Hillsong’s Online Campus has been operating for over a year prior to the COVID-19 pandemic which led to the closure of church buildings and brought our whole congregation online.
During this time, we’ve been able to identify five core values that we instil in our Online Campus teams that may be helpful for your teams to consider when hosting and pastoring your online service’s chat room.
1. I am the digital front row.
At Hillsong Church we are very intentional with our front row.
In a previous blog called “How to Kill Atmosphere in 3 Easy Steps” we noted that:
“Atmosphere doesn’t just happen ‘out of the blue’ because it’s 9am on Sunday. It cannot be purchased and it cannot be borrowed from another church. Atmosphere has to be led, and one of the most influential ways to do that is by encouraging your key team and volunteers to lead and carry the atmosphere from the front row.”
We believe the same principle applies to our digital front row as much as it does when we were gathering together in a building. After all the congregation are still watching on, now from home, to see how the leaders are leaning in to this shared experience.
So the job of our digital front row is to replicate the values that we esteem as a church within the chat room – such as backing the preacher, thanking God for what He is doing, supporting those with prayer requests, celebrating with those who are thankful to God and generally being expectant for the service.
The only difference on the digital front row is that emojis are not only permissible but encouraged!
Ultimately a chat room will have a culture – it will either be empty and unengaged, hijacked by people with all sorts of unproductive agendas, or led by your team to set a conducive atmosphere.
2. I’m a human being not a bot.
Whether you’re operating under the pseudonym of your church name when moderating your chat room, or logged in as yourself, the temptation when typing can be to become somewhat ‘robotic’. To say the same things over and over again, every few minutes, or each week at the same part of the service.
Focus on bringing your personality to the chat.
Don’t just copy and paste the perfect one-liners, but be authentic with what you are genuinely feeling in the moment.
While every ‘house’ has their own distinct language – how can you personalise and contextualise that language with your personality.
3. Out of the overflow of my heart, my hands type.
What you type is going to reflect your attitude toward your responsibility in the chat room.
If you see your job as just being a moderator, or the people you are hosting in the chat as just another profile, then you’ll be quick to operate functionally rather than pastorally.
However, if in your heart you see this as an opportunity to care, love and connect people – then your hands will type accordingly. It will be caring, it will be responsive. It will be focused on the needs of the other person.
4. I choose to see the person behind the profile.
Our Online Service team often says,
“We might not have the blessing of proximity, but we do have the blessing of connectivity.”
It can be easy to have a cynical or skeptical view of the online world, however, our team choose to see it as an opportunity. This means recognising that there is a person behind each profile in the chat room. There is a person behind each and every comment.
We realise that each profile is a real person with a real story, and that can only change the way you relate to them within the chat room.
5. Wherever the platform goes, I go.
At Hillsong we say that in our services, “anything can happen, and it probably will” – whether that be fun things or spiritual moments. In a live online service, you may have been given a runsheet outlining the flow of events and transitions, but just because a service is online doesn’t mean it cannot be spontaneous and flexible.
Whether the pastor begins to pray for specific groups of people or there is a spontaneous moment in worship, our team in the chat room don’t become spectators during these times but look to intentionally respond.
This could be as simple as putting a question in the chat for people to put their hand (emoji) up if they relate to what is being prayed for. Anticipating and responding quickly in these moments takes the chat room to much deeper levels.
In this new season many in our congregations are adjusting to the novel idea of connecting and engaging within a chat room. Therefore it is all the more important to lead these spaces intentionally and encourage interaction before, during and after our online services.
Over the last year we have seen numerous lives turned around as a result and we believe you will too.