My big third grade school project was a beast. Every eight-year-old had to do their final project in front of the class and Mr. Michaels, my teacher who might as well been Michael Myers considering I was so scared, filmed the entire performance. I hated the idea of being in front of my peers and a video camera staring me dead in the eyes did not help. This fear of public speaking was irrational, but that did not help my body from shaking throughout my presentation. Maybe I was just channeling my inner Thom Yorke. It is funny how at eight I thought the camera was a form of torture, but over time my perspective started to change. Let’s look at the fears of doing Church Online and I’m going to make the argument they are irrational as well.
Fear #1: It will shrink the local church attendance
People now can experience what happens in a church building without ever stepping into the facility. Church Online becomes a huge marketing tool for those who would never walk through your doors. I can tell story after story of people who watched online and then attended locally. Their testimony consists of something like, “I never knew this was near me. I landed on your website because of a friend and got to see what happens in that building every week.” An online service will grow your local church if positioned correctly.
Fear #2: It’s shallow community compared to local church
Church Online is a partial expression of what the Bible calls community, but that doesn’t mean it can’t serve a purpose. It is important to remember your online service is geared for those who would never attend a local church. The goal is to provide an environment that is like a local church where they can safely see what church is like. Think of Church Online as the conversation you have with someone in the coffee shop that leads him or her to attending your church. You would never call that connection “shallow,” right? Church Online is the first step and many times the best type of community for a new person to experience.
Fear #3: It caters to a disconnected generation
Technology can certainly produce disconnected people. It’s the church’s responsibility to create ways that provide connections. Churches used to provide potlucks and after service parties for community, but now its through online connections on Facebook or whatever local flavor of social network that works. The message never changes, but the methodology does. I think Church Online gives a way to reach a disconnected generation since church is happening where many are disconnecting, online.
Now, fears can remain true if there is no growth. That nervous and scared eight-year-old was eventually able to conquer his fear of public speaking through changing my view of the camera. The lens became a resource to help point out areas where I needed to grow. As an adult I can see my teacher wasn’t torturing me, but was preparing me to always improve. I believe the fears of Church Online can be conquered as well. All that’s needed is a little perspective.