Church Outreach – The Online/Offline Divide

Church Outreach – The Online/Offline Divide

I want the advice here on ChurchTrain to be clear and meaningful. Often this may result in a lengthy explanation of the thinking behind an idea – why it’s good advice, how to put it into practice and the Biblical justification.

Sometimes, however, advice can be so simple, and obvious, that it just needs to be said as it is. Today is one of those days – this will be a short blog post. *Cue sighs of relief*

Well, fairly short… 

As churches and charities, we put a lot of time into social media. Sometimes we put more time than is sensible because we’re not making best use of the tools designed to make social media management easy – but that’s another topic, and one that’s been well-covered.


The Online and Offline ‘Worlds’

For many organisations, we’ve got lots of good stuff happening online, and lots of good stuff happening offline.

Unfortunately, there’s often a massive disconnect between the two.

We’re actually quite good at bringing our ‘offline stuff’ online; we use our online platforms to tell stories about the things the church has been doing. For many, this forms the bulk of our online content strategy – and rightly so! The local church is primarily about building connections, giving help and proclaiming the gospel in our locality through words and actions.

Where, then, is this disconnect? From experience, it seems to me that we’re not very good at connecting the other way.

Churches aren’t very good at promoting their online work, offline.


Churches need to learn to promote their online work, offline.

Click to tweet this


The reason this happens is obvious – we view our online outreach as an extension of our offline work: an enhancement, if you will. Regrettably, we undersell our online outreach as a result – we see it as a means to an end, rather than a valid form of outreach in its own right.

Not to worry, though, because it’s easy to change:

Share your online work, offline.

I’ll keep repeating myself if I have to! It’s so easy to remind our church members to connect with us online. Dead simple example: ask our church attendees to ‘Like’ our Facebook page if they haven’t already done so.
Not only is this easy, but it’s effective –  it works!


Evidence-based Research…

Allow me just one example, from my own experience. A while back, my church needed to gain a total of 100 YouTube subscribers in order to use their live streaming feature (a limit which no longer exists). Tragically, we only had 30 – out of a church of around 400!

So we got to work – which already makes it sound a lot more arduous than it was. We plugged the YouTube channel from the stage in the morning and evening service, with a quick value proposition of why we needed sign-ups, as well as benefits of subscribing. We also mentioned this at our student lunch, and we threw in a couple of social posts for good measure.

Within just four days, we had reached 130 YouTube subscribers, well over our target! We had achieved our goal, and it really didn’t take much work.

Now, you may not always get results as useful as this, but what I can guarantee is that by sharing your online work with your offline world, you’ll breed a culture where online outreach is valued as a core strand of the church outreach strategy.


In Practice

Some tips, then:

  • Share your channels – show people where you ‘live’ online. Perhaps focus on one channel at a time for a more focused outcome. Explain the benefits of connecting, as well as your goals for growing your network (hint: reaching people is generally near the top of the list!).
  • Encourage engagement – once your people have connected with you, encourage them to engage with the content you publish. Encourage liking, commenting and sharing. Just make sure you’re not telling everyone to share every single post – this will look spammy and will likely annoy their other online friends. Encourage selective sharing when they think their friends will see a benefit.
  • Don’t overdo it – Remind people regularly and build this culture, but don’t overdo it. If you send the message that you value your online outreach over and above the offline, you’re defeating the point.
  • Set an example – make sure you’re using your personal social media to engage with the church content, following the tips above to give a healthy model to follow.

And a last tip for those of us responsible for producing content for the church; make sure our content is relevant (which goes without saying) and easy to share. Include helpful pictures (and church branding!), use ‘click to tweet’ links in blog posts (try clicking the link in the previous sentence!), and keep messages short and sweet (in line with the brand voice!).

Give it a go, I can’t wait to hear how you get on!

2 Responses

  1. Good point. I also have been wondering how to make more use and more connection between online and offline. One thing i am considering is creating a set of podcasts to accompany an “offline” Bible study series I am sure other people have done that but it will be new for me 🙂

    • Joe

      That’s good, Chris. Obviously you want to make sure that people get value from it, as it’ll take a reasonable amount of effort to prepare and produce, but it sounds like a good idea!

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