Finding Strengths in the Fears of Church Online

Saddleback Online
Saddleback's online campus has become a powerful tool for the church. (Saddleback Church)

My big third-grade school project was a beast. Every 8-year-old had to do their final project in front of the class, and Mr. Michaels, my teacher—who might as well have been Michael Myers from horror film fame, considering I was so scared—filmed the entire performance.

I hated the idea of being in front of my peers, and a video camera staring me dead in the eyes did not help. This fear of public speaking was irrational, but that did not help my body from shaking throughout my presentation. Maybe I was just channeling my inner Thom Yorke.

It is funny how at 8 I thought the camera was a form of torture, but over time my perspective started to change. So let’s look at the fears of doing church online. I’m going to make the argument they are irrational as well.

Fear No. 1: It will shrink local church attendance. People now can experience what happens in the church building without ever stepping into the facility. Church online becomes a huge marketing tool for those who would never walk through your doors. I can tell story after story of people who watched online and then attended locally. Their testimony consists of something like, “I never knew this was near me. I landed on your website because of a friend and got to see what happens in that building every week.” An online service will grow your local church if positioned correctly.

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Fear No. 2: It’s shallow community compared to the local church. Church online is a partial expression of what the Bible calls community, but that doesn’t mean it can’t serve a purpose. It is important to remember your online service is geared for those who would never attend a local church. The goal is to provide an environment that is like a local church, where they can safely see what church is like. Think of church online as the conversation you have with someone in the coffee shop that leads him or her to attending your church. You would never call that connection shallow, right? Church online is the first step—and many times the best type of community for a new person to experience.

Fear No. 3: It caters to a disconnected generation. Technology can certainly produce disconnected people. It’s the church’s responsibility to create ways that provide connections. Churches used to provide potlucks and after-service parties for community, but now it's through online connections on Facebook or whatever local flavor of social network that works. The message never changes, but the methodology does. I think church online gives a way to reach a disconnected generation, since church is happening where many are disconnecting—online.

Now, fears can remain true if there is no growth. That nervous and scared 8-year-old was eventually able to conquer his fear of public speaking through changing his view of the camera. The lens became a resource to help point out areas where I needed to grow. As an adult, I can see my teacher wasn’t torturing me but was preparing me to always improve. I believe the fears of church online can be conquered as well. All that’s needed is a little perspective.

Jay Kranda is the online campus pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif. Jay oversees Saddleback’s 167 online services that attract more than 23,000 people weekly and is over 1,100 small groups gathering outside of its local campus reach. To learn more about the ever-changing and evolving world of church online, visit

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