The concept of the web campus, and even the web campus pastor, has been around for awhile now, with pioneering leaders like LifeChurch.tv. I was recently talking with a leader from a large multisite church that had added a web campus pastor in the late-2000s but hasn’t had one for the last several years, though they still stream services online. When I asked why they made the change, he said they didn’t see any community being created there. They are now debating whether or not they should try again.
We talked for awhile about online community in general — the places where it’s being created that aren’t ministry-related. Have you heard of Twitch? The teenage boys and many of the young men in your church have. It’s an online community for video gamers. They literally watch each other play video games (not going to get into my views of that). I know several young men who talk daily via this online community. Many of them met online and are now friends in real life.
Twitch is probably an extreme example; I only bring it up to say that online community is real. There are hundreds of other examples. Pew Research even recently published a study that reported 57% of teens have met a new friend online. (That report is full of information the Church should be reading!)
When it comes to church, I find most of us get concerned about the idea of “online church” because we think of it as detracting from “live church.” We’re afraid giving people the option to participate from home or vacation means everyone will skip out on gathering. But I don’t think that’s necessarily true. In your own life, when you’ve connected and made a new friend online, do you not find that you look forward to an opportunity to spend time with them in person? Does the fact that you follow your family members on Instagram make you want to skip out on a family barbecue?
One issue may be the term “campus” in and of itself, because it suggests a choice: People either attend the online campus or the physical campus. But what if we thought of it more as an extension of the main campuses?
There are clearly pros and cons for web campuses. Here are just a few I see:
- They could provide an on-ramp for people who are just checking out Christianity and your church.
- They could offer a less intimidating way to ask questions.
- They create a way to connect with the life of the church even when out of town or stuck at home.
- They could provide a way to connect with people before attending a small group or other church gathering for the first time.
- They could help newcomers build relationships more quickly by helping them connect with people all throughout the week.
- They offer a way for people who live out of the area to understand and financially contribute to the church’s mission and vision.
- They could potentially cannibalize attendance to services and groups.
- They don’t provide the same level of accountability as an in-person meeting.
- They could limit the effectiveness of specialized ministries (kid’s, students, etc.)
- They could greatly limit the amount of serving opportunities for individuals.
- They could limit an individual’s leadership development.
What do you think? Are any of you finding success in leveraging web campuses to further the Kingdom?
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