7 Ways to Improve Your Online Campus Ministry

By Jack Raymond

These are truly historic times. Sports events are shut down. Schools are closed. Travel is severely limited. And for us as church leaders, church now looks completely different than normal.

In fact, I was just talking with one of our ministers at Prestonwood who has been in ministry for 56 years, and she shared with me that she has never seen anything like this. Many things have changed, and perhaps the biggest change currently is the shift toward the virtual. We are all moving toward Zoom meetings, FaceTime, and online church.

In this article, I want to share seven lessons that I have learned – and I am in the process of learning – regarding online ministry.

  1. Aim for Connection

My greatest advice is to seek to truly connect with those who worship with you online.

There are many ways to do this, with much room for creativity, but the key is to authentically connect with people. It’s the same as it is in “normal” church. Imagine someone who comes to your church, sits through the whole worship service, and no one talks to that person or reaches out to him or her. That person’s experience of your church would be poor, and most likely he or she would have no interest in coming back to hear more about Jesus and His love.

I believe that the same is true for those who worship online. Most people want to be heard. Most people want to connect. And that is why having a pastor, staff member or key leader in your online chat is so vital. Depending on the volume of your chat, you may consider building a connection team to aid in this area.

  1. Encourage connection with others

To take this a step further, encourage connection online beyond just your chat leader and connection team. Create a space where people can build community online.

At Prestonwood, we have a Facebook group for our Online Campus. In this group, I post once or twice a day to start conversations, including a discussion of the past weekend’s sermon, a place to share prayer requests, a sermon recap video from Pastor Jack Graham and much more.

It could be a Facebook group, and it could also be a different method. People long for relationships. Theologically, God created us in His image and designed us not to be alone (Genesis 1:26–27; 2:18).

Deep down, people crave a place where they can belong and where they can be real. As you connect and get to know your people, work with them to find the best way to build this spiritual community.

During the online service, many people will share prayer requests either publicly or privately. A powerful practice is to respond to public prayer requests and to encourage others to pray for one another. There is power in prayer, and there is power when God’s people pray for one another.

Paul states in 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

The church must be a place of prayer. Therefore, the church online must be a place of prayer, too.

Don’t forget Jesus’ words in Matthew 21:13, “My house shall be called a house of prayer” (Isaiah 56:7; Jeremiah 7:11; Mark 11:17).

  1. Offer immediate response and help

Again, just as you would do in church, minister to those who are hurting. For many people, that is simply reminding them that they are not alone. Remind people of the Gospel. Remind people that God is always there for them, and that the Church is there to help point and lead them to Jesus.

When people reach out to your church online, make sure that someone is present to offer prayer, love and support in a timely manner.

  1. Give opportunity for later response and deeper conversations

In addition to giving people a way to receive immediate help, also find ways to give an opportunity for later and more intentional conversation. Many times, people will have deep needs or tough questions that require more in-depth conversations offline.

Personally, I try to make my e-mail very visible to our online community. I include it throughout the online chat, in our Facebook group, in Facebook messaging from the church’s account, and in a variety of other ways. I also give out my office number for those who have spiritual questions and needs.

I want to share one recent story about how important this really is. A couple of weeks ago, I received a call from a young man named Immanuel from Ohio. He had watched our worship service that past Sunday, and he had questions about baptism.

Immanuel was clearly spiritually curious, and he shared with me that he thought baptism would help him feel better. We talked for more than 20 minutes, and I asked him questions about his beliefs, and then shared the full Gospel with him. Over the phone, Immanuel prayed to believe in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior!

Make sure that your church connects with people online, and gives them a chance to have Gospel and life-changing conversations.

  1. Do each online platform well … and then think about adding a new one

I want to be especially practical with these final three lessons, as I pray that they will bless your church and online ministry.

As you think about your church’s online ministry, remember that it is better to do one platform really well than to do four or five mediocre platforms. Therefore, if Facebook Live is your strength, then pour resources and energy into making that a powerful and dynamic experience for those who worship with you. If it is Church Online, then invest there first.

Then, once you feel that you are doing well on that online platform, think about expanding to a new platform in order to reach a new audience and more people with the good news of Jesus Christ.

  1. Study how other churches are doing online ministry

This is such a critical lesson. “Online church” is such a new idea, especially when one looks at the scope of church history. This means that changes will happen in this area at a very rapid rate.

I encourage you always to be looking to churches in your area, and how they reach and minister to people online. Also, study churches that have a large online presence and an effective online ministry. Look for ways in which you can learn principles from their example.

Like in all areas of life, look to learn and grow from others.

Personally, there are several churches and leaders from whom I am learning in this area (and. of course. in other areas, too).

  1. Be willing to try something new and to make changes

These are challenging times. However, these can also be fruitful times for the Church. People are hurting, and they are longing for hope. God has entrusted you and me with His Gospel. Are we willing to try new ways and methods of reaching a lost and dying world?

There is so much change all around us, and the temptation is to give up and throw our hands in the air. Let us do the opposite. Let us pray for boldness. In the midst of such rapid change, let us offer the living hope of our Jesus who never changes – “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

If I can be a resource to you or your church, please contact me at jraymond@prestonwood.org. I would love to help you in any way that I can.

Jack Raymond serves as Online Campus Pastor at Prestonwood Baptist Church. Connect with Jack on Twitter @jackdraymond1.