Connecting Online Community, In-Person through Watch Parties

In 2006, Life.Church launched the very first church online experience to reach people outside physical church walls.

Fast forward 15 years. Life.Church holds 89 online services a week, in addition to in-person services at 37 physical locations across 12 states in the U.S.

The mission of Life.Church is to lead people to become fully devoted followers of Christ, regardless of where they’re located.

The pandemic created a mindset shift for the ministry, causing the team to ask, “how can we simultaneously leverage physical and digital experiences to lead and love people well?”

Moving forward, Life.Church is embracing a Hybrid Church model: it’s not physical or digital …  it’s both.

Life.Church recently identified the Brooklyn area as a high-engagement location, with top-ranking Church Online attendance, over 2,000 email contacts, and 12 active LifeGroups in a 60 mile radius. 

To engage this community further and embrace the hybrid mentality, Life.Church Online threw a watch party and baptized attenders in the area in partnership with Life.Church’s Albany campus

But the driving force for the Brooklyn Watch Party was more than metrics. It stemmed from a desire to love the population of a city that had been through a painful trauma over the course of the past year.

“We wanted to come together and create a physical experience for them to deepen their relationships with the church and with others”

Greg Gackle, Life.Church Online Leader

The ultimate goal for the Brooklyn Watch Party was the same as the first Life.Church Online service in 2006: to lead people to become fully devoted followers of Christ.

Because we prioritized our mission above our methods, we were able to create a seamless transition between an online and in-person experience for attenders.

People who arrived at the event feeling anxious felt immediately at home when they were able to high-five the pastors that they saw online each week. 

Digital LifeGroup members that lived in separate states were able to watch each other get baptized.

Life.Church Albany attenders recounted how the event felt just like any other Life.Church service.

Nearly 1 in 3 attenders took next steps in their faith. Twelve people accepted Jesus and nine were baptized.

The Brooklyn Watch Party is a testament to the fact that online attenders are forming real relationships with their communities—and their Savior.

The level of commitment that people displayed to attend this event was staggering. People cleared their schedules on a Monday. They commuted hours on public transportation during a pandemic. They chose to walk into a building they had never set foot in, worship alongside people they’d never met in person, accept Jesus as their Savior, and publicly declare that decision through baptism. 

When you ask yourself what’s most effective when it comes to reaching people for Christ, you’ll find that your approach can’t be one-size-fits-all. 

A hybrid model is about determining what’s most effective for the person in front of you. It’s about going to people, loving them well, and providing them with next steps in any way possible.

Want to learn more? Check out What You Need to Know About Hybrid Church.

YouVersion for Churches is developing tools and resources to help you lead and minister in an increasingly hybrid world.