Church Fuel Podcast: Digital Strategy with Nona Jones – Part 1

Church Fuel Podcast: Digital Strategy with Nona Jones – Part 1

Guest: Nona Jones 

Nona Jones is recognized as one of the world’s foremost expert on building The Kingdom through social technology and motivating thousands of church leaders each year to reimagine social media as a strategic tool for ministry.

She coined the term “Social Ministry” while writing her best selling book, “Social Media to Social Ministry”, and helped build and lead Facebook’s global Faith-Based Partnerships strategy, coming alongside churches and pastors around the world to shift their thinking from church as “building” to church as “community.” 


Let's start with what Digital Strategy ISN'T

All too often we use the word “strategy” and the word “tactics” interchangeably. Chasing tools and tactics is not a recipe for how to be effective, it’s a recipe to be tired. 


A digital strategy is more than a calendar or a schedule of events. A strategy is answering the why, the who, and the how. 


It’s the intentional thought that goes behind all of your tactics and tools. You have to start with the question, “Why are we here”, and then consider how you can use digital tools to accomplish your why.


A digital strategy is also not loosely affiliated buzzwords or a methodology adapted from a church down the street. It’s personalized to your context and your community with practical and tangible applications. 



Because a platform exists does not mean that you have to be present. You have to go back to your why, and understand what you want to accomplish by being there. Digital tools and platforms are about way more than just being present; they’re an opportunity to extend your ministry beyond the walls of your building.


A straddled strategy is all about being everywhere at all times – but if you attempt to be everywhere, you’re really nowhere. You’ve just divided your focus into simply pushing content, and not creating intentional ministry opportunities. 


You need to ask yourself, “why are we here” and “what are we hoping to accomplish”?



Two out of three churches in America are declining in attendance. And the vast majority of churches are declining due to relevancy, and a lack of presence online.


It has become a cultural norm to familiarize ourselves and build trust with a brand, an organization, or a person online before we connect with them in-person.


Having a digital presence meets people where they are and begins the process of building a relationship and connection. 



Start with getting the right people together who can speak into the strategy of your church alongside you. Although you can muscle through it, there’s great value to getting both outsider and insider perspectives as you begin to build your strategy.


Innovation almost always happens from people who allow outside perspectives to speak into their work. It cannot be the same three people who meet in the same staff meeting every week, it has to extend beyond the insiders and to people who are going to look at both the 30,000-foot view and the deep dive that will give you steps one, two, and three to reach it.



If you hear the word “digital strategy” and automatically want to tune out, don’t. A strategy isn’t just for the big guys, it’s for the normal guys too. Thinking that strategy only applies to churches with a thousand people, and a staff of fifteen is a limiting trap. 


Strategy is about being a good steward with the vision that God has given you. What you are doing matters. Your purpose matters. Your calling matters. 


And if all of that matters, then it is worthwhile to invest in a clear plan for your church.



Connect with Nona:

Read or download a free PDF transcript of this episode HERE


Notable Quotes from Episode 3.1

“We use the word strategy interchangeably with what we really mean by tactics. A strategy is a combination of why and how.” – Nona Jones


“You haven’t been called to every space. You have to know why you are there.” – Nona Jones


“Strategy is for every church. The idea that you have to have a thousand people attending your church before you can have a strategy is a false belief that limits the potential of your church.” – Michael Lukaszewski


“Your purpose should never change; it’s the “go out into all the world” call that every church has their own version of. But your mission is current. Your mission is “ what are we doing right now to accomplish our purpose?” – Michael Lukaszewski



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The Church Fuel Podcast Episode 2.9: How To Lead A Digital Church

The Church Fuel Podcast Episode 2.9: How To Lead A Digital Church

Guest: Kyle Ranson 

Kyle is Director of the Experience Team at Crossroads, the group that creates everything from videos to music to articles to apps to weekend services. He joyfully fulfills stereotypes about Millennials with his love of craft beer and woodworking and is passionate about people finding God. 

