Hybrid Church in a Digital Age: Collin Jones on the State of Church Tech Today

Welcome back to the unSeminary podcast. We’re talking with Collin Jones, the chief ambassador at Resi, part of the organization Pushpay. Pushpay provides a donor management system, including donor tools, finance tools and a custom community app to the faith sector while Resi helps deliver reliable livestream solutions to churches.

Online services and live streaming have been on the rise for years, but the pandemic has accelerated the shift towards church online and hybrid models. Listen in as Collin discusses the reasons why churches are choosing to stay hybrid, plus other changes to church technology over the last year.

  • Hybrid is here to stay. // Before COVID, many churches were resistant to live streaming, but that changed when the pandemic hit. Even now when people have returned to church, there are still many people watching services online. According to the latest State of the Church Technology report, 89% of churches employ a fully hybrid model, with both in-person and online options available. While most churches accept that this is the reality, they probably don’t have a lot of energy to think about how to grow it.
  • Online is the front door. // Collin describes three different doors for people coming into the church. Church online is the new front door to your church. Very few people will pass by your church and simply stop by on a Sunday to check it out. Even prior to COVID, the average person would come to online church about 11 times before ever visiting in person.
  • Keep the side door open wide. // The side door refers to the people who are already in the congregation but are busy. They may be donors or volunteers or community leaders and many times they don’t make it to church on weekends due to conflicts in their schedule. By providing an avenue for them to watch services online, these people can still be invested in the church’s mission and have transformed hearts and lives.
  • Reach out through the third door. // The third door is digital because everyone a church wants to reach is online. The digital door is part of a funnel that might begin with social media shares or online ads for your church and directs people to your site to watch a livestream. People coming to your website to meet a felt need will hopefully take a next step to engage and come to the church in person.
  • A shift in livestreaming. // According to data from 2022, about 89% of churches livestream on social media. But when asked what channels they are planning to stream on in the future, only 47%, were planning to use social media in the next year. In the report, many churches are shifting to streaming on their own app or platform. Moving away from places like YouTube or FaceBook allows churches to have more control over helping people take next steps. In addition, it gives them access to important data and allows them to offer content without ads.
  • Do what works for you. // Overall, Collin emphasized the importance of churches finding the right technology solutions for their specific needs and goals, rather than simply following the trends of large outlier churches. When it comes to winning online, or on any channel that constantly changes, he emphasized three things. First, measure what matters and make sure everyone is clear about what’s being measured. Second, experiment within the boundaries that you’ve set. And third, do more of what’s working and less of what isn’t working.

You can take look at the study results of the State of the Church Tech report by clicking here. Visit www.resi.io and www.pushpay.com to learn more about what the organizations offer.

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Episode Transcript

Rich Birch — Well, hey everybody, welcome to the unSeminary podcast. So glad that you have decided to tune in. I’m really looking forward to today’s conversation. You know, every week we try to bring you somebody who will, who really, you know, inspire, equip you. And today, man, is gonna be one of those times. Super, super excited to have Collin Jones with us. He’s with an organization called Pushpay. If you don’t know who they are, man, where have you been? Uh, Collin, uh, was with, originally with an organization called Resi, and right from the year it founded, and they really have led this incredible transformation of helping churches deliver reliable livestream solutions to churches and organizations all over the globe. But then since 2021, uh, after Resi was acquired by Pushpay, he has been with them, uh, really helping, and if you don’t know Pushpay, they include, they have a bunch of donor tools, financial tools, and let really a lot of different things to help your church move forward. Uh, today we want to get a chance to talk about Pushpay’s state of check Church Tech, uh, report that came out earlier this year. In his role, he’s the chief ambassador, which sounds incredibly I, you know, important. It’s amazing. And so, uh, looking forward to, uh, to, to talking with you again, Collin. Welcome to the show. So glad you’re here.

Collin Jones — Yeah, thank you, Rich. And fun to get to talk to you again.

Rich Birch — Yeah, why don’t you, you kind of round out the picture there. What did I miss? Uh, give us the, the Collin story. What did I miss about Pushpay or about Resi that you wanna make sure we, we know about?

Collin Jones — No, I think that’s great. Yeah, we started, uh, Resi kind of got to a size where it was hard to keep going on our own without a lot of the tool sets around it. So, the reason why Pushpay made a lot of sense is because of all the other tools that they have. So, like the app and donor management and church management systems, and a lot of the data that comes around that. And so the, the main vision of why we came together is so that, um, churches could know and grow their audience and, uh, and their, you know, congregation.

Collin Jones — And so I think like the, you know, we’re, we’re getting to work on a lot of cool things, like we’re, we’re working on a lot of media stuff together. So they’re the media and Resi and all of that. And the app is a lot easier. Um, that was one thing from the state of the church tech that surprised me, or that does, that didn’t surprise me. I knew that it was a trend, but the trend actually surprised me, um, which is, you know, more and more people doing their own apps. I thought, you know, five years ago I would’ve said, uh, you know, cuz people only do five apps, that may not be a thing. And then the other part is the analytics picture, so that you can help to know and then do custom triggers and actions, you know, to engage people. Um, and so, you know, I think, I think you’ve shared it too, you know, like, like you do the flywheel model, um, part of that means, you know, you wanna know and have, have data and insights, um, to how those people are moving so that you can send notifications to someone who, you know, hasn’t joined the community group before and, and you want them to, or whatever. And so Resi plus Pushpay helps meet that. I like to say like, Resi had the eyeballs and then Pushpay has all the data on the back end, um, and the front end kinda tooling to help them. So, um, yeah, it’s been a great partnership so far.

Rich Birch — Yeah, I love it. We want to, uh, take advantage of the fact that you have a really good vantage point of churches all across the country. We want to, uh, take advantage of that and hear more. Uh, you know, I remember pre-pandemic, uh, I remember when you were just with Resi talking about how, you know, and I really got fired up about your product from a multi-site point of view, from, you know, Hey, how are we gonna do that? And you guys solved an actual problem that, you know, for so many churches. Uh, and then you were talking a lot about live streaming, and I remember thinking, yeah, I don’t know, like how many churches are really doing that? We’ve been doing it since 2009. Uh, but like, even pre pandemic, I remember thinking, there’s just a lot of churches that seem resistant to it. They were talking about it like, it was like this odd thing. And then the pandemic happened. Now you and I haven’t talked since then. Uh, so what’s gone on kind of from, you know, this vantage point when you look back over the last couple years, anything surprising or any insights that you’ve gained through all of that transition?

Collin Jones — Yeah. And I’d love to hear you answer that too, of, uh, and it’s especially interesting now, kind of that we’re post-pandemic, you know, maybe we can say that. I don’t, I think Canada, Canada, they just declared it, so it’s been declared in Canada.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes, yes.

Collin Jones — Um, so the, yeah, I mean, it’s been a super interesting, I guess three years. So now it’s May 22. And so obviously Resi, like a lot of churches did stream, like you said, but a lot of them didn’t. And then, yeah. And would love for you to tell too, your, your story with Resi. It’s, it’s always a fun one to hear and I’m sure it’s different now, but, and then we, we enabled kind of the same problems that people are having multi-site, which is, Hey, I need to get this [inaudible] so people would have to spend a lot of money on, you know, dedicated networks or different types of hardware.

Collin Jones — And so Resi made that possible for much lower cost. Um, and then the same type of thing for live streaming. And then the pandemic happened, and yeah, Resi grew a lot out of that period. Multisite didn’t grow very much , so multisite kind of stopped. And then live streaming grew a lot. Um, and now I think, uh, Resi supports well over, I don’t know the exact number, but well over 80 of the top hundred churches today, which is pretty cool. And so yeah, it does give you kind of a cool analytical picture across. And Pushpay has a, a lot of the top 100 too. I don’t know the exact number, but pretty cool . So we do get to have a unique picture, I think of, of what’s going on at, at that level, and a lot of small ones of course, too.

Rich Birch — Yeah, totally. Yeah, you know, the, the interesting thing… Yeah. So for folks that don’t know, Resi, you know, is a, a robust streaming solution. I remember, so I started in multisite, oh gosh, 20, it was early 2000, so 23, 24 years ago. And we were literally the very first that when we were delivering messages from one campus to another, we literally started with SVHS tapes that we were, uh, the very first iteration was we were recording S on an SVHS tape at the nine o’clock service, and then hitting eject at the end, handing it to a guy who then got in a car and drove about half an hour to our first campus. That was our solution, which is crazy.

Collin Jones — That’s awesome.

