The future of online worship and how to stay ahead

The Future of Virtual Worship

One of the lessons of the COVID pandemic is that online worship is here to stay. With traditional church attendance declining in recent decades, the possibility of participating virtually has reignited some congregations. 

There’s a lot of carryover between the people who participate online and in person as well. The same people who are attending online church events are also coming in person. The flexibility to choose is something that’s now somewhat of an expectation among worshippers.

What does this mean for your congregation? Having a strategy that includes prioritizing the online worship experience is vital in order to attract and maintain members going forward.

Popularity of Online Worship Services

Online services provide flexibility for people of all life stages – from parents with small children that don’t want to cause a disruption during a service to elderly members who aren’t as mobile as they used to be. 

The convenience and opportunity for people to worship wherever they are with their congregation and church is appealing to most people and continues to grow even as the pandemic (appears to be) ending. 

Consider this insight into the modern worship experience:

  • 44% of people prefer to engage in prayer from home (Dacast)
  • 45% of Americans watched an online church service during the pandemic, including 15% who are not regular churchgoers (Lifeway Research)
  • Young adults are most likely to watch a worship service online, rather than attend in person (Lifeway Research
  • 17 million Americans regularly visit church websites (Reachright)
  • 33% of people found their church online (Vimeo Livestream)

Future of Virtual Worship Experiences

Many religious institutions are trying to figure out what’s next. As many of them did offer some form of online worship during the pandemic, is it something that continues to make sense? 

For the most part, the answer is yes. People have come to expect this option as part of their church experience. A hybrid church with live and online services might help retain parishioners or grow memberships in churches where declines have been happening for some time. 

A report from the Hartford Institute of Religion Research showed that churches that offer a hybrid worship model are actually seeing increases in attendance, whereas in-person-only congregations are dwindling. 

Online worship services are important for congregations to maintain membership, retain younger members, and establish a long-term connection with people who may not be able to attend in person. 

A report by the Lewis Center for Church Leadership supports the case for using technology and online worship to cultivate religious experiences:

  • Large screen televisions with internet access make online worship easy and a positive viewing experience.
  • Web tools and conferencing can make online worship connected to people in the physical church with fewer barriers.
  • Almost everyone under 60 is comfortable with the technology to stream services online.
  • For people under 30, the line between online and in-person is fading, with virtual realities being the norm. 
  • Almost every other relationship can start online, why not church?

Think about the continued future of online worship with virtual reality church spaces in the Metaverse and Web3 Abbey, and Episcopal VR church space. The expansion of church services into online spaces will continue to grow and keeping your congregation happy may include some crossover between live services and virtual worship options. 

Ways for Churches to Participate Online

It’s likely that your congregation has some experience with online participation. From live streaming services to using Zoom or Webex to Facebook, the interactive element can be a key connector with congregations and religious personnel. The internet is the gateway to almost everything and can help you engage with current and new audiences. 

But how do you participate online? For most churches, a model that brings live services (or recordings of live services) to people at home is the happy medium today. In addition, having a way for members to connect with clergy online for meetings can be equally important. 

Live streaming presents the opportunity to reach wider audiences during worship services. This is generally a low-effort activity as well. With a simple video recording device – a mobile phone or computer – you can broadcast a service live through your Facebook page or on YouTube Live. These public channels allow church members to participate online and invite others. They also allow for people who have never attended in person to engage with your church. 

To be successful it takes intentional effort. People need to know that a virtual worship experience is available, as well as a schedule. 

An online calendar can provide a schedule of worship services, links to participate, and calendar connectivity so that people can schedule the time in advance. The Events Calendar (and Virtual Events add-on) are easy-to-use tools that can help you create and remind your church membership about worship services. 

How to Create Amazing Online Worship Services

Because so many people are potentially visiting your website before ever attending a service in-person or online, it is important to create a space where they can worship virtually. This could be the first step in someone’s journey to visiting your church in person. 

The Events Calendar is a robust online calendar tool that works with your existing WordPress website. You can download and add events for free and extend the capability of the calendar with add-ons for specialized functionality. 

An online calendar allows church members and potential members to see service times and events – in-person, online, and hybrid – as well as add dates and times to their personal calendars. Calendar events can include links to physical locations (including maps or directions) or online viewing options. 

You can take online worship options a step further by integrating The Events Calendar plus the Virtual Events add-on. Virtual Events lets you highlight online and hybrid events on your calendar and they automatically integrate with the tools you are using to connect such as Zoom, Webex, Facebook Live, or YouTube Live.

The tools make it easy for you to manage virtual events from a single WordPress dashboard. You can schedule events in advance and all you have to do during church services is remember to start the stream. Anyone who has found it online can attend the virtual worship services from anywhere.

With these tools, you can also start to think about how to reach a wider church audience as well. Online services might include more than worship. Create events for online Bible school classes, choir performances, workgroups or conferences, informational webinars, or private meetings. You can manage it all through your website and promote to church membership in person or online. 

This mix of virtual church activities with in-person options can boost overall attendance and create stronger connections between your church and congregation. 

Sync Events and Your Church’s Online Calendar

With The Events Calendar and Virtual Events, you can plan, promote, and sync everything happening at your church in one location. 

Not sure how to plan for online integration with worship services or other church activities? Here are just a few of the things these tools can accomplish on your website:

  • Connect churchgoers with Zoom or Webex integration
  • Create in-person, hybrid, or fully online events
  • Require tickets or RSVPs for online access, if desired
  • Highlight virtual events right in your calendar display
  • Schedule online worship and events in advance
  • Make it easy for people to find your events online with enhanced Google search engine optimization
  • Embed streaming from Facebook Live or YouTube Live right into your website to make it easy for church members to participate (even if they aren’t super web savvy or don’t use social media) 

Virtual Events and Worship Services Are Here to Stay

More and more church members are asking for the ability to worship online. If you haven’t integrated live and online participation for your church yet, now is the time. 

The Events Calendar is a free tool that connects with your WordPress website. It’s easy to use and understand and can help you maximize the promotion of activities and events within your congregation. Pair it with the Virtual Events add-on ($69 for one website) for a single solution for managing all of your worship services and events.

Not ready to buy? Get a full demo instead.