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Starting an online neighborhood church

In the Netherlands, a lot of spiritual conversations happen at pubs over glasses of beer. Getting together for drinks takes the pressure off, puts the focus on relationship, and makes the conversation just like any other “normal” exchange. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, the bars are closed and social distancing guidelines don’t allow going out for drinks. That’s why a ministry in Rotterdam started an online neighborhood church.

Online Buurtkerk, an online neighborhood church, was started by a pastor in Rotterdam as a way for people in the neighborhood to find a listening ear, hear beautiful stories, connect with others, and hear the hope of Christ during the crisis.

Wouter van der Toorn from Jesus.net recently shared about the neighborhood church during the first lesson of the Jesus.net Masterclass series. The concept is simple and easy for anyone to adopt. They use a Facebook group to gather people, invite them to the service, and keep them up to date about upcoming meetings. People can also use the group to keep in touch between meetings. The church meetings happen over a Zoom call, with a program that always includes time for introductions and small talk, a short (three to five minutes) video that provides a question prompt, and thirty minutes of group discussion. After the discussion is complete, the group ends the meeting by saying the Lord’s Prayer together.

Reaching non-Christians

Many of the people who have been involved in Online Buurtkerk are those who didn’t previously have a church home, with some of them not even Christians. When starting the online neighborhood church, they didn’t know who would come, but have been pleasantly surprised by the diversity. “There are Christians, ex-churchgoers, atheists, and Buddhists in the church,” Wouter says. “It’s nice that there’s a place in the Lord’s table for everyone.”

The website for Online Buurtkerk even targets non-Christians with its messaging, offering to pray for those who don’t have faith but still want someone to pray for them.

Online neighborhood church

When developing the content for the online neighborhood church, the pastor knew that people didn’t need more content to consume. There is no shortage of that right now, but what people are lacking of connection – a Christian community that is inviting, like a night for fellowship over drinks. That’s why the slogan for the church is (translated) “beer, Bible, beginning.”

“We want to have a church where the people are in the center, where it’s all about the discussion, the communication, and the connection,” Wouter says. For now, people have to provide their own beer.

The next lesson in the Jesus.net Masterclass will take place on August 27. You can sign up here.

Run

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

  • Start an online church group for your neighborhood (beer optional).
  • Join the next Jesus.net Masterclass.

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