Rich Birch — And right from the right from the beginning, and, you know, as you can imagine, all kinds of problems. You know, the very first week we launched, like our public grand opening, our, our lead guy looked green, the video went all like, there’s something wrong with the physical tape itself. Um, all the way through, you know, been at every iteration from literally Sneakernet driving it to, um, at one point we were doing satellite, you know. We’ve done, you know, download files, all kinds of different stuff to try to make that happen. And all the way along, we used to always say, you know, eventually somebody’s gonna come along with a solution that does two magic things. One, provides a high quality stream and does it in a robust, resilient manner that won’t drop. Because it’s one thing if a, you know, zoom call hacks, uh, or if you know, you just say, oh, it’s fine, we’ll just come back on, uh, in a bit.

Rich Birch — It’s another thing if I’ve got, you know, at that point, thousands of people every Sunday, you know, in a multisite scenario. And Resi does that and does it for what I think is a really reasonable price. And so I’ve just been such a booster of you guys. I think you do such a fantastic thing. And then now to deliver that on the live streaming side, I know it’s just so compelling. The thing I, to be honest, the thing I love about it is at the level of, um, the volunteer who’s in a campus, receiving that video signal at a mult, from a multisite point of view, it’s just so straightforward to use. It’s not rocket science. It’s not, you know, when at one point when we were literally, we were doing satellites, so we were like, you know, it was crazy. Like, it was like, this is nuts. Why are we doing this? This is way more complicated than we need to be. Uh, but having it, you know, really simple and straightforward was just amazing.

Rich Birch — Now when you, you know, so over these last number of years, you said obviously you saw live streaming increase. What is that… are we seeing that like Wayne, is that going back, or is hybrid church really here to stay – this idea… I would say that’s been my experience. You know, the churches that pre-pandemic were suspicious of church online, uh, then they, you know, now they’re like, well, that’s like God’s, you know, tool for us. Uh, but what are you seeing from a hybrid church point of view?

Collin Jones — Hmm. Yeah, I think there’s been another iteration of that too. And that’s really fun to hear that story, Rich. So thanks for sharing. Cause it’s, yeah, we, we didn’t quite do VHS tapes, so you were before us there, [inaudible] the tapes, but, uh, yeah, I guess God forgives speeding tickets, maybe.

Rich Birch — Yeah, exactly. What could possibly go wrong?

Collin Jones — [inaudible] church only. Yeah, yeah, no, that’s, that’s cool. And then, um, yeah, the live streaming component, like, you know, for, I think we saw, you know, I don’t know what percentage of churches were streaming before. It was, I think it was a pretty high number, like maybe 50% or whatever of churches were streaming. Maybe it was a little bit lower or higher. And then, you know, it all of a sudden went to a hundred, like in one week.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Collin Jones — And then, and then I think like in the last year, you’ve kind of had people question that strategy. Like, I think, um, that first time everybody was, I remember our church, we did like free t-shirt weekend,. This was probably , this was in 2021 maybe. In August, we thought the world was gonna come back to normal. So we did free t-shirt weekend, you know, we’re all good. Covid is over, um, come back in person. And then, uh, like the Omicron or Delta…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Collin Jones — …or something like that hit and schools closed again, and everybody was like, oh, no. And then, so, you know, we didn’t give out as many t-shirts as, as we wanted to. And so then things kind of went back to online. And then you had, you know, the, the next kind of semester of school, um, every, just having a lot of kind of online fatigue. You know, at that point we had already kind of done it for two years. Um, and, uh, the, you know, not, not many people are in the room. And I think a lot of pastors started blaming online, like, Hey, this is the online space fault. And so we had a lot of that.

Collin Jones — And then I think there’s been a lot of acceptance around like, you know, we, we say three reasons to stream, which is front door, side door, digital door. And now I think most people accept that those are the reality, but probably don’t have a lot of energy or thinking around the growth of it. We have a few large churches that do, and a lot of intentional effort, but a lot that I think is just kind of the thing of like, oh, no, we gotta do this again, and talk about this again. Let’s just leave it, you know? And so from the data, that data that we had, um, from the State of the Church Tech report, which I encourage anybody to download it, it’s got some great insights in it. Um, 89% of churches employed a fully hybrid model. The way that that was asked was hybrid, in person only, and then online only.

Collin Jones — So there are some churches who are still online only, which is unique. Um, and then about the same amount, the way that we did the data was a little bit confusing on that, um, because, um, online only spiked like quite a bit. So I, I think it’s from, from looking at the data, it’s basically fair to assume almost a hundred percent of those chose it’s, that said that they’re gonna be hybrid again in 2023 from 2022. And so I think what that tells us is, you know, churches have figured out like, Hey, this probably is here to stay, and I can dive into the three reasons if you want. Um, but we probably need to do some more innovation around what, what’s actually gonna motivate people’s habits. So, you know, some churches think I’m doing the online thing just to get people back into the building, and it’s like a funnel or a flywheel, right? Um, some churches are comfortable with people coming online and that’s it. Um, and, you know, the strategies I think are different depending on, on which one you, you choose.

