Your church is finding their new rhythm.

Whether your state or county has restrictions on public gatherings or wearing masks, you are attempting to find a new rhythm for your church. This includes how to do ministry on the weekends with live in-person services, mid-week gatherings, ongoing classes, and ministry to families. The list does not end there, as no one knows where Coronavirus will leave the Church once it is done with its people. While the looking glass is cloudy right now, I want to give you one proven tactic to increasing engagement now and improving discipleship forever.

Launching online courses creates healthy churches.

I have recently walked two more churches through the development and launch of new courses for their church. Newbreak Church has launched a Next Steps course, an Introduction to Faith and Newbreak, that seeks to answer questions people have about Christianity and how it plays out in community at Newbreak. Crosspointe Church launched 40 Days to Spiritual Growth as a complement class to their new weekend sermon series, as they also launch in-person services in Anaheim and Ventura. By creating online courses for their churches churches, they have introduced a new way to learn that is easily accessible by their audience.

"Do you have a desire to grow in your faith but don’t know what to do next? Our Next Steps Class is a quick, 4-session video course meant to share with you the heart-beat of Newbreak Church. By learning about who we are, we hope to empower you to have clear and tangible next steps to act as a catalyst for your faith. The things we will discuss in these video modules are something that is perennially important to us, reminding us of who we are and keeping our target in aim as we go on month-by-month and year-by-year."

"The REBOUND Course is for all of us who have missed the goal in life. "Missing it" can come in many different varieties such as a relationship miss, a financial miss, missing the mark in your recovery. The 40 day spiritual growth journey will walk you through FIVE Spiritual Positions to Rebound: Confession, Resilience, Pleasing God, Support, and Prioritization. These Biblical principles will move you from merely surviving to thriving."

Online courses are your new best friend.

If your church wants to remain healthy and grow in and out of a pandemic, you need to find a way that respects your audience's time and space. The average committed church member would have given you a max of four hours a week to your church, but that was pre-Covid. No one knows how much time and space your audience will be willing to give you moving forward. Our objective then will be to reduce impact on our people, and maximize impact when we are in-person.

Here's the scenario I want to think through with you:

  • You have a new member's class at your church.
  • That new member's class is a four week class.
  • Each class takes 90 minutes in-person on-campus, not including travel time.
  • This equals no less than a total load of 360 minutes on a person.
  • This does not consider how people feel about meeting in-person.

But what if your church takes things online?

  • Your new member class is a four lesson course.
  • Each lesson is a 15 minute video with short responses to questions.
  • Every lesson would be a 30 minute load on each user.
  • These lessons would be taken at their convenience.
  • Once the course is completed, you meet in-person for one hour, as a way to affirm their progress.
  • There is a time savings of 50% (180 compared to 360), if you include the in-person meeting.

Both scenarios work, but only one scenario gives you a way forward that respects time and space, as well as how people are learning in their respective contexts. Online learning is not the wave of the future, but the here and now. How your church adapts to this fact will determine how you move forward as a healthy church, able to fide the waves as culture ebbs and flows.

How can you use an online course?

Start by viewing how Newbreak and Crosspointe are engaging their audiences, and then think through this with you. Once you have done that, consider your objectives and what your end goals may be. Write it all down, and then think through these three ideas and see how it applies to your context:

Welcome to ____________ (a 3 lesson course for a new to your church user).

You can discuss your history, your mission purpose, and how you are working to move forward as an effective church in your community. Use this lesson as a foundation for your church, something you can use to model all other courses off of. Oh yeah; don't take yourselves too seriously.

So you want to be baptized (a 2 week course for a new believer)?

Discuss how baptism plays a role in the life of a believer, how it reflects an internal decision in an external way, and how we do it at ____________ Church. In addition to the baptism course, add on a bonus lesson that helps people shape their testimonial story.

Black Lives Matter (a six lesson course that seeks to show the value of Black lives).

Discuss the historical role of slavery in the church, the role early American church theologians played, what is happening in the church currently and how racial injustice is systemic, and what your church is doing today to understand and adjust as you move forward as a healthy church that represents and respects all life.

How will you use an online course?

I have provided examples in Newbreak and Crosspointe, as well as three additional examples that can work for your church. But maybe you have more ideas. Maybe this was just the idea you needed to start a conversation in your church about how you can move forward. Online courses are pandemic proof and future ready. You can and should start thinking about how you will serve your people, on their terms, respecting their time and space, and elevating the value of meeting in-person.