He’s also the brother-in-law of our very own Meagan Ranson! 

Is online church even biblical?  

The big C church and your church specifically, is heading toward an unavoidable tension point on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

You’ve likely already had these questions swirling in your head at night:

Do we keep doing online church when we can do in-person at full capacity? 

Is it even biblical to have online church? 

Questions that weren’t on your radar a year ago. 

Kyle started dealing with questions like this in 2015 when his church was rapidly growing but in an alarming way. Most of the growth was happening due to the addition of new sites instead of current sites getting bigger and bigger. To create growth in the communities Crossroads was already planted in, and have an impact on the people in those areas, Kyle and his staff started looking at using online church as a way to reach new people. 

And the first question they wrestled with was, “Is this biblical?” 

Like Kyle in 2015, you don’t want people to just hear your sermons. You people in your community to plug into your church and be involved with a healthy community of people. When COVID-19 first hit our shores online church was the only option if you wanted to continue making an impact for the Kingdom, but now you’re left to figure out if online church is a viable option for your church to continue creating a growing body of believers. 

What Kyle realized, and the same is true for your church, is that one of the church’s primary jobs is to reach people. If the bulk of people in your surrounding community are online that is where you need to be. 

Maintaining an online presence with your church will ensure that you continue to be seen by people who would never set foot in a physical church, and give your church a chance to impact more people in the community. Some churches like Crossroads started making the virtual world a mission field as far back as 2015, but you can keep reaching people online even when in-person services are completely back to normal. 

Everybody is still learning!    

You are not the only one still trying to figure out how to do online church in a way that feels exactly right and super effective. Online church hasn’t been around long enough for there to be an expert or an exact formula on how to do mission work online. 

At this point, if your church is doing the very best it can, you’re heading in the right direction.

In reality, the place that you reach people has never been static. People are always moving and it is part of the hard work of your church to meet them where they move to.  

The people who are aching to be back in the building and see people in person are going to come back to your physical building. But give yourself room to improve your church’s online experience so that the friend of a friend who would prefer a link over a ride to church still has a place to go and hear the Gospel. 

How do you disciple someone toward Jesus from a distance? 

The easiest part of online church is reaching people. Millions of eyes are on a screen every single day which means millions of people could be viewing your church’s online content at any given moment. 

And people want to consume your church’s content when they want how they want. As long as you have something for people to engage with, they’ll engage with it. 

Discipling those people from a distance may seem foreign, but it’s not a new concept for your church or any church for that matter. Think back to Paul and the many letters that he wrote to churches in places like Ephesus and Corinth. He wrote those letters from hundreds of miles away! With ink and pen, he was disciplining people from a distance. 

Paul used what was at his disposal to disciple people he could not see, or sit down with in-person to disciple. So what is currently at your disposal? 

Kyle’s favorite tool for learning is Youtube. 

Use videos like this to learn how you can reach and disciple people online. 

Watch this webinar replay of our Reaching People Online webinar to learn more about specific and easy to do strategies your church can use to make the virtual world a mission field. 

Listen to this recent podcast episode about using local SEO to make more people aware of your church. The more people who notice your church online, the more people you can turn into disciples.

Whatever it is, use something that is at your disposal to not only reach people online but make disciples online. 

Online church isn’t a nuisance. 

According to the Barna research group, the majority of people are going to become hybrid churchgoers over the next five years. You’ve probably already seen some of these people. They’re at church one week and viewing your online service from the tennis court in Florida the following week. They attend small groups via Zoom but prefer in-person worship on Sundays. 

So even if your church isn’t going to be a fully, “online church,” people are going to expect to be able to engage with your church online. 

That is why it’s so crucial to have a healthy mindset in your church’s online efforts. If you feel like it’s a chore, or that it is useless the quality of your online content will diminish. When it starts to diminish the hybrid churchgoers, the group of people that are becoming the majority will look elsewhere for a church that meets their preference. 

If you feel like creating a quality online experience for people, whether they’re online visitors or online members of your church, is important even though there’s a steep learning curve your efforts will certainly not be in vain. 