Rich Birch — Yeah. Let’s let, let’s talk through those reasons why to stay hybrid. Why would, why are churches choosing that? Why are they staying there? Um, yeah, what, what, what’s driving that?

Collin Jones — Yeah. So I think, you know, we say front door, side door, digital door. So front door is, online is the new front door to your church, right? It used to be people felt comfortable just coming in, they would pass it and see it. And that happens a much, much lower percentage of the time than it used to ten, twenty, however many years ago. Um, so I think like the stats before Covid, and I don’t know them now, but we’re like, the average person comes to your online church, like 11 times before coming to your building, which is crazy, right?

Rich Birch — Yeah, that’s amazing.

Like, it would be very common for our pastors to, to have people come over after and say, Hey, I came to Christ, you know, three months ago, um, I just wanna become in person. Ok, cool

Rich Birch — Well, and, and like anecdotally, I, in, in a small group that I’m in – Alpha group – um, you know, and so it’s, I’m just a helper there. I just sit and pray. Uh, and there’s a couple who, this is this el so we’re talking spring 2023, and there’s a couple in this group who they, their own kind of self story is, Hey, we, yeah, we attend the church. Um, they’re wrestling with what it means to follow Jesus. They would, they would self-describe as saying, Hey, they’re, they’re kind of pre-Christian, or, you know, at least early in their Christian faith. Interestingly, the husband attends in person, and the wife attends online. And she, and they have been attending for quite a while. And it’s, it’s a difference in, um, comfortability around all the covid stuff. And again, friends, this is spring 2023. For lots of us we’re used to being back in rooms, but there are people who, you know, through for whatever reason are there. That’s an example of, you know, where I’ve seen that even just anecdotally in a, you know, super close hand, uh, relationship.

Collin Jones — Yeah. Interesting. Yeah. And some of that, I’ve, I’ve heard it very common with social anxiety. And as church just becomes less a part of our fabric of a society, which all the data says that it has, um and Covid pulled that forward, uh, just like some of the live streaming stuff that it pulled together, the, kinda the cultural, it’s not very normal to be a part of any groups, much less churches. Right?

Rich Birch — Yep, yep.

Collin Jones — So it’s like you, you’re not a part of clubs anymore, you know, whatever. It’s just much less part of our society. Going to a building, it’s very, very scary. You know? Uh, we, when we moved to Denver, we tried out more churches, and I was, you know, I’m a pastor’s kid and grew up at church however many hours every weekend. And during the week a lot. And it’s scary for me, you know, and I like know people at these churches that I’m going, you know? And it’s scary going into a new church on a Sunday just with your family. Um, and it’s like, how much more scary would it be for someone that you just described, like in an Alpha group, you know, who hasn’t, um. So, yeah, I think the groups are, you know, I think that’s probably where the thinking from a funnel probably went away to a flywheel, which I think you wrote a book about.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Collin Jones — And the, uh, you know, where people are coming in at different stages of kind of the norm, right?

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Collin Jones — Um, of the invite from a neighbor, but maybe it’s to come over to their house for dinner and do an Alpha group, and then watch online, then go to church. So I think like that side door… go ahead. Yeah, ask yours and then…

Rich Birch — Yeah, I was gonna ask that side door. Tell, talk to me about the side door. How would you define that?

Collin Jones — Yeah, so side door is, um, so side door is people that are already in your congregation, and they’re, uh, they’re just busy people. So like, culture’s changed, um, there’s now soccer games on Sunday mornings, right? There used to never be a thing, but now coaches don’t care, right? They’re not, um, you know, it’s not, it’s not as much of a Christian culture anymore. So this Sabbath isn’t as revered. And so this is, you know, hey, I’m going skiing on a, on a Sunday, I’m going to Florida in the winter, I’m uh, have a soccer game. I would love to go to church, but my kids have soccer games, so they’ve gotta decide between whether they play sports or go to church. Um, and oftentimes, which one wins?

Collin Jones — And so, you know, these are very active people. Some, most of the time, or a lot of the time, they’re community group leaders. They’re donors, they’re volunteers, right? Um, but, they’re the Sunday schedule for whatever reason, doesn’t always work. And so they watch online, you can get them invested in your mission more, their hearts and minds will be adapted by your sermons, right? And changed, transformed. And so then they’re following along with kind of the heart of your church if you do livestream.

