An online campus is a community of people who are learning about, connecting with, and growing closer to God in a virtual environment. The goals of an online campus are similar to that of its brick-and-mortar counterpart, that is, to use whatever tools available to help people enter into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, equip them to serve their communities, and go into the world (both physically and online) to share the Gospel.
Online campuses are more than just watching a live-streaming video of a church service. People login to their computers or smartphones, engage in worship and watch the sermon, interact with others, pray together, respond to invitations, and challenges, give tithes and offerings, and are cared for by an internet campus pastor–all in real time. Some online churches even administer communion and perform baptisms.
These churches are not restricted by walls and can reach literally every inch of the globe.
Here are four features of an online campus:
- An introduction to your church. Your website is the front door to your church. A live online worship service allows people seeking a church home to experience whether your church is a place to visit in-person.
- An outreach of your church. People are coming to faith through online worship services in the same way millions did through watching evangelist Billy Graham in the privacy of their homes. For many people seeking God and faith, attending a church is too threatening. Visiting church online can be a safe first step towards coming to your church.
- A lifeline for your church family. Sports tournaments, sick kids, vacations, business trips, and other reasons can interfere with regular church attendance. Church families can stay connected and in community spiritually, emotionally and financially through an online campus. I am grateful that my son was able to stay connected online with his home church while deployed in Afghanistan.
- A church multiplication strategy for your church. Thousands of people are logging on to internet campuses from around the world, but also from your local region. Your online campus congregation can reveal where to launch a multisite campus or a church plant.
The online church campus was a natural extension of the multisite model that is now gaining momentum. Like many recent innovations in the church, megachurches led the way with this idea, but it’s no longer just a megachurch phenomenon. Any tech-savvy, outreach-oriented church regardless of size can, will, and are planning to reach into cyberspace. Streaming video is a great way to expand your reach–without expanding your physical space.
Below are ten helpful online campus tips as you prepare to expand your campus virtually:
An online campus is another “neighborhood” full of people far from God and not limited by geography or the size of a building.
Online campuses won’t be seen as a “real” campus unless you see online relationships as legitimate.
Successful online campuses have a heart, so appoint a dedicated online campus pastor to provide care for those online.
Determine the goal and priorities of your online campus. Is it outreach? Member care? Church marketing?
Go to school on other churches doing online campuses well. Most will be glad to share what they have learned.
Smart churches make it easy to give digitally online.
Create a digital community with your online campus by integrating social media tools like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.
Decide ahead of time how your online campus will handle communion and baptism (it will come up).
Online campuses cost less than a building but more than you think, so budget for a small staff, quality equipment, streaming fees, etc.
An online campus is a worldwide campus, so be sensitive to world events, holidays, and America-centric attitudes. Be as inclusive as possible.
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