5 Keys to Leading an Omnichannel Church

Recently Dave Adamson wrote a compelling article on the future of the church based on the digital tools that church leaders now have at their disposal. He applied the term “omnichannel” to church practice, and his article was the first time I have seen someone do so. Dave does this type of work with churches, so he was not just winging it and throwing out an idea. If you have background in ecommerce or marketing, you are familiar with the term “omnichannel.” It represents the thinking that a company should align all of its channels so that a customer has a seamless experience across all. In other words, the customer could easily flow back and forth between a physical store and an online store and other touch points.

If you apply “omnichannel” to a local church, as Dave has done, you essentially decide it does not matter which channel the person you are serving utilizes to interact with your church or consume content from your church, and you want all the channels (such as your podcast, your live-stream, and your physical location) to offer a similar experience.

Here are five things I like about applying “omnichannel” to a local church.

  1. It is the reality of what is already happening. People are interacting (or desiring to interact) with your church in multiple ways. People may attend one week and watch online while traveling the next. Desiring that person to receive consistent teaching from his/her church in a unified manner is a good thing.
  2. It forces leaders to think about people not just content. We don’t just teach the Word; we teach the Word to real people and we must understand the people we are teaching.
  3. It can help break down ministry silos. Because people move across live streaming, podcast, and the worship gathering, staff in those areas must be coordinated.
  4. It helps churches use tools to reach people. Just as the Lord used the advent of the printing press to spread the Bible and the advent of radio to broadcast C.S. Lewis and Billy Graham messages, every new technology is an opportunity to distribute the good news.
  5. It helps churches think about the other 167 hours. Perhaps the most challenging thought that Dave offered is the challenge to think about all the hours in the lives of the people we serve, and not just the weekly gathering.

And here are two cautions I have about applying the “omnichannel” term to a local church. Though I appreciate the desire to connect people where they are and connect them more than one hour in a weekly gathering, ministry leaders must do so while also thinking about these two realities:

  1. A church is not a base of customers. The article was not advocating that, but the term “omnichannel” was developed to help companies think about their customers and their channels, and we must be cautious of any term (or thinking) that causes us to think of our church as a base of customers. A church is much more than a customer base. She is the bride of Christ and the family of God. She is a gathering of God’s people who are in community together and have joined Christ on His mission.
  2. Consumption must not be the ultimate goal. We must not desire the people in our churches to merely consume religious goods and services, but to grow in community and to live on mission. If we settle for consumption, we are settling for a vision of local church that is too small. Yes, let’s use the tools at our disposal and let’s sync them together to communicate the message of Jesus. But let’s be sure that we don’t equate consumption with discipleship.

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Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger is the Senior Pastor of Mariners Church in Irvine, California. Before moving to Southern California, Eric served as senior vice-president for LifeWay Christian. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. Eric has authored or co-authored several books including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, taking his daughters to the beach, and playing basketball.

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comment_post_ID); ?> Thank you Ed for sharing your insights into the Church Growth Movement. I have my reservations with Church Growth models because it has done more damage than good in the Body of Christ. Over the years, western churches are more focused on results, formulas and processes with little or no emphasis on membership and church discipline. Pastors and vocational leaders are burnt out because they're overworked. I do believe that the Church Growth model is a catalyst to two destructive groups: The New Apostolic Reformation and the Emerging Church. Both groups overlap and have a very loose definition. They're both focus on contemporary worship, expansion of church brand (franchising), and mobilizing volunteering members as 'leaders' to grow their ministry. Little focus on biblical study, apologetics and genuine missional work with no agenda besides preaching of the gospel.
— Dave
comment_post_ID); ?> Thank you for sharing such a good article. It is a great lesson I learned from this article. I am one of the leaders in Emmanuel united church of Ethiopia (A denomination with more-than 780 local churches through out the country). I am preparing a presentation on succession planning for local church leaders. It will help me for preparation If you send me more resources and recommend me books to read on the topic. I hope we may collaborate in advancing leadership capacity of our church. God Bless You and Your Ministry.
— Argaw Alemu
comment_post_ID); ?> Amen!!
— Scott Michael Whitley

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