Collin Jones — The third thing is digital. So everyone that you wanna reach is online, right? So there is a digital funnel that still, um, which is, you know, doing things like online ads, having people share um, on social media, um, and to their different friends, right? Um, and campaigns around that of, you know, people coming to your site because they’re searching for a felt need or, you know, whatever it is that if they’ll end, end up at your livestream, that’s where they’re most likely to, you know, engage and come. And that’s kinda the next step that they’re a lot more comfortable taking than coming to a building.

Rich Birch — Do you have a sense, or did this, the study pull out, um, any thinking around, or any kind of framework around how churches are thinking about what the ultimate goal is? Like, is so, um, you know, we, we had Jay from Saddleback on, and, you know, he was talking about, Hey, our goal is ultimately with all our online stuff, is to get to some sort of face-to-face. Now that doesn’t mean face-to-face on our campus. That could be face-to-face in a small group. It could literally be like, we want, we’re hoping people will have coffee with one other person who’s connected to the church in their, you know… So it, so how you define face-to-face is important, but any thinking that kind of where church leaders seem to be at, on, on that question?

Collin Jones — Yeah, the data didn’t go into it for the most part, but I think it does tell a story, um, from some of the, the figures. I think, I think the trend is that most people, a lot of people, um, are wanting it to come back in person at some point. So like, online and hybrid is part of the mix, right? And the fact that hybrid church stayed, um, so high is like, Hey, we value online for, for different things and for for maybe the doors that I talked about, maybe other reasons as well. Uh, but we’re wanting more in-person, you know, community. I think a lot of churches that, that I know of in my network, um, used to have, you know, like Saddleback used to have like the Saddleback Anywhere or whatever, and I dunno if they had that or not, but I think they did.

Collin Jones — Um, same thing with the Elevations and the, you know, different churches like, um, most church… and some of those actually have the resources to do it really well, right?

Rich Birch — Right.

Collin Jones — That’s the really large ones. But a lot of the, the medium, the large size churches, um, used to have programs and say, Hey, it doesn’t matter where you are, you can be a member here. Um, we’ll get you on an online community group. And a lot of those programs and staffing around it have, have paused, and it’s been more like, let’s get you plugged into a local community. Or if you’re in person, let’s get you to come into, to come into a community group or, you know, whatever it is. I think there are still online only, applications that make a lot of sense. Um, and that, that’s when you kind of get into to the, the very strong opinions of both sides of that argument, you know?

Rich Birch — Yeah. Yeah.

Collin Jones — Online only versus, yeah. So the, the arguments I guess shifted. Like it used to be like, should we do online? And now it’s like, should we do online only?

Rich Birch — Yes.

Collin Jones — Like, should online only be our thing? Like everybody agrees that we should do online now. Like you don’t really have like… Like I used to do a lot of teachings around this, and you have a lot of, um, people argue about it, right? Of like, should you even offer online as a medium?

Rich Birch — Yes.

Collin Jones — And now it’s less of that. It’s more like, should you do online only? Which we don’t take a stance on. Whatever your strategy is, great.

Rich Birch — No. Yeah. Yeah. I, uh, pre pandemic, there was a, a church I was coaching, oh and I’ve done some work with them post -pandemic as well, but they, they’re one of the fastest growing churches in the country. And, uh, you know, they had a very funny interaction where, um, you know, this was, it was probably a year, like, it was probably spring 2021. I was talking to their lead pastor and he said, you know, Rich, it’s been such a funny journey over this last year. Uh, he said, you know, I pre-pandemic, I probably wouldn’t have got up and publicly preached against church online. Like, I wouldn’t have been the guy that’s like, that’s a terrible idea; we should not do that. But he’s like, I definitely thought it, and and I would’ve, uh, you know, we, and strat strategy wise, it wasn’t a part of what we were doing, you know, at all.

Rich Birch — And then, you know, he said, there’s that great moment there in March, 2020 where, you know, I, I see, he said, I still remember, uh, you know, it was, it was still early enough that we got, we could all get together in our office, and every, everybody came together and I was like, okay, friends, you all need to get a Facebook account today. And we all have to learn how to do Facebook live today uh, so that we can continue to connect with our, with our people. And, and now it’s like, it’s a part of their strategy, his own personal social media. It’s fun. I chuckle every once in a while cause when I see him doing video and, and, um, you know, and yeah all that, uh, it’s, it’s, you know, that’s been the change that’s happened. It’s, it’s been fun to fun to watch for sure. I think the side door things interesting…

Collin Jones — I think that brings up a great point too.

