On the brink of launching idochurchonline.com to our weekend crowd in a few days (November 15th, 6:30 & 8:30 EST), here are 10 things I've learned in these five and a half months:
1. There's a ton I still don't know. I think this would be true for all online church leaders. This is still the bleeding edge trend and there isn't a 25 year old Denomination of Online Churches (thank goodness).
2. Criticism will come. The foundation of how we do church is being shaken. It doesn't set well with a few of those who think you have to attend a physical church to be a fully devoted follower of Christ. (For the record, I'm a huge fan of different churches for different people... the physical church building will continue as a great option for millions) There are valid questions to ponder.
3. The burden of a pastor. My Dad's been a pastor for 40+ years. While my title is Online Church Director, I still feel the weight of the scores of people that will come with needs, questions, and real pain in their lives. I'm reminded you can only lead people where you've been. I have a whole new appreciation for my leaders and my Dad.
4. The unity amongst other Online Churches is inspiring. I am so appreciative of the support from the pioneers ahead of us... The open hand of support and conversations with Life Church and Liquid Church were particularly helpful and motivating. I look forward to the opportunity to meet more of these leaders and find ways of how we can work and learn together. I pray for them often.
5. It's important to identify your audience. Are you primarily serving your current congregation so they can watch services while they're away? Is it for English speaking people only? National? Global? (to name a few) Our programming will continue to need to be evaluated to align with our target audience.
6. New rules for volunteer teams. We already have volunteers outside our of state and country which is incredibile! How do you empower, train, lead, and screen them appropriately? This is certainly a work in progress.... :)
7. Partnering with the right development team was critical. Working for a technology company, I have a whole new appreciation for AspireOne. They were able to shift strategy mid-stream to meet the new challenges and opportunities technology brought. They owned this project as if it were their own site.
8. Most people don't get it. I'm met regularly with a tilted head and crumpled forehead as I try to explain the strategy of Online Church. I think we'll see the light come on more each month that passes. It's a whole new mission field.
9. There are people who "play" church regardless of the location. Checking the box of going to church isn't the church. Going through the motions of taking communion while thinking about what you're going to do when you get home misses its purpose. One's heart determines whether or not they did church or not, online or not. The greatest examples of "being the church" have no walls and typically happen outside of an hour weekend service.
10. God is not afraid of the cloud. (Cloud meaning the internet) God can move through the internet, a fish net, or a New Jersey Net if He wants. It's quite a feeling "knowing" the stories of life change are coming. I can't wait to see what He is going to do....
I'm sure we'll make some mistakes along the way but we'll keep falling forward. Let the ride begin!