Understanding how to exist in the online space as a church is challenging. Should you post your same church service online? Should you try to follow all the trends and forget everything your church has been doing?
Realistically, sometimes, it’s about creating something new and other times, it’s about revamping what you already have.
Adapting time-tested ideas to the digital space is something we like to think of it as “digital op-shopping”.
If you’re not familiar with op-shopping, think of it like going to a thrift store or going vintage shopping. It’s when something old is given new life, remixed, revamped, revived and renewed.
In this article, we’ll share several ways your church can take some of its time-tested ideas and adapt them to the digital space.
We’d love to hear from you too! Share your ideas in the comment section.
1. Praying live on social media
Each Sabbath morning, at about 7:00 AM New Zealand time, NZPUC Union President Pr Eddie Tupa’i goes live on the Union’s Facebook page and chooses a scripture to pray through.
During this time, he engages with people who are watching online and prays throughout his live stream.
Engaging in prayer is at the heart of our Christian faith. Finding ways to do this regularly, consistently and in a live format can be impactful for the people you minister to online.
How Your Church Can Use This Idea: You can take prayer requests and go live on your church’s Facebook page, Youtube channel and Instagram accounts. Let your church members know you’ll be going live at the specified day and time; make it a regular practice so people expect you there.
The North American Division’s show Let’s Pray offers us an example of how this might work.
Let’s Pray shares a phone number on the screen and talks with the people on-air . Then, they follow up the conversation with a prayer.
You can do a simple version of this and take requests during the week that are e-mailed or messaged in. Show up each week and pray for the requests you receive live or the ones you’ve received throughout the week.
The most important part is the prayer.
What do you think? How might your church incorporate something like this online?
2. Online prayer meeting on social media
Another option for praying online can be to make the prayer session more like a prayer meeting that has multiple people on the screen. This can be done through a platform like Zoom or Streamyard streamed on to Facebook or Youtube.
How Your Church Can Use This Idea: Entering a Zoom room can seem like an overly intimate, intimidating experience for people, especially if they’re new to your church. Seeing you pray online on one of your social media platforms can make your church seem more accessible. Also, your prayer session may be the first step of awareness someone people may have about your church community and this may be an encouragement for them to get to know and engage further with your church.
Additionally, having a live prayer service may be a great, non-threatening event for your church members to share on their social media platforms.
3. Zoom rooms for prayer
In our previous examples we talked about the benefits of public prayer. When it comes to developing community and prayer consistency, private group prayers can be powerful and Zoom rooms create an ideal environment.
One example of this can be seen from the Sydney Adventist Women at their annual gathering.
During the event, they created specific Zoom rooms for prayer. Each room focused on a specific topic.
Similarly, the Iowa-Missouri Conference has a weekly prayer line each Monday, which provides a space for more intimate, group prayer within a specific community.
How Your Church Can Use This Idea: Your church can schedule a regular prayer session each week and advertise it on its social media accounts.
A good way to interest people would be to share some answers to prayer on your social media account. Also, you can share quotes and resources about what prayer is and the power of prayer. This will give you the opportunity to invite people to your Zoom session for prayer.
This idea gives you the chance to think of how prayer can be used as an opportunity to invite people into community with your church while also providing community to your church members.
4. Teaming up with a prayer partner
Matthew 18:20 tells us where two or three are gathered, God is there with them. When considering time-tested ideas, praying in groups is biblical and powerful.
How Your Church Can Use This Idea: Your church can offer ways for people to find a prayer partner, pray with a group of people or regularly pray for prayer requests that come in.
In doing this, you can create a sign-up box or a matching system. You can even make it a practice to regularly offer people the opportunity to pray with someone.
While it may seem easy on the surface to find a prayer partner, some people need a third party to help facilitate these relationships for them. Your church may be in the perfect position to play the role of connecting people or of regularly inviting people to participate in group prayer meetings.
5. Small groups in home
LifeSpring Adventist Church in Florida is using the time-tested idea of home groups to engage with the online space. (You can read more about them in the article about “How One Church is Doubling Their Engagement from Cell Groups.”
