Throughout history, people have long formed social networks to deepen their relationships. Congregations around the world provide smaller, private groups to worship in a shared manner and deepen one’s spiritual relationship. With the online migration of society, the Church can continue to provide this private social network by combining the strengths of the physical and digital world.
Over the past few weeks of the Covid-19 shutdown, the Here I Am team has been blessed to observe and participate in over 20 virtual worship experiences. The level of sharing and comments via virtual worship varies significantly. Three churches have leveraged a private social network during worship (Zoom), seen only by others at the worship service. About 70% of the participants comment and are willing to share more – particularly when prompted by a church moderator. Public social media sharing platforms (Facebook) tend to have about 40% participation via comments, and these tend to be very general in nature. Anonymous viewing channels (YouTube) generate very few comments.
Why does this occur? A private social network means that all within the network support the common cause and values of the group. Within a church congregation, all members know each other and support the common mission of the church. They see each other during worship events, they talk to each other, and they share their experiences. Compared with public social media, this deeper level of trust and connection drives a stronger willingness to connect. More people are willing to share more – about their families, their prayers, their triumphs, and where they see the Church impacting their lives.
Once a private social network is established, the size and quality of engagement is much higher, deepening the connections within a congregation.