Instead of becoming the church that is stubborn and behind the times, you’ll become the church that people rave about to their friends who are hesitant to engage with or attend church in-person.

For help creating a sound and scalable online strategy check out our Systems Course

Whatever strategy, or approach you decide to use in your church remember two things: 

  1. Creating disciples from afar is not a new thing
  2. No matter what make your church a place where everyone feels they belong 


How To Talk To The Camera

Reaching People Online

Localized SEO Podcast

Systems Course

Read or download a free PDF transcript of this episode HERE.

Quotes from Episode 2.4

“Our job is to reach people and where people are is online. That is where they will discover us. And that's where they will discover Jesus. And if we're not there, we're not really being effective missionaries.” – Kyle Ranson

“I'm called to reach people who are online. And coming out of seminary, or in my first job, when I was a youth pastor I started learning how to talk on a stage. I had to acquire these skills and learn how to get people to pay attention. Now it's the same, there's a new set of skills that are easily acquirable. You can go to a YouTube channel and you can watch video creators for free. And you can pick up 10 things within 10 minutes that you can learn immediately.” – Kyle Ranson


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The Church Fuel Podcast Episode 2.8: Using Online Small Groups To Reach New People

The Church Fuel Podcast Episode 2.8: Using Online Small Groups To Reach New People

Where two or more gather, there is a small group. 

2020 is finally winding down, and the cat is for sure out of the bag: things didn’t go “back to normal” after Easter like they were supposed to. This pandemic comes with a lot of implications for your church. Reaching new people is no longer as simple as opening your doors on Sunday and welcoming new members of the flock. 

A new person’s first interaction with your church is becoming less and less likely to occur during your Sunday service, whether it’s online or in person. People are becoming more inclined to check out your church’s small groups before they ever engage with your sermons and Sunday activities. And with social distancing and restrictions on public gatherings, online small groups can become the most attractive opportunity for a person interested in joining your church. 

Moving into 2021, your church’s ability to use online small groups to reach new people will be crucial to your church’s ability to grow. 

Small Groups Then Vs. Small Groups Now

For many years churches have used small groups as a growth strategy, riding off the back of Sunday services. “Big church,” on Sunday was like the doorway into the house with a grand entryway, smiling greeters, and breathtaking art that’s fun to look at. Small groups were more like the living room, further into the house with comfier chairs and more intimate conversations.   

Up to this year, small groups have been viewed more in the discipleship vein. 

“Come to our new member class, and then, if you want to go deep, join a small group.” 

Now there’s a new way to use small groups. The digital wave that has swept over all churches has created the opportunity for your small groups to be an outreach tool. Instead of using your small groups for discipleship, you can leverage small groups as an evangelical opportunity to attract and reach new people. 

To be clear, you should still have small groups dedicated to discipleship — that third or fourth step in plugging into the life of your church. But as people continue to search for community, you must have small groups that serve as the first step in engaging with your church.       

3 Steps To Launching Small Groups For Outreach    

Step One is making these small groups topical. For people already involved with your church a general, “small group” is attractive because they already know people and likely have already taken steps in their faith journey. The people who have never been to your church before, or maybe any church for that matter, aren’t enticed by a small group where they don’t know anybody. 

Entice them with topics of interest in the surrounding community or hit on their own, currently felt needs. Think of the focus and commonality of a book club. It’s a small group of people meeting to discuss one specific topic and a particular piece of content.  

If you need help uncovering relevant topics for your community, visit to get a free report on your community and what would be relevant to the people in your area that have never been to your church. 

Step Two is choosing the right format. For your small groups dedicated to reaching new people online is the way to go. People can engage with your church and meet new people, but when it’s digital, they’re able to do so in the comfort of their own home. The barrier to entry is way lower. It makes joining your church’s small group a more palatable first step for a brand new person. 

And if a small group member visits your church after being a part of a six-week, topical small group on Zoom, they’ll feel more connected than if they walked in your door with zero prior interaction.  