LifeSpring calls these small groups cells, and they invite people to choose trusted people they want to be in a cell group with. These groups keep in touch with each other during the week and also are encouraged to watch the “screenings” or Sabbath morning church services together.
The screenings have moments where the service pauses and invites the participants to engage around a discussion or interact with one another on the topic being discussed.
LifeSpring Church is describing these groups as being places where mission will be recaptured. They say, “mission is both proclamation of the Gospel by inviting your neighbors, your co-workers, and your family into your disicpleship cell, and it is also the demonstration of the gospel.”
How Your Church Can Use This Idea: Your church can develop its own small groups where people can engage during the week as well as on Sabbath. If it fits your church, you can find moments to pause during the service for interaction among the people in attendance in a small group or at home.
You can also use the time after the church service or screening to engage in discussion with small groups about the sermon. This method is similar to the one used by the community at Kellyville Church.
6. Virtual visitations
One of the core parts of our faith is the encouragement of one another. Hebrews 10:25 says, “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.”
Due to some of the social distancing requirements, visitations can be challenging and restricted. John Boston, Associate Director of Evangelism for the North American Division shared a simple idea of engaging in “digital pastoral visits.”
This could involve regularly reaching out to your online community and offering to chat, have prayer or just check-in.
How Your Church Can Use This Idea: Your church can encourage its members to reach out in this way on their social media pages. Similarly, churches can regularly post on their social media accounts that someone at the church is available for in-person and virtual visits.
7. Shop for people
Because of technology, shopping for others is something you can do from any location, and it is a great, time-tested ministry for your church.
How Your Church Can Use This Idea: Your church can have a place where people can state their needs privately and then find members who are able to help them.
If you find out someone needs groceries, you can go online, order the groceries and have them delivered to their home.
Alternatively, you can buy the things the person needs and drop them by their home. This idea is good because it allows you to live in community and care for those people around you.
Your church can engage its online community in this initiative by letting them know your church can help them. Also, you can let people know that they have the opportunity to help others.
8. Food pantries
Many churches are running food pantries to meet the needs of their local community. This ministry can be time, resource and volunteer demanding so, there are various ways your church can get involved.
How Your Church Can Use This Idea: If your church has a food pantry, find opportunities to communicate to your online community the needs the pantry has, like donations, time from volunteers and help with advertising.
If you’re looking to advertise the pantry to your online community, create regular posts to direct people to the pantry and its hours of operation.
If your church doesn’t have its own food pantry, your can take the opportunity to regular promote the local pantry to provide the resource to your community.
9. Discovery Centre
Studying the Bible and positioning ourselves to hear from God through His word is one of the most important functions of a church. Finding new ways to share Bible study, which is a time-tested idea, presents a new opportunity.
How Your Church Can Use This Idea: One way you can do this is to share specific Bible study courses from the Discovery Centre and other similar ministries.
Additionally, you can run a Bible study at your church and invite people to participate in it. The Bible study can be run directly on your social media page or in a more private setting like Zoom.
There’s even the opportunity to run a hybrid version that combines an in-person element along with an option to attend virtually through one of the online platforms.
Because a closed group may allow you to have deeper discussions, you maybe a a bite-sized Bible study on your public page and then invite people to go deeper with you in the regular small group study.
If you’re like many people, you have great memories of songs being sung at camporees, church services, Adventist Youth programs and summer camps.
What if your church took this time-tested idea and found an opportunity to share music online?
Sandra Entermann and Fox Valley Church show ways you can engage in the online space with music. Both Sandra, as an individual and Fox Valley, as a church, take song requests and sing them live on camera.
How Your Church Can Use This Idea: If your church is musically inclined, you can host your own Singspiration, however, if this would be a challenge for your church, then find a sing-a-long like Fox Valley’s or Sandra Entermann’s and share it on your social media platforms.
One of the most challenging activities to carry out in the virtual space is concerts. Nonetheless, the Ontario Conference of Seventh-day Adventists shared a virtual Concert experience on their Youtube channel, which included almost two hours of singing, playing and harmonising.
