This may surprise you, but Online Church is Multi-Generational.
One of the biggest misconceptions about providing an Online Campus at your church is that it only targets Millennials, the digital generation. Over the last 9 years of having an Online Campus, we’ve learned that Online Church is increasingly popular with older generations as well.
While creating an Online experience that attracts the younger generation is valuable, it’s important to remember that just like in your physical church – targeting every generation is key to your success. Older generations provide a key aspect of building your Online Church Family. (You will see that phrase a lot in my blogs about Online Church!)
“Why is Online Church popular with the Older Generation?”
One of the biggest reasons for the increasing popularity of Online Church with older generations is Accessibility.
Regardless of weather, illness or fatigue – Online Church is always available. As people reach the point where physically getting to church is challenging, Online Church provides them with an easy way to still be involved in their church home. We have many online viewers who attend online from Nursing Homes, Hospitals and Homebound.
One of our most faithful online members is a woman who goes by the screen-name, “MAW”. Her real name is Betty, she lives in Texas – approximately 360 miles away from our Main Campus. Maw is facing health challenges that affect her ability to go to church and make many everyday tasks challenging. Every Sunday, morning Maw watches church at 7:00am and most weeks 8:30am as well! Maw isn’t just a viewer, she is a vibrant member of our online church family. She chats with people around the world and prays with people of all ages. She is one of our many Online Campus Grandparent figures. If you watch church online at firstnlr.tv, you know Maw! She is a valuable part of our Online Family.
We have many members of our Online Church Family who love church online because it allows them to be “included” in their church again. It’s an incredible opportunity to give the joy of attending church back to a generation who found great value in being part of a church family.
As you enter the world of Online Church or as you continue to build your Online Campus – you will begin to see the growing reach your church has with every generation. This means, as an Online Pastor or Campus Leader, you must be intentional in your ministry to those from the older generations.
“How do I create an online campus experience that successfully reaches all generations?”
Hopefully, if you lead an online ministry or are leading the creation of an Online Campus, you are asking yourself: How do I create an Online Campus experience that reaches all generations?
One piece that makes an online campus unique to starting another campus or church: You are the Online Mirror of your physical campus. Because you aren’t creating a unique service for online – you are tied to the identity of your campus, your pastor and the service you stream. If your church service is geared to reach one generation, your online service won’t have much success in being multi-generational. On the other hand, if your church is multi-generation, your online campus will likely also be multi-generational.
Here are some ways you can intentionally encourage all generations to get involved with your Online Campus:
Build the Hype, Explain the Value
With young people, you need to build the hype for your online campus! “It’s the greatest thing ever! You can watch church from your hammock in the middle of the forest! No matter where you are, what time of day it is – you can be connected to church. You can chat with friends and interact with Social media all from your phone.”
The same way you try and build excitement for young people, you need to do the same for the older generation. But most old people aren’t going to respond to the same hype as young people. Instead of only pumping the flash, take time to explain the value. Explaining the long-term deep spiritual benefits of an Online Campus will go a long way with older people.
Recruit Volunteers of All Ages
You know who relates best to millennials? Millennials. Guess who relates best to Baby Boomers? Yep! Baby Boomers.
If you want to build an Online Family that is generationally vast – build an Online Team that consists of every generation. Every week I look for more people to join the Online Team. The beauty of recruiting for Online Ministry? People can volunteer from anywhere in the world. Your pool of potential volunteers is virtually limitless.
Earl is one of my Sunday PM service hosts – he’s a cartoonist, a gamer and he’s 15 years old. Every Sunday night (and any other time I need someone) Earl sits in our online room and ministers to people watching online. You may think, “15?! How can you trust someone who is 15 to host, pray and commentate a service?” Earl can minister and relate to other people from his generation better than someone who is older. Let me tell you, that 15-year-old cartoonist can PRAY! Almost every week I look over to see Earl with his head bowed, praying for the prayer request he just saw.
At the same time Earl is hosting, Donna is hosting from home – Donna is 65 years old! You may think, “65!? How can you trust someone who is 65 to host, pray and commentate a service?” Donna can minister and relate to other people from her generation better than someone who is younger. Donna is a prayer warrior! She can relate to people who are facing things in life that Earl may not understand yet.
When you build your team from all generations, you create an environment that accepts people from all generations.
Offer Technical Support (Be Patient!)
Online Church is still a reasonably new area of technology and church. Which means, people will have questions and need help…ALL THE TIME! It’s important to remember that not everyone is as technically knowledgeable as you or young people. Millennials know and get technology insanely quick – but that’s just one generation of the people you are trying to reach. In order to create an environment that is friendly to all people from all generations – you must prepare yourself and your team to provide technical support to viewers with Patience. There is no easier way to guarantee someone will not try to watch online than if you make fun of them for needing help or get frustrated when they ask the same question over and over again.
My grandfather was a Computer Programmer for 25 years at IBM! You would consider him a very technologically knowledgeable person. He watches church online from his Kindle. In the past, he had issues getting Online church to work on his kindle and would call me to help him get it to work. Even someone who spent his life working with computers needed help to watch church online – because it was brand new to him. Just because people have challenges getting online to work, doesn’t mean they are stupid. If you treat them like they are dumb for not being able to get it to work themselves, you will push them away from watching online. Be Patient! Take time to over-explain the solution with love and grace, because someday those people may become your most faithful online attendees and biggest encouragers.
Whether you are just starting an online campus or your church has been online for years, you need to increase your knowledge of all devices. In my office, I have a Windows PC, an Apple computer, an iPad, an iPhone, an Android tablet, a Kindle and a smart TV. I don’t have those devices so I can simultaneously watch my favorite Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime shows. Early on, I learned that people are using a huge array of devices to watch Church Online. Sure, life would be easier if they all watched on an Apple computer, but they don’t! When viewers started experiencing technical issues on Android devices, I had absolutely no clue how to help them fix it or how to talk them through troubleshooting. So, I got an android tablet to learn and understand the operating system for the next time someone had issues. Same with the smart TV – people are using the internet browser on their TV to watch church online, and I didn’t even know that was possible! We even have people watching on their PS4! (I’m still trying to convince the boss I need one of those…for testing purposes obviously)
My point is, it’s important for you to increase your knowledge of the devices people use to watch your service, so when they have issues you can help them. You don’t have to be a genius, I’m not, you just need enough knowledge of the device so you can help people get online. There will be some instances where you can’t fix someone’s problem, but it goes a long way if you help them walk through a list of potential solutions and then offer to research the problem to help it not happen again.
If you treat people with grace, respect and show them patience they will extend the same towards you.
“Pastor” the People
It’s important to remember, when adding an Online Campus you are adding Online Members. It’s easy to forget that behind every IP address is a real person, a real family – who have real needs and need more than just watching a service. A true measure of success for an Online Church is not the number of views you achieve, it’s the level of care and support you provide to people around the world through your Online Church.
If you want your Online Church to impact the lives of people around the world – You must apply the same amount of care to your online members that you provide to the people in your pews (or chairs) every Sunday.
- When people are sick, pray for them over the phone.
- When people are in the hospital, write them a card or try to visit them.
- When people are facing challenging circumstances, provide counseling.
The impact a note, email, text, call or visit has on members of your online church is HUGE! When you take time to care for people who only attend online, they feel incredibly valued and like they are a part of a family. That is the goal of the church – building a community of believers who support, care and encourage each other.
Reaching and impacting the world with the message of Jesus has never been easier. Together, we can utilize technology to reach people from all over the world of all ages for Jesus, Online.