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How to run an online event

With people spending ever-increasing amounts of time online, how can we use the Internet as a tool to run evangelistic events? This article lays some key considerations for those interested in running online events.

At the start of lockdown I felt frustrated. How could I share hope in the midst of adversity if I was stuck indoors? I prayed and asked God to give me opportunities to be a light to our community and a witness to him. 

The gospel can be shared online

I’d heard about others running online Netflix watch parties, where you watch a film together and chat as you go. So I decided to give it a go and run a Facebook watch party based on the Easter message. 

Our pastor had shared a short evangelistic talk on Easter Sunday, so I asked if I could download it. I then set it up and invited friends. As I pressed play three joined in: a friend I’d met on a campsite a few years ago, a PhD student that works with my husband and a single mum two doors down. 

We watched the video and engaged with each other in the chat. My pastor asked a question to the audience: ‘Do you believe that Jesus was raised from the dead?’ My friend replied, ‘No.’ A few seconds later, she said, ‘Hang on, if Jesus was raised from the dead, then why are my brother, sister and dad still dead?’ To which I replied and told her it was a great question and invited her to chat afterwards. 

The event finished, we said goodbye and I opened a Zoom room to chat. Halfway through she said, ‘If God is anything like my Dad, then I’m prepared to hear more.’ I opened Luke 15 and read to her. She was stunned at the description of the Father’s love for his son. Ninety minutes later I dropped a copy of Luke’s gospel off at her house, and encouraged her to read it. 

She was stunned at the description of the Father’s love for his son. Ninety minutes later I dropped a copy of Luke’s gospel off at her house

Online evangelism has many advantages

Online evangelism isn’t just something that we do in a pandemic. Done well, online evangelism is essential for the outreach of the church. It can give us a greater reach, greater accessibility and greater collaboration. There are many more stories to tell; here are a few that illustrate my point.

It can give us a greater reach, greater accessibility and greater collaboration.

Greater reach 

Three Muslim women from my city had wanted to attend an Alpha course for years. Yet they weren’t allowed out of the house or allowed to go to a church to explore Christianity. In the privacy of their own home, during lockdown, on a laptop, they all heard about the person of Jesus week by week.

Greater accessibility 

Most of our outreach up until the pandemic was completely inaccessible for the disabled community (20% of the UK population). According to Lausanne, 90%–95% of the world’s disabled people die without ever hearing the gospel. Our pastor’s parents had not attended church for decades. They were both housebound and it was just impossible for them to come. 

Greater collaboration

In April we realised that many people had started coming along to church on Zoom. We wanted to make sure they knew and understood about what it means to be a Christian. Our church has close connections with other South Asian churches across the UK. So we decided to run a discovering Christianity course together. This meant we could share resources and expertise. Seventy came along for the course. It was the biggest course our church has ever run.

In April we realised that many people had started coming along to church on Zoom. We wanted to make sure they knew and understood about what it means to be a Christian.

How to plan an online evangelistic event

1. Why do you want to run an event?

As you plan your event, you need to be clear on why you want to do an online event. What is its purpose? 

2. Who will you invite and where will you meet?

Who is the event for? Maybe you want to run a Christmas evangelistic event for mums, a Faith in Kids bake-along for families or a discovering Christianity course for those interested in finding out more. Once you’ve worked this out, you can decide where you will meet. 

A venue is a nudge to what will happen as you gather. Think about the following places: law courts, beach, nightclub – they all tell you what is going to happen at the meeting. It’s the same online. There are so many platforms that you could meet on; choose your venue according to the purpose of your meeting. 

3. Who won’t you invite?

Numbers are really important for gatherings. A gathering of 2–6 creates high intimacy and sharing; 6–12 gives greater opinion and levels of sharing; 30 is a party and 120 an audience. So choose how many you will invite depending on what kind of atmosphere you want to create.

If you want something small (2–6) and highly relational go for: Zoom, WhatsApp or Facebook chat. I’ve seen seeker Bible studies done on all these platforms.

If you want something larger (say 6–12) where you can get others to contribute and share their opinions, then consider using Facebook Live or Zoom. Encourage participation through the chat or use other apps like Slido.

We’ve run discovering Christianity courses for even larger groups (30–120) on Zoom, splitting into smaller groups for discussion. I’ve also seen how YouTube, Facebook Live or StreamYard gives guests the chance to share opinions.

Finally, for anything over 120, this is an audience so you want something more anonymous and open to anyone. Try YouTube, Facebook Live or StreamYard. We ran an excellent event titled ‘Where is God in a COVID world?’ We interviewed a doctor, a researcher and a pastor. The anonymity of the event meant that many could come along and ask their questions.

4. Don’t be a chill host

At a party, the best hosts are completely in control but almost invisible. It’s the same with running an event online. A good host will protect, equalise and connect guests. Depending on the event you run, you’ll need to think carefully about this. 

Q&A’s dominated by one person or an overly chatty person in a Zoom room can quickly become disruptive. Natural conversations and connections that might happen as you bump into someone at a physical event will need to be planned for an online event. Plan space for questions to be asked and opinions heard.

Plan space for questions to be asked and opinions heard.

Online life is here to stay. Will you and your church make the most of it to communicate the good news of Jesus to those around you?

Nay Dawson

Nay Dawson is the Regional Training Co-ordinator for IFES Europe and Founder of Passion for Evangelism.

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