price, video producer at United Methodist Communications
Local Church Learning Sessions: Technology for Worship, Small Groups and Giving
 
Enroll today for a Video Editing for Churches class with United Methodist Communications. In addition to learning how to edit your videos, learn how to use technology you already own and a few accessories to record the very best videos possible. Online Course. Cost: Free
 
If you would like additional information about any of these topics or to see additional resources from faith community formation, please visit our webpage or contact Jane Horstman at jhorstman@mississippi-umc.org or Jason Zebert at jzebert@mississippi-umc.org.
 

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The Mississippi Annual Conference—empowered by love, generosity, justice and apprenticeship—forms spiritual leaders, faith communities and connections so more disciples of Jesus Christ transform the world.
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