Church Leaders Church Tech Online Worship Mark Harvard Clearbranch UMC 2

Is Online Church Going to Stick Around?

Church Leaders


As we work on trying to figure out what the collective church looks like going forward, many churches are beginning to think of online discipleship as something that they did during COVID and that they can drop once we are all back to in-person gathering. But is that the correct way to view it? Once the doors open on Sunday, will anyone watch online? Will online compete with the Sunday in-person service?

First, we have to get rid of the thought that online church came with COVID. Many churches were already streaming their services online. They saw it as a way to reach those that could not be there on Sunday mornings. This was something that was already happening. COVID simply pushed churches that were not there yet. It did not cause online church to exist, it caused it to grow.

Secondly, the future of the church depends on us growing disciples in younger demographics. Online church is a documented way to do that. A recent Barna study revealed that 41% of Gen Z say that when COVID is over, they want to return to in-person worship. 42% of Millennials say the same. This means that the majority of these groups do not. Wow. Contrast that with 71% of Boomers. This does not mean that traditional church is dead by any means, it simply means that we have to find ways to reach those that are not inside the walls.

Finally, this cultural shift in preferences does not mean that the church needs to simply create online content to survive. We have to find ways to engage outside of that traditional worship slot. Small groups, missions…these are all things that can happen as the church continues to do what it always has. We just have to find new and creative ways for them to happen.

Maybe it’s time to rethink things and be willing to stop treating the very thing that can give the church future growth as a cute thing we have on the side. March of 2020 is not coming back. It’s time to work with what we have going forward. Let’s look at ways to prioritize and minister to both in-person and digital congregations. Paul used the technology of his day to spread the Gospel. We have to do the same.

-Mark Harvard 

Director of Communications

Clearbranch UMC

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