How Your Church Can Use This Idea: Similar to the idea about online song services, if your church is musically inclined, you can host your own concert. However, if this would be a big feat, share someone else’s concert or find a place where you can participate in a concert that’s already taking place.
12. Virtual Communion
With the requirements of social distancing, many churches, like Manna Park Church, took to carrying out their communion services online. Recipes were shared with members on how to make the communion bread and and the service was carried out online.
How Your Church Can Use This Idea: Whether your church is meeting in person or a combination of in-person and virtual, you can use this idea to make sure all of your members are included in the communion service. The key is to notify members in advance so they’re aware of the various ways to participate in the communion service.
Seventh-day Adventist Churches have been long-known for helping communities with healthy lifestyle practices. In many churches this ministry is called Health Ministries.
This time-tested idea has an opportunity to make a big impact for your church in the online space.
The Complete Health Improvement Program (CHIP) is typically run in-person at a church over a span of time.
The program guides participants through health principles and encourages them to make lifestyle shifts that will impact their overall health.
CHIP is developing the possibility that these programs can be run online.
How Your Church Can Use This Idea: To run a CHIP program at your local church, you need to be trained as a CHIP facilitator. If you’ve received training to be CHIP facilitator, additional training will be provided on how you might operate the program online or as a hybrid online/in-person program. To learn more, you can contact the CHIP Organisation.
14. Cooking Demonstrations and Health Seminars
Grace Community Seventh-day Adventist Church‘s Health Ministry refers to itself as Grace Fit. The ministry shares on the church’s Facebook page by demonstrating healthy principles, such as,
Your church can use some of these ideas as inspiration for energising your church’s online Health Ministry.
How Your Church Can Use This Idea: You can engage your church’s Health ministries to share tips around healthy living that can be shared on your church’s social media accounts. This can be an exercise program, gardening, healthy eating and even mental health tips. If your church doesn’t have a Health ministries department, you can share the content of other church’s health ministries or the tips from other online resources.
15. Depression & Anxiety Programs
Depression & Anxiety programs can provide mental and emotional freedom for people in your community.
And now, there’s the possibility to run this program online. You can learn more from our interview with Andrew Jasper from the Victorian Conference.
As you’re watching, you can note that one of the major highlights of the interview is that the results from the online Depression & Anxiety program were similar to those who have participated in the program in person.
How Your Church Can Use This Idea: If your church is interested in running a Depression & Anxiety Program, you can start by looking up information on Dr. Neil Nedley’s website to learn more about his philosophy.
To run the program, you must take facilitator’s training, which is typically offered by the Health Director at your local Conference office.
If offering the full program is out of reach for your church, you can provide supporting posts on your social media account about how to deal with anxiety and depression and point your community in the direction of another Depression & Anxiety Program or another local service.
You can also direct individuals to the Dr. Neil Nedley online course that’s offered directly by the Neil Nedley organisation.
One of the most challenging things to do online in an effective way is Children’s Ministry. Even still, many ministries have been adapting and finding way to engage their youth and children using time-tested ways in the online space.
16. Pathfinders & Adventurers
Greater Sydney Conference has been offering online options for the Pathfinders and Adventurers, from online honor classes to online camporees and gatherings.
How Your Church Can Use This Idea: Your church can share tidbits from the Pathfinder and Adventurer program to engage and excite kids and their parents. Then you can use calls to action to invite them to join your Pathfinder and Adventurer clubs.
Another idea is you can also share photos from previous Pathfinder and Adventurer events to allow people to reminisce, and also invite the Pathfinder and Adventurer leaders to make guest appearance on the social media pages. And, if your Conference office or Union is sharing Pathfinder or Adventurer activity, you can share it on your church’s social media accounts.
17. Story time online
Some churches and schools have been taking the opportunity to share stories online.
Ben and Herlin Fehlberg from Kellyville Church in New South Wales have created elaborate lego sets and scenes with their son’s toys and have shared beautiful stories for the church’s Sabbath morning service. These stories have then been shared on their Youtube Channel.