Step Three is making sure these online topical small groups have a defined start and end date. Keeping the time between six and twelve weeks is the best amount of time to keep new people engaged with your church. 

Once you reach the end of your small group’s set amount of time, you need to have a transitional call to action. It can be, “Hey, now that we’ve discussed this topic for six weeks, do you want to do six weeks on this completely different topic?” Or it can be, “Now that you’ve been a part of this small group for three months, are you interested in joining our new member class?” 

As with everything your church does, your online small groups dedicated to reaching new people need clear next steps. Our Follow-Up Course has tons of great content on how to follow up with people who have shown interest in your church but haven’t become consistent members yet. 

You’re not launching a new ministry. 

Whether you’re a big or a small church, this is an incredibly accessible thing to do to reach new people. You don’t have to purchase expensive audio equipment, hire new staff, or even cater a bunch of Chick Fil A that doesn’t get eaten. 

Follow the three steps we have given you and simply repurpose your usual small group efforts toward discipleship for evangelism. The goal is not to impress people or immediately turn strangers into members. 

The goal is to reach new people and create community around a topic that is relevant to them. 


KYC Report

Follow Up Course

Read or download a free PDF transcript of this episode HERE.

Quotes from Episode 2.8

“Churches have thought of small groups as a discipleship tool and what we're realizing with this digital wave that is sweeping over us, is that digital has created a new opportunity for us to use small groups as an outreach tool.” – Michael Lukaszewski 

“The cool thing about this is that you can use outside resources. If you wanted to do something about finance, you could walk through some sort of like financial plan and resource other curriculum for it. It makes it super easy for people who are going to be leading the pack, or leading the small group.” – Meagan Ranson


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The Church Fuel Podcast Episode 2.8: Using Online Small Groups To Reach New People

The Church Fuel Podcast Episode 2.7: Creating A Local Search Strategy

Guest: Jason Hamrock 

Jason guides the vision for how Missional Marketing can best serve our clients and church partners. He leads our sales team and is our lead church growth strategist. He was a Communications Director for 11 years at a megachurch named Central Christian Church of Arizona. From 1991-1995, he played football on a scholarship with Northern Iowa where he studied communications and marketing. He joined Missional Marketing in 2015 and was named CEO in July 2017.

Your Church Is A Brick & Mortar Store

On the whole “SEO,” sound like this big intricate thing that only men and women wearing white coats working in a lab 100 feet underground understand. 

But breaking it down and honing in on local SEO makes it much easier to understand and reveals why it is so important for your church to know how to use it. 

Local SEO has everything to do with your church’s physical, brick, and mortar location. When you’re hungry for a delicious burger you pull out your phone and Google, “yummy burgers.” The first things to pop up are restaurants that serve burgers within your immediate vicinity. You click on the map, look at a few pictures, salivate, and rush to the closest burger stand to satisfy your hunger.  

It’s no different when people in need within your community search, “churches near me.” Those first few links to pop up are the churches, including yours, no more than a 10-minute drive away. They click the map, read a few reviews, and hopefully pick your church to visit the following Sunday. 

Since 9 out of 10 people use Google for all of their searches and 7 out of 10 don’t scroll past the top three or four local options, failing to rank high in local SEO is losing the chance to share the Gospel with a new visitor to your church.  

Reviews & Photos Inform Every Single Decision

At this point, online viewers of all ages are conditioned to click the first option that pops up in their search and view that option in Google Maps. 

They scroll through various pictures and read all of the online reviews or at least glance at the number of starts each location has. Exactly the way you would if you were looking for a new restaurant to go to on date night, or about to buy a really expensive computer. 

You want to know what it looks like. You want to know what other people are saying about it. 

People thinking about visiting your church want to know what your church looks like and they want to know what other people are saying about it! 

As good as your church’s website likely is, that’s not where potential visitors are going to see what your church looks like anymore. They’re using Google, Facebook, and Yelp. 

So you have to ask yourself, “Would I go to my church after looking through photos and reviews on Google?” 

