Image courtesy of Faithlife Media
Now that the president has extended social distancing guidelines through the end of April, churches are preparing for the reality that Holy Week and Easter services will need to take place online only. For those who were still hopeful of an in-person gathering, it’s time to quickly pivot and think through how to invite, welcome, and follow up with visitors digitally while preparing for one of the historically biggest attendance days of the year.
Is your church ready? Here are a few things you might want to have in place to have a very successful Easter online.
1. Get your services on the calendar
Before you do anything else, make sure you know when your Holy Week and Easter online services will be held, what platforms you’ll be streaming on, and if you’re going to plan any additional activities or services around Easter. Get those dates on the church calendar. If you have a Faithlife group, you can add the services to your community calendar inside your group. That will make it much easier later if you want to push the event to your website or a newsletter.
2. Choose your theme and media
Before you start to build out all of the different assets for your services, you’ll want to settle on the themes you’ll be exploring in each service, and you’ll want to find the primary stock photography you’ll be using for your promotions. Faithlife Media has lots of great Easter media, and you can get started with a free trial. Not only that, but with Faithlife Media, you can also edit your imagery right inside the tool and download it ready to use. If you have an in-house designer, they’ll probably want to take care of that design work, but if you’re sole pastor or admin, this makes it simple to produce great-looking images without any design know-how.
3. Build a simple landing page
Once you have a clear idea of your Holy Week and Easter schedule of events and the general media you want to use, you’ll want to build a simple landing page on your church website all about Easter. And you’ll also want to update your website home page with a new Easter-themed header or section and button to drive visitors to your new landing page.
Don’t have a website yet? Build one fast with Faithlife Sites.
Make sure your landing page includes all relevant information for someone who is new, so they don’t have to scour your website for your email address, phone number, or where and when you’ll be streaming your services online.
In fact, if you end up using Faithlife to stream your service, you’ll be able to drop the feed right into this page.
4. Think through your invite plan
With churches everywhere suddenly streaming their services, Easter 2020 has the potential to be the biggest online church attendance day in history. But that all starts with a solid invitation plan.
You should already have a landing page created for your event, so now you need to think through the resources you want to create to drive traffic to that page. Here are some ideas:
- Inside your Faithlife group, create a calendar event called “Easter Invite Blitz.” This will be an online-only event with your church members. The idea is to all hop (he he) online at the same time to start sharing about your upcoming Holy Week and Easter events.
- Inside your Faithlife group, create and send out a newsletter that includes any announcements or volunteer opportunities. Make sure to include the calendar event you just created for the invite blitz, too.
- Create a Facebook event for each of your services and events that you’d like to invite people outside your normal church community to attend. Don’t forget to include a link back to your landing page. This will give your church members a really easy way to share your event with their friends and family on social (and the RSVP option will also give your church some sort of gauge as to who all is planning on attending).
- Create copy and images your church can share out through text and email.
- Create social media graphics your church members can periodically use to share about the upcoming event/s. You can store and share these images in your Faithlife group so your members always have access to them.
- For those with friends and family who aren’t particularly tech savvy, encourage your members to give their tech-challenged friends a call a week before your first event to help them set up and test their tech so they’ll be comfortable logging on when it’s time for your service to start.
5. Create a digital bulletin
Since everyone will be meeting online, there’s no sense in designing a bulletin intended for print. Use Faithlife’s free digital bulletin tool to create a bulletin that’s easy to access from your Faithlife group and in the Faithlife app, and you can also send out a direct link for those who aren’t in your group yet. Your digital bulletin can house connect cards, a link to give, announcements, live surveys, sermon notes, and more. You can access digital bulletins from the content section of your Faithlife group admin panel.
6. Live stream the service
If you don’t already have a way to live stream your service, you’ll want to get this set up and tested before your biggest services. With Faithlife Live Stream, you can set up your streaming service today and start streaming right away. It even includes live chat and a give button for those who are logged in and part of your group, and it’s a breeze to add to your Faithlife website. Your church members will be able to view the live stream online, from their mobile device, and on their TVs through Apple TV, Roku, Fire TV, and Chromecast (note: chat and giving only work through web browsers currently).
No matter which streaming service you use, you will probably want to have a staff member or two dedicated to assisting viewers with any questions they may have via chat. If you’re live streaming your entire service, including the music, you’ll also want to make sure you’ve gotten all of your streaming licencing taken care of through CCLI, so you don’t get into any trouble for copyright violations.
Finally, make sure you are recording your sermon, so you can publish it later for those who want to review the message again or who missed it the first time. You can publish your sermon for free via Faithlife Sermons, and your church members can access that sermon on demand through your Faithlife group, your website, and the other streaming platforms mentioned above. Oh, and if you’re live streaming with Faithlife Live Stream, your sermon will automatically record and publish to your group’s video files.
Use Faithlife Proclaim for your presentations? We will eventually have a seamless integration with our new live stream platform, but for now, you can use OBS (free) to integrate Proclaim slides into your live stream.
7. Ask visitors to fill out connect cards
It would be a real shame to invite so many new people to attend your Easter service but fail to collect their information so you can follow up later. Make sure you have a way to digitally collect contact information from those who are attending your live stream. You can use Faithlife’s digital bulletin option or create your own form. Use your live stream chat to encourage visitors to join your church group and download the Faithlife app to get the bulletin and fill out the connect card.
8. Collect tithes through mobile giving
Now more than ever, it’s critical for your church to have a way to collect giving online. With churches not meeting in person for the foreseeable future, this transition is going to be necessary for your ongoing ministry (and it may take some serious work to change the habits of your community). However, if you don’t take action on this front, it’s likely you’ll start to see a dip in giving, if you haven’t already.
The really great news is, you don’t have to spend anything to get this set up through Faithlife. We’re waiving the subscription fee for Faithlife Giving Premium for six months, so your church can take advantage of our very best rates. And because our giving solution allows the giver to cover the fees, your church can implement online giving for $0.
9. Build in fellowship time
Many churches are creating a time for fellowship both before and after their online services. You can easily do this using Faithlife messages, which is now enabled with group video chat.
Someone will simply need to go to the group and start the video chat, and people can join or spin off and have private video conversations. Your sub-groups and small groups can also spin up video chats to connect before or after the service too.
Just because we’re apart doesn’t mean we need to be disconnected.
10. Have a follow-up plan
If you made it this far, congratulations! But just because the services are over doesn’t mean your work is done. Make sure you have a plan to follow up with any visitors who attended your service and filled out a connect card.
You could send an email, a welcome gift, or even take the time for a short phone call. Let your visitors know you were happy to have them worship with you and that you’d love to help them join again in the future. You can also invite them to join your Faithlife group where they can stay up to date with any announcements and future events.
If you have enough new visitors, consider starting a small group for new visitors (you can create this as a Faithlife subgroup). You could meet online midweek once a week and walk them through what your church is all about and how to get more involved.
Whatever you do, have a plan and make sure you follow through with it.
Whew. That was a lot. Now, let’s get busy and make this the highest attended Easter Sunday of all time. And let’s keep those sermons gospel-packed, shall we?