8 Ways to Battle Screen Fatigue and Declining Digital Attendance
This COVID-19 season is lasting much longer than we all had hoped. What we thought might be weeks has turned into months with continued uncertainty, due to a rebound in cases and the potential for new viruses. It looks like digital isn’t going away anytime soon. Many churches are reporting that screen fatigue is settling in. If your viewer numbers are declining, here are a few ideas to reignite the enthusiasm for online church.
(These ideas can also be used for hybrid churches — meeting in person but still online for people not quite ready to come back in person.)
1. Redeem it!
Did you have a weekend where online attendance tanked? Don’t give up. Rather, look for ways to redeem it. Take Monday and Tuesday and invite people to attend digitally through email, text, in a FB group, and as a post on your page. Recap the message, or edit it into a service clip to capture additional viewership.
Example: “If you weren’t able to make it to church this weekend, you can get caught up here (with link to service)”.
2. Don’t leave online attendance to chance!
One of the best ways to build your online attendance is to build your digital volunteer teams. Roster leadership and volunteers to host online services — give them specific instructions on how to welcome and engage viewers during the service. Consider building a variety of digital teams: prayer, hospitality, info center, follow-up, kids, students, etc. These teams will help you build your attendance while also providing a much better digital experience for everyone.
Example: Assign at least one person to repeat message points and Scripture in the comments. Assign another person to put connection, offering, and prayer request links in the comments when they are mentioned in the service.
CMU members can find more information and resources in our Coronavirus Course.
3. Switch it up!
Does it feel like you have hit a digital rut? It seems like the digital shelf life is shorter than in person. For example, your church may use the same stage design for a year in your auditorium. But in digital the exact same setting may have your audience feeling like they’ve “seen that episode” already. So mix it up more frequently with digital. Use a new setting, a different service format, or change up the series — and let people know things will be a little different by including snippets or teasers in your service promotions.
4. Add something fun to the mix!
Create some mystery and build excitement for your weekend services. Late-night television shows do a great job with this approach, keeping their audiences tuning in. You want people to feel like they never know what they might miss if they skip a weekend.
Example: pre-service trivia, swag or coffee card give-away, or something that will up the engagement and remind people how good it is to be part of your community.
Example: Youth pastor getting his first haircut throughout the service – “We’ll keep checking in to see how it’s progressing.”
5. Acknowledge it!
Sometimes the most healthy thing leadership can do is address digital fatigue head-on. So, don’t ignore it. Instead, talk about it, teach on it, and recast the vision of keeping your community together and continuing to disciple people even/especially during this time of isolation. A video from the pastor, speaking his/her heart on the desire to stay connected even when it’s hard, could be emailed and posted on FB during the week.
Example: Communicate ‘road trip mentality’ — we all agree that the destination (in-person gatherings) is going to be great but the journey along the way can be a lot of fun (and provide a lot of growth) as well.
Example: “Thank you so much, [church name] fam, for making this possible and supporting our ministry in so many ways. We know the last thing you want to do right now is look at ANOTHER screen, write ANOTHER comment, or give online ANOTHER week. And we really can’t say enough to let you know how happy we are that we’re still on this journey together. Your faithfulness is what makes our ministry opportunities possible!
6. Incentivize social shares for ministry!
Give people a reward for sharing that benefits a ministry you partner with. At the beginning of service (and in advance promotion for the service) announce a sharing incentive — make a donation to a partner ministry for every share during the live feed.
Example: Charles Scheffe shared this idea from his church in our Church Marketers Facebook Group:
This weekend we did the Sharing is Caring Challenge. For every share of our live feed on fb we would donate $5 to a partner inside the Navajo Nation to help with the Covid Crisis there. Here is the result:
It blew my mind!
We averaged almost 100 live viewers (normal average is 40/45).
Had 150 shares.
The post has nearly 3k views and a reach of 10,000!
It is the best $750 of marketing I have spent!
7. Highlight the silver linings!
Share some of the positives of the necessity to be online while inviting people to participate and engage online.
Example: Use a screenshot of your comments section on your stream, or drop pins on Google Maps to show all the areas people are watching from to show people how your church is reaching farther and having MORE of an impact than ever before! Add a call-to-action asking people to think about who they can invite now that physical proximity isn’t a consideration.
Example: Encourage reflection & prayer. If people are bored because of the COVID-19 restrictions, encourage them to use this time to get used to silence, in-depth study, and more reflective spiritual disciplines.
8. Communicate it!
You’d be surprised how many people don’t see your posts immediately. Use cross-communication channels as reminders and as ways to point back to previously posted / recorded content.
Example: Try sending a text beforehand, diving deeper into the sermon through an email devotional, and posting recaps and shorter clips of the service to different social media channels throughout the week. You have a lot of communication options! This is your permission to play around with them to see what works now.
Looking for other resources related to online and/or hybrid church? Check out these guides: