The coronavirus has affected churches nationally and around the world. Many, or it might even be accurate to say, most churches are not having physical services at their church building.
Many of these churches are offering their services online. And with free tools like YouTube and Facebook Live, it has made it possible for all churches to stream or post their worship service, no matter the size or budget of the church.
From the reports that are coming out, churches may have to continue only offering digital, online worship for several months. This includes online worship for adults and many churches are also offering online worship services for kids.
Moving forward, it is undeniable that digital, online church is and will continue to play a key role in how many believer's worship. It is definitely, even if it's small percentage, competition for attending services in person at a church building.
And with on demand, people have almost unlimited choices when it comes to listening to a pastor. Before online services were a thing, sermon content was pretty much limited to a live church service. But not now. People can sit in the comfort of their home and listen to the top pastors in the world. On demand sermons and discipleship tools are available every day of the week.
George Barna recently released a report about this. He ask those he polled how often they use Christian materials and spiritual resources outside of of their local church. Tools include radio, ebooks, podcasts, social media, television and streaming / on demand video content. Here are some of the findings...
Yes, it is amazing to have all the resources and content we can access today. But the big question is this.
"Can digital church take the place of being present for teaching and worship at a physical church building?"
When surveyed, half of believers who engage with digital content and online services, say they occasionally rely on this instead of attending church in person. 13% said they do this often.
Among Millennials, who are the parents of the kids in your ministry, the percentages of engaging in church online is higher. 34% say they often replace church attendance with other forms of spiritual content. Often they are seeking to deepen their faith and seek out additional resources outside of a local church. Some say these digital services and tools are a substitute for church attendance.
This trend may reflect the culture that young parents and their children have grown up in. They have always been fully immersed in a digital world. While previous generations had to learn and adapt to technology, this new generation of parents and their children have grown up with it. For them, it is as natural as breathing.
As we continue to engage with technology, younger believers will produce new tools for spiritual growth, faith deepening and sharing their faith with others.
The church must not only embrace some of these methods, but also jump in and help create them.
I often use the illustration of a McDonald's kid's meal. Kid's meals have been around since the 1960's. 60 or so years later, they are still used with great success.
Here's why. The food has pretty much stayed the same, but how the food is packaged changes to stay relevant with the current kids' culture. If Superman is hot in the culture, then they will use that theme on the box that holds the food. If Wonder-woman is popular, they will use that theme on the box.
This illustration gives us a comparable look at the church. Our food...our message...the Gospel...the Bible...never changes. But how we package it must change so we can continue to connect with the children and young families of today.
If we don't do this, it can become a barrier for reaching kids and families. Just as Jesus used current objects and themes from the culture He lived in, so we must also be willing to change and use current objects and themes from our day.
With the steady rise of digital, online services does it mean we should focus solely on that and forsake physically meeting together with other believers? Of course not.
God's Word still tells us this...
"And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near." Hebrews 10:25.
Digital, online services are a great tool and should be used for specific purposes. But I do not believe it should become a substitute for meeting in person. There is something special about worshiping with other believers, encouraging and being encouraged by others and working together to make an impact for Christ in our world.
I believe balance is the key. We must manage the tension that comes between worshiping in person and worshiping online. I believe it is not an either or, but rather a both and.
I believe both methods can be used by God to make an impact and help believers grow spiritually. We must ask God for wisdom as we seek to get the Gospel out to the world and make disciples. There are some people we will only be able to reach and discipleship using digital, online tools. And there are also some people that will only be reached by them coming to a physical church building for an in person service.
I will say this as I wrap this up. We know that relationship is a big part of reaching and discipling people...especially children. Children grow best when there is a caring leader who knows their name, knows when they are absent, physically looks them in the eyes and prays for them in person It's hard to make that happen online.
What are your thoughts about digital, online worship and teaching?
Will this method continue to become a common way for churches to reach and disciple more people?
Do you think it's a substitute for gathering and worshiping and growing in a service at a physical building?
Do you have any ideas for engaging with children through online kids' worship services?
Share your thoughts, ideas and insight in the comment section below.