How Your Church Can Use This Idea: Invite your church’s most engaging story teller to come on camera and share story with the kids. They can read the story from a book, use a set, like the Fehlbergs or even engage their stuffed animals or pets. The main idea is to create something parents can share with their kids.
If this idea is too far out of reach, you can find the church’s Sabbath School pages or the pages of other churches and share their kids’ content on your social media accounts.
Radio and podcasting are effective ways to create community and share meaningful messages. They require less bandwidth than video content, and radio is accessible even when there isn’t electricity.
There are many possibilities for your church with these time-tested ideas.
Podcasting is a new form of radio, and its on-demand listening content can be tailored to your audience’s needs.
The most common type of podcast for a church to release is the audio from their sermons. However, there are many opportunities in podcasting to tailor your content to meet the specific needs of the people you’re trying to engage.
For example, your church could develop content for mums or teenagers or those who want to follow a specific Bible study you’re engaging in.
Here’s a list of some Adventist podcasts for you to check out for inspiration.
How Your Church Can Use This Idea: Because the most common type of podcast content for a church is its sermons, you can use your weekly sermon as audio content. Alternatively, you can think about the needs of your online community and create content around that.
Look around your church and identify the expertise you have in the congregation and see how it aligns with the needs of your community. Outline a series of topics you can present on and sit down to develop the audio content.
If this is out of reach for your church, find a podcast that you think would be valuable to your online community and share it on your social media accounts. You can even take the opportunity to create discussion around specific podcast episodes you share.
Radio still has a strong place throughout the South Pacific Division in providing listening content for people. Here are a few stations you may consider sharing:
“Faith FM is a Christian radio network providing “positively different” lifestyle and spiritual radio programs to benefit, enhance and uplift Australian communities.
Faith FM was launched in 2008 and has grown to reach hundreds of communities around Australia with inspiring music, family insights, health advice, and uplifting spirituality to make a positive difference in the lives of many people.
– Source FaithFM
The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Fiji, has been operating a radio station called HopeFM for the last 14 years. Both Radio and TV are now part of Hope Channel Fiji, and since its commissioning on the 3rd of May, 2015, the Hope Channel studio has been sharing positive Bible-based messages throughout Fiji.” – Source Hope Fiji
Hope PNG, known as The Voice of Hope, is a Christian Community Radio Station in Papua New Guinea. The station broadcasts on FM 107.5 and broadcasts in Lae and Port Moresby. – Source EMTV.com
How Your Church Can Use This Idea: If you’re looking for ways to share radio, which is a time-tested idea, your church can share the radio frequency for its local Adventist radio stations to its online community through social media.
It might also work well to share specific programs, live broadcasts from the radio station’s social media accounts and stories of hope from the listeners of the station.
If you’re wondering how the radio station has impacted people in your community, reach out to the radio stations and ask; they will likely be very happy to share stories you can share with your online community.
20. Prophecy Seminar
Prophecy Seminars are time-tested ideas with the Seventh-day Adventist Church. There is an opportunity now to broadcast the seminars online and to incorporate interactive elements into the programming.
North New South Wales recently shared a prophecy-themed broadcast called The End that had lots of engagement and impacted many lives.
How Your Church Can Use This Idea: If you’re interested in this idea, your church can develop and share its own online prophecy seminar online. Alternatively, you can take part in a larger campaign that’s taking place in your area.
Another idea is to find content from a previous campaign that has been shared in the past, like The End, and share it with your social media community. Create discussion around the videos and have moments fo live discussion to answer people’s questions.
Content that’s already been created is still valuable and can continue to help people in their spiritual journeys.
21. Relationship Ideas/Seminar
Every couple, family and work colleague is susceptible to relationship stress and the pressure of COVID lockdowns is multiplying that effect. Some churches, like the University Church in Lebanon is taking this moment to provide relationship support to its members and the community by talking about strategies to manage the pressure of work, home and finances.
How Your Church Can Use This Idea: If your congregation has a professional who can help create content around this topic, find ways to get him or her involved by doing a special livestream, getting them to create quick tips and videos or having them write special articles on your website.