If the answer is no don’t panic! There are a few really easy fixes for boosting your local SEO. 

  • Ask for reviews! If someone searching for a church online doesn’t see any reviews of your church, their assumption is that there is nothing GOOD to report. Invite members of your church to write a quick review. 
  • Post fresh, updated photos of your church and its people. Exactly like reviews, if someone sees outdated photos of your church they’re assumption is that nothing new is happening there. Entice online viewers with consistently updated photos so that they know your church is growing. 

To make sure you set up a proven system for creating effective local SEO check out our Systems Course. It will show you a step by step process for creating any system in your church that can run on auto-pilot while you focus on your ministry.  

Negative Reviews Are Not A Bad Thing 

Through your Google My Business profile, you can do so many simple things that have a significant impact on the people viewing your church through a Google Search.  

One thing you should always do is respond to every single review and don’t ever hide or delete the negative ones. 

As tempting as it may be to highlight the good and hide the bad, reading any negative reviews on your church can actually help you in the long run. Aside from any reviews that are out of left field and purely mean a negative review can unveil an area in your church that needs fixing. 

Responding to negative reviews also shows other people looking into your church that you care! When people see negative reviews without a response they assume that the business does not care or pay attention to the reviews. 

When you respond to negative reviews you’re showing potential visitors that you are listening, and you want to heal any hurt even if your church caused it.

Accuracy Is Key

There are a few seemingly nit-picky things that can make a huge difference in where your church ranks in local searches. 

Your church’s name, address, and phone need to be correct and up-to-date at all times across Google My Business, your church’s landing pages, and any other online directories. If you are one church with multiple campuses you need to have a different Google My Business profile for each campus with relevant address and phone numbers. 

You also want to make sure the hours listed in Google reflect your real hours of availability and operation. If your church is renting from a school, and therefore only open on Sunday, make sure that your hours reflect that. 

Accurate hours of operation show Google that this organization is in this specific location and is open for business.

For incredible help on making sure your church’s information is accurate read up on Missional Marketing’s Local SEO For Churchs. 

Google Can Become The Biggest Donor To Your Church

Outside of members who are directly involved in the life of your church most people discover you, and the services you offer through a Google search or search ad. 

Some are Googling “churches near me,” or, “church service times.”

Others can stumble upon your church by searching, “help with anxiety,” or, “how to overcome a divorce.” 

People in both camps are hurting and looking for someplace to heal. Google can literally help you get in contact with these people and bring them into your church through Google Ad Grants. 

As a 501c3 organization, Google will give you an ad grant worth up to $10,000 for you to use to promote your church online. So beyond giving you exposure through organic local search, Google will let you apply for and give you money to spend on ads that funnel people in need directly to your church. 

Whether you’re an SEO wizard or completely new to SEO invest time and effort into your Google My Business profile and boosting your church’s local SEO performance. 

More than ever people are searching, literally searching, for places to meet their needs. When your church ranks high in local SEO, and what a searcher sees or reads is attractive, they decide to step foot in your doors. 

And when one person steps into your church, physically or virtually, they’re one step closer to knowing Jesus. 


Missional Marketing Website

Missional Marketing Podcast

Missional Marketing Blog

Read or download a free PDF transcript of this episode HERE.

Quotes from Episode 2.4

“This is Google's world. We're talking about when somebody is doing a local search, their churches near me, or non-denominational churches near me, Christian churches near me, or best churches in my city. There are all kinds of search terms for people looking for a church. When somebody gets to the local pack, seven out of 10 times, they click on that map, those top three search results, or even maybe an ad that's above that seven out of 10.” —Jason Hamrock

“What I do when I'm looking for different restaurants, I'd never been to, I Google them. I Google like best restaurants. And you know what? I look at reviews and photos. What are you trying to say about it? And does the food look good? Church is no different.” —Jason Hamrock  


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  • Did you enjoy this episode? If so, please leave us a short review. We’d really appreciate it!


