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Online Tools to Foster Community

by | Mar 16, 2020

We are all just trying to figure out how to navigate this temporary new normal. For many churches, online ministry was a distant dream or thought. Suddenly, it’s one of the few options available.

If you’re not familiar with using online tools for ministry, this can feel overwhelming. Especially, when you feel like you have to figure it out ASAP.

First, take a breath. You’re not alone. You don’t have to be perfect out of the gate. Pick one or two ways to connect and just dive in. It’s ok to learn as you go.

Here are a few tools you might use to help connect people and foster community in this difficult time.

 

Go live, but not just for worship

  • Pastors and other ministry leaders should go live for 15-30min per day and engage your church and community. People are isolated and need human interaction. They need you to show up with loads of empathy and calm their fears and minister to them.
  • Do this via Facebook and Instagram Live. You can do both at once easily by setting up 2 devices next to each other. One on Instagram live and one on Facebook live.
  • Assign a 2nd person to manage the comments if you can and provide instant engagement there as you’re speaking.
  • Don’t just preach. Ask questions and answer questions. Call people by name as they enter the stream and when you’re responding to their question or comment. Do some fun live-polling and get realtime responses. Consider it a conversation.

Use Zoom to create small group gatherings.

  • Zoom allows many people at once to meet together. Everyone has the ability to be seen and heard from different locations.
  • Each person can sign into a Zoom video call using their computer or phone. The host will create and schedule a call and each attendee will be emailed directions for connecting.
  • Share call login info on social media or by email for people to join
  • This can create sort of a virtual living room feel with everyone huddled on their own couch with their phone or laptop sharing the highs and lows of the day or week.

Set up a Facebook Group for your church, small groups and ministries.

  • Through your church’s Facebook page, you can create private groups for people to join. These are great for ongoing discussion and engagement.
  • Post regular questions and thoughts for people to respond to. Check in on folks who are in the group. Share how days are going and what challenges and successes each person is having with this new normal.
  • You can go live to just an individual group. Let folks see your face! Reassure them.
  • Make sure to push casual interaction in groups, but also consider doing Bible studies, book studies, etc.
  • When you create new groups, make sure to inform people of it by email, text, and posting on your page. You can also individually invite friends to join.
  • Groups can be totally open, or locked down and private with people having to request entry.

Record messages to post to YouTube, Social Media, and send by email.

  • Utilize tools like your phone and apps like Loom to record messages.
    • With Loom, you can record yourself giving a message and it uploads to your Loom account. Then, you can get a link to the video to send out, or an embed code to add the video to your website. Skip YouTube all together if it’s easier for you!
  • Record a short (few minutes) message to inspire, give hope, or calm fears, and post it to your social media accounts.
  • You don’t always need to go live. Sometimes recording and posting is the best way to go.
  • Post directly to sites like Facebook and Instagram.
  • You don’t need a huge production. Just sit in a decently well lit area of your home or office and speak to people’s uncertainty and fear. Tell a funny story. You’re a pastor, you know what to do!

A good old fashioned email or blog posts

  • Don’t knock more traditional forms of communications. Write daily devotionals and other messages to your congregation and neighbors. Publish them on your website and/or send them by email. Again, provide inspiration, comfort, and hope.

Group Facetime

  • Did you know that you can do a group Facetime? You have to have certain models of Apple devices and certain iOS/OS versions, but this is a decent option as well. Find instructions here.

Group Texts and Messages

  • Have small groups schedule 30min once a week to hold a group text or group message.
  • You can do this by group text, group Facebook message, or group Instagram message.

Don’t worry about being perfect. Just connect with people any way you can.

Different methods will work better for different situations and groups. If you have small groups, let them decide what works best for them.

Are there other tools or methods that are working for your church? Leave a comment here or on social media and let us know.

We’re all just figuring this out together so no shame in any of us not having all the answers. Don’t forget, these are great tools to use year-round. Trying them now and finding out what works for your context will make you stronger once life returns to normal.

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