If you don’t have this skillset at your church, ask a professional to come and do a short workshop. Advertise the workshop around your neighbourhood and among your online friends.
Another idea is that you can share the content of other social media accounts that are providing sound, biblical guidance in this area of family and relationship counselling.
Text Messaging/Chat Bots
22. Text Messaging
Many churches are looking for new ways to communicate with their members and guests. PastorsLine lets churches use the time-tested method of SMS communication in a new way.
According their website, PastorsLine.com, “The PastorsLine platform is a church-driven, bulk texting platform developed and managed by church ‘insiders’. We know churches intimately. We’ve attended them, been part of their management teams and worked with them for many years.
Our goal is to serve you by helping you spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. We’ve positioned ourselves to be your in-house, IT team for solutions to your communication issues. In addition to everything our platform can do, our partners love our responsiveness to their needs and fast tech support.”
How Your Church Can Use This Idea: Your church can think of ways to incorporate text messaging into its communication. Although a word of caution should be noted that you must use SMS sparingly. If it’s overused, it can be seen by your members as intrusive.
Similarly, chatbots allow churches to interact with people on social media platforms as well as on websites. They allow you to create engagement with your visitors even while you’re sleeping.
How Your Church Can Use This Idea: If you’re looking to utilise the time-tested idea of engagement and incorporate it into your social media platforms and your website, then you should understand what you want people to do when they visit your online platforms.
Are you trying to invite them to a relationship seminar? Do you want them to come to your weekly Bible study? Are you trying to get them to watch a video and then join a small group. Having an understanding of the online journey you want people to take is the first step.
Then, you need to understand how to call people to action. This is important because the chatbot will be encouraging people to take specific actions.
Finally, you’ll want to understand a bit more about chat bots, which you can learn from this guide: Guide to Chatbots.
Letterbox/Literature Evangelism Ministry
24. Digital Pamphlet
To get them in the “hands” of the people you want to read them, you need to share them as links to friends, family and social media contacts — an activity you can think of as digital door knocking.
How Your Church Can Use This Idea: Your church can contact its local Conference office or Literature Evangelism ministry to see if there are any digital pamphlets available.
Alternatively, your church can create its own digital pamphlet by creating a specific page on your website that focuses on one topic. From there, you can work to have your church members distribute this digital pamphlet to people who could benefit from it.
25. Letterbox Bible study
When you’re going out letterboxing, you have the opportunity to invite people to take part in a Bible study. This can be a study that takes place online at your church, through one of the Bible schools or through a set of DVDs.
How Your Church Can Use This Idea: You can physically letterbox your neighbourhood, which has its own appeal and effectiveness. You can also digitally letterbox an area through using online advertising.
In letterboxing, you have the opportunity to connect people back to your church. In addition to inviting them to study the Bible you can use the opportunity of letterboxing to invite them to connect with your church’s online studies on your social media platform (as we discussed earlier) as well as the online prayer you may decide to offer or even the health information you’ll share.
26. Letterbox journey
Taking this idea of letterboxing one step further, your church can letterbox and invite the recipients of the flier to visit a special place on your website. From there, you can have an article, or some information that would be relevant to the peoople in your community and then you may call the person to action. Creating this pathway is called developing an online journey.
How Your Church Can Use This Idea: On this webpage, you can begin to take your visitors on an online journey. For example, Step 1, might be to letterbox your neighbours. Then, you might invite them to watch a bite-sized Bible study on your social media platforms and from there you might invite them to take a 6-week Bible study course. This is a small example of a journey.
The possibilities are endless when it comes to developing online journeys. To do it well, you should sit down with your ministry leaders and try to understand what you want people to do when they find you online.
To go deeper on a few ideas about how we can take time-tested ideas and revamp them for the online space, watch the Adventist Church Online Network broadcast that engages around this topic:
We hope these ideas gave you a bit of inspiration of what you can do with your time-tested idea. Let us know in the comments section if we missed something or if there’s something your church is doing that we haven’t listed.