Home Pastors The Most Overlooked Place to Plant a Church: Online

The Most Overlooked Place to Plant a Church: Online

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I am a wholehearted believer in church planting. In fact, I am a church planter. I planted Mecklenburg Community Church (Meck) in October 1992 and have served as pastor here ever since.

Of keen interest to anyone wanting to plant a church or to support church planting in general must be pinpointing areas of need: fast-growing areas, under-churched areas, and sectors of our world where the numbers of unchurched people are high.

Which is why it is stunning to me that the key place to plant a church – where the need is greatest and the “fields white unto harvest” — is almost entirely overlooked.

I’m talking about planting a church online. Or at the very least, planting a campus of your church online.

And notice I said “campus.”

There is a difference between being online and having an online campus, meaning a digital campus of your church online. So what does an online campus entail?

First, what an online campus is not.

It is not a Facebook stream of your in-person weekend service.

It is not a video of your weekend service parked on YouTube.

It is not a livestream of your in-person service that people can watch through your website.

Church online is a digital campus that is akin to a physical campus in every possible way. It has set service times that you attend and where you are greeted by hosts. The main difference between a physical campus and an online campus is that it exists, and is engaged, digitally.

There are staff and pastors ready to meet you and engage with you. In fact, it is staffed in almost every way you would staff a physical campus. You are introduced to online opportunities for children’s ministry and adult classes and invited to select in-person events.

The service itself has been prepared specifically for online consumption and engagement—not just in terms of what is said, but also how it is filmed and/or presented.

This makes the service itself different than the in-person service.

First, it is shorter—online attention spans are shorter than in-person attention spans. So at Meck, for example, instead of 60-65 minutes for a service, our online campus service averages around 40-45 minutes.

Whatever we do with announcements, they are completely tailored for online consumption, online engagement and online attenders. When we talk about serving opportunities, we don’t highlight anything related to serving during an in-person service. Instead, we highlight online serving opportunities, or serving days and events that are outside of weekend service times.

While the creative elements, including music, borrow from what is also being prepared for the in-person service, it is presented and filmed differently. Again, for online consumption, and with the understanding that we are attempting to connect with a single person, or a very small group of people (e.g., a family).

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James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunct professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His newest book, Christianity for People Who Aren’t Christians: Uncommon Answers to Common Questions, is now available on Amazon or at your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.