Online community

How to effectively minister from a distance

“This is a time when we need to be extremely audience focused,” says Natchi Lazarus. “When we cannot see our audience in person, it is very easy to lose focus and start thinking about what we need to say rather than thinking about what they need to hear.” The consultant and author of The Connected Church shared the top focus areas in order to effectively minister from a distance during Indigitous’ Asian “Ministry from a Distance” webinar. He began his segment by talking about the three major needs of our audiences.

Audience needs

People have more time. They need content.

With workplaces and schools closed and people confined to their homes, they have a lot more time on their hands and are spending more time online. Not surprisingly, time spent on digital devices has surged around the globe. As a body of Christ, we need to be offering content that will meet people’s felt needs. “If we don’t do it,” Natchi says, “someone else will.”

People are fearful. They need encouragement.

Confined to their homes, people are spending a lot of time reading about the coronavirus, following its spread, seeing statistics about infection rates and mortality rates, and seeing images and stories about people getting sick. It can be easy for that flood of negativity to result in fear. As the body of Christ, we need to offer content that encourages the fearful. “They have enough news out there to scare them. We need to build them up and give them a word of encouragement,” Natchi says.

People are isolated. They need community.

“We are social beings. We love to talk to people, we love to interact with people, but we can’t do that” in person, says Natchi. As the church, we need to be able to offer community to those people who are isolated and craving that sense of togetherness.

They have enough news out there to scare them. We need to build them up and give them a word of encouragement.

Focus areas for your ministry

For churches and ministries, it can seem overwhelming now trying to pivot to reaching an isolated audience from a distance during the COVID-19 pandemic. For those who don’t know where to start, Natchi offered three important areas on which to focus.

Content migration

You already have enough content. Content you previously created for books, emails, sermons, blog posts, newsletters, and even text messages can be repurposed. Rather than ignoring that past content, it should be migrated to the digital space. “I see so many ministries working so hard to create new content, whereas in a time as this the easiest and most effective thing is to go back to your evergreen content and repurpose it for your audience,” Natchi told us via Twitter.

As one example, Natchi talked about a ministry he works with that created a lot of infographics that they posted 6-8 months ago. Rather than creating new content, he is advising them to take that content and put it in a new format, perhaps e-books. “Most Biblical content is evergreen,” he says, and will always be relevant.

Online community building

To meet the felt need of community for people who are isolated, Natchi recommends creating two types of communities. Start with macro-communities, something like a Facebook group for the entire church that all congregants could join. You would also want to create micro-communities, something perhaps on WhatsApp or Messenger that could cater to a more specific interest, such as groups for youth, groups for partners, or groups for fathers. While general content like a sermon would fit well in your macro-communities, you need to “drill down and create specific content” for the micro-communities.

Church growth strategy.

It can be easy to just think of trying to survive as a church during this crisis, but that would be ignoring a great opportunity. This is the time to grow your church audience. “Social media is called ‘social’ for a reason,” Natchi says. By taking advantage of the social nature of social media, your church or ministry has an opportunity to engage with a larger audience. As your congregation interacts with your content, those interactions will be seen by their family or friends, many of whom are not believers and have never set foot in a church.

Some resources

About the author: Natchi Lazarus is a marketing specialist who helps nonprofits, entrepreneurs, churches, and ministries use social media and digital strategies to reach their audience and create an impact in the lives of people they are called to serve. He is author of The Connected Church. He can be found at NatchiLazarus.com.

Run

Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. (Habakkuk 2:2)

  • Repurpose your existing content and convert it to a relevant format.
  • Start an online community to reach your audience.
  • Use social media to grow your ministry.

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