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3 Keys to Digital Engagement Every Church Needs to Know 

There are two types of digital engagement churches need to focus on if they want to survive—and grow—in 2021. 

But almost every church I’ve seen during the pandemic has completely ignored one of them.

Churches need to have digital engagement strategies and content around insiders and outsiders. But outsiders—the people who are not currently connected to your church—have been left by the wayside.

Most churches are focusing their energy, effort, and resources on reaching and engaging with people who are already at their church, and then hoping that their content will bring in new people as well. But if you know me and the team at The Unstuck Group, you know we come back to this truism all the time: Hope isn’t a strategy. Utilizing the same content and strategies for both groups will not equip you to build a successful hybrid church. 

You can’t help outsiders take first steps if you don’t know who you are trying to reach in your mission field. And you can’t help insiders take next steps if you don’t have a clearly defined discipleship path. 

Most churches are missing opportunities (best case scenario) and even alienating people outside the faith (worst case scenario) with their approach to doing ministry online. 

So what do we do next? How do we engage the right people in the right ways?

1. Churches Need to Define Their Mission Field. Who are you trying to reach?

While the world of digital ministry opens a lot of doors, it can also be overwhelming and make it easy for churches to feel like they need to reach everyone.

But in order to be effective in ministry, you need to know who your target audience is. It’s tempting to just say “we want to reach everyone!” But the problem is, we might think we’re speaking to everyone, but we’re not. We’re usually talking to people just like us in vague terms that don’t connect on a personal level. 

It’s crucial to have a defined mission field to lead a growing church. You can’t have an effective ministry strategy without knowing who you are trying to reach. And you certainly can’t expand your church’s digital front door if you don’t know who you are trying to reach.

Think through the demographics of your target audience: 

    • What is their age range? (We recommend a 10-year range)
    • Their life stage? (Single, Empty Nesters, Young Families) 
    • And their spiritual condition? (Unchurched, Dechurched, Spiritually Curious etc.)

2. Churches Need to Structure Strategies Around Both Audiences. How will you reach insiders and outsiders? 

Churches need to build strategies and create content for insiders and outsiders in unique ways that speak to them.  

For outsiders, churches need to focus on small steps like joining an email list, asking for prayer, following your church on social media or downloading a helpful resource. 

For insiders, focus on helping them take their next step on the discipleship path by joining a small group, serving, getting baptized, etc. 

Here’s a visual that walks through the kind of content and channels you want to focus on for engaging with each group: 

3. Churches Need to Measure What’s Effective.  How do you know if your digital ministry strategies are working?  

With digital strategy, there are a lot of easy-to-see metrics that can be tempting to use, like 3-second views, likes, or comments. But at the end of the day, these vanity metrics won’t actually tell you what you need to know in order to lead your church well. 

Everything you measure needs to help you make better decisions. 

So you need to measure your digital ministry strategy against whether it is helping outsiders take small steps and insiders take their next step on the discipleship path. 

Think through key questions like:

  • Are we reaching new people online? 
  • How many people are taking their first step? 
  • How many new names did we add to our email list or database? 
  • How are people finding us online? (Facebook, Google Ads, content,etc.)  
  • Which strategies are helping people move from their “first step” to a “next step”?  

And then begin to test and iterate on the strategies that are working to help new people connect with your church and the people already engaged with your church take their next step closer to Christ. 

And if you’d like to dig deeper into practical strategies for creating an effective digital ministry, you can download our free resource The Ultimate Guide to Digital Ministry Strategy

These three keys will help you define, structure, and execute your church’s digital ministry strategy. As we head into 2021, building an effective hybrid church will be vital to not just surviving but thriving in the new normal. 

The Unstuck Group helps pastors lead a thriving church that continually reached new people and helps them take their next steps towards Christ. We equip you with the skills you need to grow your church’s impact and your own effectiveness as a leader – helping you successfully align vision, strategy, team and action.

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Tony is the Chief Strategic Officer and founder of The Unstuck Group. For 14 years, Tony served on the senior leadership teams at West Ridge Church (Dallas, GA), NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC) and Granger Community Church (Granger, IN). He's written several books and articles that have been featured with the Willow Creek Association, Catalyst and Pastors.com.