Three reasons I’ll keep offering Christianity Explored online after the pandemic | Evangelism in lockdown
While many of us are itching to get back to face to face meetings as soon as possible, our Training Director Craig Dyer explains why his church will continue to offer courses online even after the pandemic ends.
This is the last of our Evangelism in Lockdown series for the time being. We’ll be back next week with a series of summer devotionals.
At my church, Harper in Glasgow, we embraced running Christianity Explored on Zoom largely as a 'better than nothing' option, but we have been pleasantly surprised at how it’s all turned out.
1. It’s not that different to meeting in person!
Zoom replicates all of the key ingredients of a Christianity Explored session - coming together with others, dividing into groups, looking at a passage of Mark’s gospel, watching a film and discussing it.
There’s nothing integral that you can’t do in an online course versus an in-person one.
2. There’s a surprising sense of being ‘together’ on Zoom
Now, that may be because of the global pandemic background and only time will tell.
Certainly I’ve found that having a regular group of caring people you ‘meet up’ with consistently has been a reassuring and bonding experience during the pandemic.
I do think there's scope to maximise the sense of togetherness online in future too. For example, you can have a 'Who had the best dinner?’ competition or see who has the best snacks for the film.
3. More people sign up
The main reason why I think I'll continue to supplement offline series with online, is the fact that more people signed up - and this seems to be the case across the board.
I have been trying to figure out why. It could be boredom during lockdown, but my sense is that several unbelievers who came to our course wanted information without involvement.
Our normal series are warm, welcoming, friendly, sociable experiences, and as such they help people to 'see' the gospel before they hear it. Zoom Christianity Explored has all that strength stripped out, and yet brings new benefits:
There’s some form of anonymity, which makes it less intimidating. We had a couple of guests on the call who never showed their faces or said a word. Initially, I thought this was a disastrous sign that they weren't enjoying it. However, their Christian friends who had invited them, fed back to say they were thoroughly enjoying the series.
It’s also easier for people to attend. Christians can invite unbelieving family and friends who don’t live near them. One colleague invited her brother and sister-in-law, who live a few hours away. Abby Greenwell, from St Helen’s Bishopsgate, reported that they had people turn up to their course from all over the world - the US, South Africa, Singapore, Canada, Germany and even Manchester! Even for those who live closer to church, removing the barriers of a commute or late night make a course that much more appealing.
And it’s not just helpful for those who would normally be geographically unable to attend. Duncan Steed, from ChristCentral Church in Portsmouth explained that several mothers with young children were able to join their Discipleship Explored course, who would never normally be able to get out to an evening event.
I think the big learning point is to keep sowing the gospel seed, however we can. And Zoom and other online platforms offer an alternative way of doing this, and a way of reaching people we may not have reached before. Let's keep sowing!
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