The Church Fuel Podcast Episode 2.5: Converting Digital Viewers Into Digital Members

The Church Fuel Podcast Episode 2.5: Converting Digital Viewers Into Digital Members

Guest: Michael Lukaszewski 

Former youth pastor, church planter, senior pastor, and church consultant, you could say Michael’s lived nine lives—and he’s still going. Today, he writes books and articles and helps create courses for church leaders. Michael’s a graduate of Florida State University and did post-graduate work at Liberty University. Husband to Jennie and father to three kids, you can find him smoking ribs or grilling steaks on the Big Green Egg on the weekends.

Moving the bulk of church activity online has made the distinction between membership and attendance more confusing.

Before COVID-19 and political unrest rocked our world, church membership and how to convert visitors into members was already a complex and confusing topic. 

Church attendance is on a steady decline, and younger people are more prone to hop from one church to another without becoming active members. With the alarming downward trend in attendance and the younger generation of church-goers becoming more nomadic, it was getting more challenging to define who a member is and how they differ from someone only attending your church. 

Then everything your church does has to migrate into the digital space. And the waters got even muddier. 

How can you help people online journey from complete strangers to active members of your church?    

First, we have to clearly define what and who a member is.

We know that a member of your church and an attendee are vastly different people off the bat. But over time, the definition of a member has changed. 

Many churches have unfortunately deemphasized a member’s active involvement in the church’s life in favor of simple participation and engagement or a solid number describing how big their church is. 

Participation and numbers should not be the goal of membership, though. 

The vagueness around who your church members make them seem more like registered voters than anything else. You know they’re registered, they’re on your list, but you have no idea if they have campaign signs in their yard or if they’ll even vote!  

Your members should know that you want them to do more than show up on Sundays. That’s what you want attendees to do.

To create a clear distinction between attendees and members, emphasize what members DO to contribute to the life of the church instead of emphasizing the title. 

If you need help creating an effective follow-up strategy that will quickly transform new attendees to fully involved members check out our Follow-Up Course.  

So, how do you effectively engage people viewing your church from miles away?

Getting new people to visit your church used to be as simple as inviting people to invite. 

People sitting in your pews on one Sunday would come back the next Sunday with a friend or two. That was everybody’s first interaction with your church. If there were any hesitancy to attend your church, a potential attendee would visit your site to read the “If You’re Hesitant to Visit” article. 

Everything online was a prelude to the real, in-person interaction. 

Now, many churches can’t hold an in-person gathering, and all churches can be attended by people online from across the globe. Even when the world starts spinning correctly on its axis again, “online church” isn’t going away. 

Moving forward, your church will have to stay up-to-date on how to understand and engage with an online audience. 

So your idea of what a real interaction with a new attendee has to change. Everything your church used to do to engage with people goes down online, which means a digital experience is a real experience. 

It may not feel real to you. It may even feel ineffective for you. But to the person on the other side of the screen, potentially on the other side of the globe, every second of their interaction with your church is a real experience. 

This new way of ministry and church attendance demands that your church feel good and confident about every single digital touchpoint, from the Sunday live stream to exchanging emails about discipleship. 

If you treat every interaction in the digital space as if you’re meeting at Starbucks for coffee, your church’s digital viewers will be far more inclined to commit as a digital member. 

Your church’s membership journey is the same as a business’ customer journey.

In the past, before your church had to move online, new attendees would drive by your church multiple times before ever stepping foot through the front door. 

But for some reason, the digital space can make the ease of connecting with people lead you to believe that the process of converting viewers into members is automatic. 

Just because it’s digital does not mean it is automatic. Similar to how most businesses have a planned out customer journey they follow to convert online browsers into buyers, you need to have a thought-out plan that can turn online views into online members of your church.  

Instead of struggling through the ambiguity of preaching on the internet, everybody can see you, and you can’t see anybody make your digital services more interactive. 

Ask questions and let people answer in a live chat. 

Use a bottom scroll with simple, clear calls to action for people to text in or connect with a real person in your church. 

