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.
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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