Rich Birch — Yeah. Go ahead. Go ahead.

Collin Jones — Yeah, no, keep going. No, the, uh, the social media stuff was really interesting in the data, but we could talk about it later. And you go ahead.

Rich Birch — Yeah, let’s, let’s talk about that. What’s, what are people’s thinking on, uh, you know, this social media side of this whole piece?

Collin Jones — Yeah, so I’ll read the exact stat. So 89% of churches live stream on social media today, from the data from 2022. And then we ask them, what channels are you planning to do in the future? And so when only 47 were planning, 47%, we’re planning to do social media next year, which is pretty staggering.

Rich Birch — Interesting.

Collin Jones — I, I wasn’t surprised that that went down. I was surprised with how much that went down. That’s a lot. Um, this has been trended…

Rich Birch — That is a…

Collin Jones — …with churches that we’ve talked to, but that still surprised me.

Rich Birch — Yeah, that does seem that that does seem like a giant drop. Um, I guess are people counting, did you, did you qualify on what is a social network? Cause like YouTube is a, in some ways a social network. Obviously it’s built around video, but I understand the, like what they’re saying. Classically, I guess would be like, they’re not streaming on Facebook; they’re not streaming on, you know, Instagram anymore. Um, like, or they’re not planning on doing that. Uh, but yeah, any kind of, uh, that, that is fascinating. What, what do you think’s driving that? Why, why the kind of shift away from a public place? And I would assume what that means is they’re doing more kind of their own private channel somewhere, um, you know, on their, on their own page, or the church online platform, something like that?

Collin Jones — Yeah, we had a lot. And it’s, it’s good that you brought up YouTube because I think there’s a big trend towards which is, which is great. Um, YouTube is like a top of funnel place. Um, so YouTube as, you know, like the short video content, short form video content as a strategy around felt needs, et cetera. Um but I do think, I think a lot of people threw their audiences to social media and then are realizing that you can’t control them, or can’t control that media. So you’re, you’re basically giving other people your audience. And unless you’re a Transformation Church, or Bethel or you know, a Life Church or an Elevation, like, you’re probably sending your audience to those people, right? Um, which is, which is great, um, for that they’re still watching faith content, but a lot of times you want them engaging with your local community, et cetera. Or you’re sending them to cat videos or, you know, whatever.

Rich Birch — [laughs] Yes.

Collin Jones — So I think YouTube works, YouTube live works really, really well for the top 5% of churches or whatever it is, the top 2%…

Rich Birch — That’s a very good insight.

Collin Jones — …some of the largest. Um, but probably doesn’t for the, the rest, um, for live streaming specifically. I think that there’s still other great strategies for YouTube outside of ease of use. Like it’s easy for your people to go and find, which is great. And I think that’s why a lot of people do it too. Like on a tv it’s really easy to find it. Um, but if they’re on a phone or a laptop, um, then they’re, they’re probably getting distracted, right? And then they’re not clicking on the give button cause you don’t, you can’t even really have a give button. They’re not clicking on the connect in a group button or come in person button or, you know, whatever. And so I think that there’s a big trend to streaming on your own app, um, that increased by 3%, which from 35 to 38. Um, and, you know, doing things like your own, um, platform, um, and different, you know, kind of a trend back to your own platform, I think, which is kind funny. Cause it, it just, I think that’s pretty recent. Like it trended to external platforms like a year and a half ago, you know, and after Covid for a while and now it’s going back. Um a lot of churches that I talked to are, are trying to do it on their own platform just so they can control next steps and get access to more data and, um, not have ads, et cetera. So…

Rich Birch — Yeah. I love that. That’s, um, that’s a good insight. You know, the two things I wanna pull out there for us listeners, first of all, I like your distinction between, you know, there are those churches and we all have them in our movement—Elevation, Saddleback, whoever, you know, Transformation—that are kind of like, they’re the unique super outlier church. And you know, in my own coaching, and we’ve said it here before on the podcast, it is good to learn from those people, but it is a little bit like saying we’re gonna, if we, this was 30 years ago, saying we’re gonna build our strategy around what Billy Graham’s doing, cuz he seems he’s renting out, you know, he rents out the stadium, so let’s rent out the stadium next week and do that. You would never do that. You’d be like, why is that? There’s, and, and a number of those churches you, you mentioned are, they are just such a, they’re so, uh, they’re such outliers, they’re so different than all of us. We need to look at people that are just slightly above, you know, or slightly larger than us or kind of more, um, you know, in our kind of group.