Install a pop-up on your website so people can give you their email and receive a valuable piece of content that meets a truly felt need in the community. 

Find every opportunity to give people a chance to raise a hand and say, “I am here,” and do everything you can to string a relationship out with people online. 

Just like you would if you were meeting first-time visitors in person. If you need guidance on creating exact next steps for digital viewers to take online, read through Michael’s book Streamline. It will give you all the practical insight you need to create a “member journey” and execute it to grow your church. 

And if legitimately mapping out a membership journey feels uncomfortable to you, don’t forget that this works because it’s how God designed us. All of us pursue and enter into relationships with people, including digitally, following the same steps and avoiding the same barriers. 

Don’t let the complications of digital ministry thwart your efforts to inject intentionality and strategy into your membership journey. Implement a few of these small steps, and you’ll fastly start converting digital viewers into online members. 


The Follow Up Course


Church Fuel Test Drive

Read or download a free PDF transcript of this episode HERE.

Quotes from Episode 2.5

“And in a lot of churches, I'm seeing that they have deemphasized membership in favor of either participation or engagement. ” – Michael Lukaszewski 

“It still should be a piece of our strategy. We have all this online stuff that's happening. And when somebody takes a step toward that, we have to view it as real.” – Michael Lukaszewski  

“When somebody comes to a live stream or service or a zoom call or they need to take the appropriate next step. Not like all the next steps once.” – Michael Lukaszewski

“I know this feels very business-y and cold and not super-spiritual, but this works because it's how God wired us. This member or customer journey, which I think we should just call our member journey, works because God wired us to work like this. We don't jump right into the first social group that we see. We get exposure. We test the water. We see if it's safe. Is it comfortable? Does that work for us?” – Meagan Ranson 


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  • Did you enjoy this episode? If so, please leave us a short review. We’d really appreciate it!


The Church Fuel Podcast Episode 2.5: Converting Digital Viewers Into Digital Members

The Church Fuel Podcast Episode 2.4: Celebrating Christmas In-Person and Online with Stephen Brewster

Guest: Stephen Brewster

Stephen is a creative leader. He worked in the music business for years, finding artists, developing albums, and leading marketing teams. He then moved into church leadership, serving not just as a lead over creative but also on the executive level of multiple mega-churches across the country.

Stephen and his wife Jackie started The Harmony Group – an organization that helps worship teams navigating the music business, churches to develop leadership and creative structures for growth and culture development, as well as intensive Enneagram coaching. Stephen hosts several podcasts, generates ideas for new endeavors, coaches creatives, and hangs out in downtown Franklin, TN, where the Brewster family of six calls home. 


It is entirely natural for everybody in your church, including you, to crave the sight of a finish line.

Especially this year. 

COVID, Presidential Election, cancel culture, murder hornets, the bachelorette, and many other things have exhausted our attention and drained our emotional energy.

That’s likely why radio stations started playing Christmas music as far back as August! We all need something to look forward to that isn’t wrought with fear and consequence. 

Even though planning your church’s Christmas services and events will be different than years prior, it can still be a source of joy and emotional recharge as you cap this wild year off. Don’t let Christmas be just another task on your to-do list or source of anxiety. 

Let it be refreshing for you and your church. 


Once all of the votes are counted and election results are in, the noise will not stop. If anything, the volume will go up. 

It’s not out of the realm of reality to have started communicating your church’s Christmas plans in October. Whether you have or have not, it is crucial to start sharing what your church is doing for Christmas and how you will be doing it. 

Especially in a year where you need to be communicating two distinctly different Christmas experiences: 

The live experience

The broadcast experience

You can’t unwind many of the digital practices your church has adopted over the past nine months because it is Christmas time. Recent data shows as much as 80% of churchgoers still opting out of in-person services and tuning into services on their phones or laptop instead.

People want content that is on-demand and accessible.

So it is crucial to quickly communicate that your church will be hosting in-person church events and online church events for those who are still prioritizing social distancing or just want to make visiting family feel comfortable.  

