Applying Pandemic Learnings from Church Online to Post-Pandemic Church with Jenn Clauser
Thanks for joining in for this week’s unSeminary podcast. We’re talking with Jenn Clauser, the Director of Communications at Coker United Methodist Church in San Antonio, Texas. She’s with us today to dig deeper into online church and how to integrate it as a core part of our mission to reaching people who are far from God.
- Optimize your website. // Before COVID, Coker felt led to make their online presence more robust. They partnered with Missional Marketing who rebuilt the church’s website for search engine optimization. By paying attention to what people are looking for in keyword searches online from month to month, a website can be made to do outreach for you. Coker layers these words into their website in an authentic way by using them in sermon series. Divorce, for example, is a high search term in the month of January, so Coker tends to lead into the year with a series about families. They might use phrases on their website such as: How do you avoid divorce? How do you care for someone who has been divorced? How do we strengthen marriage? By developing a strong online presence, you will be easily found by your community in their time of need.
- Create connections. // As online viewership increased during COVID, Coker began to ask how they could see the analytics as faces. These are real people looking for guidance and connections. Feed them where they are and offer them help and services online even if you can’t see them. Coker did this by connecting their online audience to meaningful community. A few steps they took included setting up a way where online guests could register their attendance and let you know their names and email addresses. They created a place for online prayer requests and a team responds to these requests in real time. Coker also offered people a free book in exchange for their email address, as well as one-off courses, like a simple marriage class. Have a connections expert who is in charge of reaching out to them see where their needs are.
- Launch classes online. // Within their online campus, Coker listed all of their courses online. Allowing all of your classes to be attended in that format opens the door to a new audience who may never have attended your church before. Coker has their classes set up similar to Google Classroom. People can get the class content, a Facebook group where they can connect during the week, the Zoom link, and other resources for attendees. Online classes provide a way to reach people that won’t walk through the doors of your church right away, but they feel comfortable being present in an online Zoom classroom. It gives them the chance to know others’ faces, and provides a bridge where they could feel comfortable attending church in person down the road. Don’t miss this mission field opportunity.
- Brainstorm new ideas. // Recognizing the opportunities that are provided by mixing online and in-person, Coker is brainstorming a lot of possible ideas right now. In the fall they are launching an intentional discipleship program where people take an online assessment, get their results, and then meet with a spiritual director who will guide their next steps. Depending on what the spiritual director recommends, people may then get involved in online classes to help them study the Bible better or dig deeper into prayer. Another new thing Coker is trying is assembling five community groups. Four of these will be in-person and one will be online. Each group will meet quarterly as a community gathering for things such as a BBQ, a study group, a monthly dinner, etc. Coker will see what organically grows from there.
- Listen well. // During this transitional phase it’s important for churches to be listening to what their community needs as well as how they want to connect with your church. Don’t be afraid to try new ideas and offer a mix of online and in-person services or events. Most of all, make space to listen to God. During the pandemic, God has shown Jenn that she needs to be intentional about her connection with Him. Pay particular attention to your sabbath, your time with God alone, and time with other people and how God might be speaking through them. Commit everything to prayer, and know who your Spirit-led experts are. Talk decisions out with other leaders at the church, but also don’t be afraid to use Google to research and learn!
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Thank You to This Episode’s Sponsor: Carey Nieuwhof
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