In this episode, how churches can move beyond creating one-way digital content to be consumed, to creating a thriving digital community where people can belong.

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Included in this episode:

  1. What is the most exciting church marketing conversation right now?
  2. How do churches move from just creating digital content consumers to creating a thriving digital community where people belong?
  3. What are the characteristics of a digital community that makes it distinct from digital content? 
  4. What do we do if no one engages with the church?

1) What is the most exciting church marketing conversation right now?

Every single leader of a local church has had to consider, “How do we reach our community in new ways?”  We can’t rely on old ways anymore, and this past year has accelerated this transition for churches resistant to change.

Overnight, leadership became interested in what communications/marketing/creative staff have been trying to get them to do for years — and social media is at the top of the list.  Communications/marketing people have been invited to the leadership table.

So the most important (and most exciting!) question we’re facing now is, “How do churches create a thriving digital community where people belong?”

2) How do churches move from just creating digital content consumers to creating a thriving digital community where people belong?

What our world needs now is not more content to binge, but a community where they can belong! Churches have figured out how to make digital content.  Now we need to make it a digital community- and that is vastly different.

A lot of churches are being led by people who are not digital natives — they understand one-way digital content because they grew up with radio and TV so understand the “broadcast approach,” but that approach is really decades old.

3) What are the characteristics of a digital community that makes it distinct from digital content?

Do a self-analysis — are you creating one-way content or are you creating community? Here are some questions to ask yourself:

Does your livestream capture what’s happening in a sanctuary? If so, that’s one-way content. You are creating content but you’re not building community.  If this keeps going, you will plateau with people engaging and being discipled.

Are the people you’re trying to serve actually engaging with you? Look for many people-to-many people interactions, rather than one person speaking to the masses. To create online community, you need dialogue back and forth.

What is your word Usage?: i.e., “thanks for watching — “watching” is a content or consume word, and puts you in same arena as Netflix or Hulu.  Change it to say “thanks for gathering; thanks for worshipping with us” — “gathering” and “worshipping” are community words.

This is nothing new- we’re operating under the same principle in the New Testament — yes, content, but always in the context of community.  Letters of New Testament written to be delivered in the context of community — learn together; content is meant to help a community thrive.

We need to take this seriously as churches, so we don’t become content creators.  What our world needs now is not more content to binge, but a community where they can belong!

4) What do we do if no one engages with the church?

Start with your experience: How is your experience being designed? If it’s designed for content, people are unlikely to interact, and it will be very hard to change that.

As an example, think about website development:  Years ago, people designed for the desktop experience.  Now?  The majority of people access over mobile devices. Websites are now designed first to fit in the mobile world and second in desktop.

We need to have the same approach with church experiences.  Design first with a digital audience and community in mind, and content and in-person experience second.  Step back and redesign to create an experience that, from the beginning, is designed to build community from the way it is experienced. Here’s where you need to start:

  • Every 5 minutes, have a call to action that makes sense for both audiences.  For example, a service host could say, “For those of you worshipping with us online, go ahead and let us know where you’re gathering with us from.  For those gathering with us in person, break out your phone, go to YouTube or Facebook to our feed and invite your friends, because they are one-second away from worshipping with you today.”
  • Keep doing that throughout the entire service
  • Make sure you have leaders leading the way– (staff, volunteers, hospitality team, board, pastors, etc.).  Leaders always set the pace.
  • Assign folks to help engage the community online.  If it’s no one’s job, it won’t get done.

What’s  Next on the CMU Podcast:

Bonus episode — John-Erik Moser Commencement Charge to CMU’s first graduating class. It will challenge you and strengthen you in your Kingdom work.

Ryan Wakefield Church Marketing University

Ryan is the founder of Church Marketing University, where he helps churches all over the world get more visitors each week. He and his wife, Amy, and daughter, Katelyn, are a part of read more

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