For the in-person services, including the procedures, your church will be following when December rolls around, and it’s time to celebrate the birth of Christ together. 

Our blog post Don’t Make These 8 Reopening Mistakes is a great reference point for what not to do.  

For the broadcast experience, make sure it’s clear where people need to watch online and that you have the right equipment and set up to stream an online Christmas experience. 

Brady Sheaer shares insanely valuable tips on digitally communicating and engaging with people in your church through resources like Nucleus and Pro Church Tools


If you’re a regular-sized church or a one-person operation, conducting both in-person services and online services sounds intimidating. 

Or seems flat out impossible. 

But there is so much freedom in at least trying it. During the conversation with Stephen, our founder Michael went as far as to say, “If it sucks, blame COVID!” 

There are straightforward, affordable ways to create quality digital Christmas experiences for your church. All of the influencers and celebrities make it seem like you need thousands of dollars of camera equipment and production staff to create fantastic videos that people love. 

For $15, you can order an iPhone tripod off Amazon, film yourself sharing a Christmas message, and stream that on your church’s Facebook page. 

You can use tools like Instagram Reels to promote both service options. No editing software is needed. Directly from your phone, you can create clear communication around your church’s Christmas services and digital streams.


Every year in ministry before this, Christmas planning for your church was as simple as doing what it did last year with a few things changed or updated. And that was okay! Most churches have followed certain traditions and plans for a long time without ever having a reason to change. 

This year is your reason to make changes to your church’s traditional Christmas plans. 

Do a few simple things that can have a massive impact on your community and for the kingdom. 

Things like: 

Avoiding the word home as much as possible. 

People are so sick of home that they just want to get out, or at least feel a semblance of escape. 

Entice people to come to your Christmas service, or tune in online by setting it apart from home. Transport people from the worries of this year into the joys of what Christmas is — a celebration, an eternal hope, a reason to dance in a time of mourning. 

Share stories from your community. 

Almost every year, there is some Christmas time, a significant moment that hundreds of churches aim for.  A couple of years ago, it was the Little Drummer Boy moment. 

What if this year you made your church’s “big moment” about the community and not the church? 

Film people telling stories about how they have been helped or how God has shown up throughout this year full of crisis and need. 

Call people to say Merry Christmas. 

This may be the one thing your church can do that doesn’t have to be scaled or innovated year after year. 

Have your friendliest volunteers come to the church once or twice a week during the Christmas season to call people from your church just to say Merry Christmas. 

Let them know you know it’s been a tough year. Let them know you are thinking about them. 

There are so many ways that you can reach people in your church and your community this season. 

Read a few more ways in our 4 Plans You Need This Christmas blog or listen to our entire conversation with Stephen Brewster here. 

When the time comes to follow up with new guests at your Christmas services or who watch your online service, check out our Follow Up Course for insanely practical help bringing in new members to your church through effective follow-up. 


Stephen’s Website

Stephen’s Instagram 

Stephen’s Youtube Channel

Read or download a free PDF transcript of this episode HERE.

Quotes from Episode 2.4

“I don't think the days of just putting a camera in the auditorium and someone speaking from a stage or singing from a stage is the solution anymore. All of the data shows us what we've already known. 80% of the people are watching here (their phone). And so what are we doing to make sure that our Christmas experiences are crafted in a way that we can invite our community to tune in to this awesome moment and watch it on their TV or watch it on their phone.” – Stephen Brewster 

“And so any calls to action that you have need to be on a scroll that goes across the bottom of the screen. If we watch CNN or Fox news or ESPN, if you watch MSNBC, you can almost not see the anchor. Cause there's so many things around them, right? And so why are we not borrowing from this proven technology?.” – Stephen Brewster  

“People are going to be distracted, so we might as well distract them with our own stuff.” – Michael Lukaszewski

“We need some really encouraging moments in our life. And, and I think that churches that are going to win Christmas this year are the churches that are going to find ways to serve their community. And then tell that story better than they've ever told it before.” – Stephen Brewster


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