Rich Birch — And then the other piece is this whole rented land issue, building your house on rented land, something like YouTube or Facebook. Um, the danger there is—and we’ve seen this, right—the, um, you know, something changes, they decide they’re not interested anymore. Um, you know, you that can go away if you push all your strategy just in one location, if you don’t have more control of that, or to your point, uh, you know, you’re just feeding them. You’re just, you know, you’re just feeding their engine. You’re, you’re literally the be the net benefactor of sending someone to YouTube is actually YouTube. It’s not actually necessarily your, your people. I think that’s a really good insight.

Rich Birch — Now, I did see something in, in the report that got caught my eye that I’d love to hear your thoughts on. Talk to me about Metaverse. Uh, what there is like some interesting kind of stuff there around, uh, around that, that I found a little bit surprising.

Collin Jones — Yeah. I’ll read the stat. Um, and then qualify it. So 25% of churches that were surveyed planned to offer Metaverse worship services in one year from when that research was done, which is very high, one outta four.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Collin Jones — Um, which also very surprising. Keep in mind that was that this, the survey I think was done right when, you know, Facebook, Apple and all of these companies reporting like tons of spend, kind of like, um, AI is today.

Rich Birch — Yes. Yes.

Collin Jones — Like if you ask churches right now, how many of you plan to do AI stuff, it’d probably be like, you know, a really high number, right? And then maybe a year from now, you know, it depends on how the trend goes. Maybe it’s the same, maybe it’s lower. My guess is that we’d have a lot lower, say if we asked the question right now. But that it’d probably still be higher than we think. I think there’s a lot of cool use cases for this. Jeff, Jeff Reed, who I think you know well, um, uh, The Church Digital is doing a lot of, um, Metaverse kind of, um, cohorts with, um, with a few different church planting networks, Leadership Network, one of them that, um, that does strategic content for them, um, with Exponential, et cetera. Um, and so he, he’s got kind of a lot of just really random, very cool God’s using use cases. Some of them are, you know, kind of the, the church model that uses it as another campus. Others are around kind of like a use case, like, Hey, we’ve got this gamer here that goes to our church who plays in VR every day, has a large audience, you know, or whatever. Um, that, you know, started a basically a church for us, right in VR. Some that are doing their own online churches only in VR. Um, and so I think that that’s, that’s a lot of, um, open space that, that we don’t really know how it lands. And the, the connection points probably that are going there are like the gamers that are in it today. You know, um, it is surprising, I think it, last time I looked like 8% of the United States, um, uses VR monthly. Um, which is a, a high percentage, right? And so that is like a great channel to reach people at.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Collin Jones — 8% of the, the United States is a big number, so.

Rich Birch — Yeah, there’s definitely that VR um, I’ve joked with friends… I’m a big Disney World fan, and, uh, you know, they’re, they had a VR headset at Epcot Center, I think it was 1988 or 1989. And, uh, it’s not fundamentally different than what we’re experiencing today. I understand that it looks way better. I get it, but it’s still like, it’s, uh, it feels like it still needs a, some sort of radical shift. And I know, I know Apple’s working on a headset this year. Uh, they’re supposed to be releasing one this fall, so it’ll, you know, it’ll be interesting to see what happens on that front. What’s Resi’s uh, what’s your kind of thinking on the Metaverse? Like, I know like Life Church has done the, like, you know, the campus in, um, you know, the Horizons I think it’s called, and they basically are streaming in, you know, a video from the, you know, from, from their actual, you know, whatever you call it in real life campuses. Is is that the kind of solution? Do you have any churches that are actually doing that kind of thing today?

Collin Jones — Yeah, we have quite a few. So, um, yeah, Sun Valley also does to, to Facebook to Facebook’s world. Um, yeah and I, I do think like with the Oculus, like $2- or $300 headset that did like, create like a big, like… I remember we, we had, I forgot what it was, but four years ago we had to put all of the kind of sensors in the corners of the room. We had to have like a really powerful machine running it. Aand then fast forward four years, and it’s just this headset, you know, that’s all you need. Um and it looks way better. So I, I was very surprised at how far it’s gotten in that many years um, with the hardware requirements being that low and the cost being that low. But I agree, like there has to be some… right now, the only real reason for you to go there is gaming, right? So like if you’re, um, but I could imagine like working there, um, doing a lot of different things there and how it would be better than, you know, components of life, which is, you know, a meta thing to even talk about. But the, uh,  and, you know, have to feedback and all that, it gets weird quick.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

