3 differences between preaching in a room and preaching online

Pastor, there’s differences between preaching in a room and preaching online. You understand, because the last few years has been a challenge! For hundreds of years we’ve been communicating to people, in real life (IRL), in a room. Growing that audience has been a challenge throughout our history but we’ve gone into the highways and byways and compelled them to come in. 

Once in the room, IRL, it’s one thing to communicate to them from a pulpit; and a totally different skill to preach to a camera’s red light. Trying to engage a seemingly-imaginary online audience is difficult! 

If we don’t master those skills, and partner them with your IRL skills; we risk missing the greatest opportunity to reach our entire world for Christ. It’s never been easier for online evangelism. But harder too. That’s why you’re so exhausted — you’re trying to reach 2 audiences. Simultaneously!

There are 3 differences between preaching in a room and preaching where people worship online (PWO). So, let’s discuss the adjustments you need to master in your local ministry:

  1. Attention spans are longer IRL than PWO. In a room, people IRL are somewhat a captive audience. The IRL congregation understands the staying-power of eye-contact and pays attention as long as the Pastor’s eyes are directed their way. PWO shift to a TV model. We don’t HAVE to pay attention when watching a show. And now, with DVRs, if we miss something we should’ve watched, we can rewind and rewatch. ADJUSTMENT: Don’t expect a captive PWO audience. They want shorter, episodic content. For HYBRID (same content for both IRL/PWO)? This is exceptionally difficult. Either reduce your IRL content to smaller episodes and/or edit online content to bite-sized scannable content and offer it on demand rather than live (which remedies the desire to rewind and watch).
  2. There’s instant feedback IRL and delayed with PWO. When preaching IRL, you see engagement or boredom. Or if they need more information from you. PWO can only do this through chat or emoji feedback. ADJUSTMENT: Realize that PWO are probably similar to your IRL congregation. If IRL want more, then your PWO probably do too. For HYBRID? Have an online Pastor (someone monitoring chat and interacting) to connect, answer questions online, and the ability to connect with you after they watch. Be sure to post additional content to the online sermon notes to clarify for on demand PWO.
  3. Leaving a room IRL is more difficult than PWO. PWO can quickly jump from your sermon, be distracted by notifications, and get tempted to find another online service they’d prefer. It’s just a click away! If someone gets bored IRL, rarely will they get up and leave. Instead they’ll, over time, decide not to return. ADJUSTMENT: watch online numbers (analytics) of PWO who don’t stay the whole time and see if there’s a trend when they tend to leave. Adjust IRL and PWO services to meet the needs of those attending based on your new understanding. If it’s happening for PWO, many IRL are feeling the same way. Especially if your numbers are stagnating or declining.

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