Collin Jones — But um, churches are doing it. Um, often today it looks like just like a multisite. It’s like you’d have, you know, the screens sometimes even dual channel, you know, with like a person on the stage. Other times people will have like their own dedicated pastor for it. Um, and so they’re there. Um, and there are some interesting social dynamics that are different than, you know, in life or online um, that are interesting. I think like, like you can just walk up to someone and start talking to them, all the sermons going, and that’s, that’s a normal thing to do.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Collin Jones — So like you can have volunteers, you know…

Rich Birch — Right.

Collin Jones — …getting to know people, which you couldn’t do on a, if they’re on a screen, you know, watching your stream.

Rich Birch — Yeah. That’s interesting. I know Scott Galloway the thing, he, he is always punching on in the New York, uh, New York University professor, he’s always punching on Meta. And like, you know, he, he has a ax to grind there and his, this, the sound bite that he keeps rolling out is, um, so Horizons, which I think is what the Facebook thing is called, um, is, uh, his, his whole thing is like, let’s not forget, friends, that Horizon today has less active users as MySpace today. Um, that, you know, that current, the current MySpace site…

Collin Jones — Yeah, interesting.

Rich Birch — …has more people using it, uh, regularly than, you know, than Horizon. So I, you know, I, it feels like there’s something here. It feels like there’s, I I agree that down the road this, if this does feel like, oh, there, we’re gonna end up there someday. I’m, I was shocked by the one in four churches thing, but I, you know, I think you’re right, there’s probably a caveat there around, you know, you catch the hype cycle at the right moment and, you know, lots of innovators are like, we’re doing it! We’re doing it! Which is, which would be people that are attracted to, you know, talking with you guys.

Rich Birch — So well kind of as we come to, you know, come to land as we kind of come to, you know, wrap up this, first of all, friends, we’ve got a link to the, uh, study in the show notes. You know, pick it up. It’s fantastic. There’s a ton…we could talk for a long time on these. Are there any other kind of, uh, parting thoughts as we wrap up, uh, this conversation, uh, about, uh, the report or just technology in general and its impact, uh, in the church?

Collin Jones — Yeah, I think, I think something that I always try to offer when we’re, when we’re doing this is like, how do we, how do we win online? And I think it’s always experimentation, right? So I think like, you know, really the no-nonsense guide, the winning online or with any channel…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Collin Jones — …um, that’s constantly changing is, you know, experiment, like measure what matters. So measure your mission, measure what matters, make sure that everyone agrees and knows what that is and that it’s very clear, you know. And then two experiment. So make sure that people are empowered to experiment, and that they know the boundaries there and the lines. And then the third is just do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Collin Jones — And that’s really, you know, we all don’t understand online that well; we’re all trying to figure it out.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Collin Jones — It’s all, how can we reach people, more people for Jesus? And so I think, um, yeah, not, not, not feeling behind is a great place to start. Um, and just doing those three things, experimenting and, um, everybody is, you know, uh, in, in kind of the same spot of not understanding online. Um, and we’re all experimenting together.

Rich Birch — Love it. Well, Collin, I really appreciate you being here today. Uh, again, we’ll link to the show notes. Uh, we’ll link to the study in the show notes, but if we wanna send people online anywhere to learn more about Pushpay, about Resi, where do we want to send them, or to connect with you? How does, how does all that work?

Collin Jones — Yeah, either of our sites: resi.io, so resi.io and pushpay.com, um, which I think everybody probably knows how to spell Pushpay, so I’ll avoid you [inaudible] that. And then the State of the Church report is, is has a lot of other insights too, not just on online on online, but a lot a lot of other digital tools and what people are buying and um, that I think is a great resource as well.

Rich Birch — Love it. Thanks so much, Collin. Cheering for you and the team. Uh, you know, you definitely got fans over here, so appreciate you being here today. Thanks for helping us.

Collin Jones — Yeah, thanks Rick, so much, Rch, so much. And yeah, I’ve loved your content for a long time and still keep up with it. Um, and love the main idea of unSeminary and this is very much in that realm. I don’t think there’s a seminary class on, uh, church online. Maybe there is now.

Rich Birch — Yeah. 

Collin Jones — Hopefully.

Rich Birch — That’s great. That’s great. Thanks so much, man. Appreciate you being here today.

Collin Jones — Thanks.

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.