February 18, 2021

Adam's Blog: Why Should The Ridge Launch an Online Campus?

Do you know why?

You've probably been asked a question like this before. "Why does this matter?" My kids ask me this all the time. When we're talking about chores or discipline, it's the first thing that comes out of their mouths. "WHY?!" Usually it's because they don't want to clean out the dishwasher, but still, caring about “why” something is important is baked into us at an early age.

It's important, no matter what we're talking about, to know the "why." It helps us to keep people focused and excited and to understand the thinking behind a decision. Unfortunately, it's easier to communicate the “what” and “how.” Here’s what I mean. It’s easier to say "We're launching an online campus by Easter of 2021." (That's less than 50 days away, and Becca Malburg, our Online Campus Director, is crushing it as she is building the foundations for our online campus).

But the “why” is harder to describe. Let me give it a go.

Why launch an online campus in the first place?

It comes down to our vision. Do whatever it takes to reach our community for Christ. We want to do whatever it takes to reach people right where they are. Honestly, I don’t want to go to a church that doesn’t want to do whatever it takes. I want to be a part of a place that seeks to love people, and respond to the way God loves us, by caring more about others than we do ourselves. Why? Because God sent Jesus. And I believe God sends people who follow Jesus to help other people know Jesus. That’s the type of follower I want to be – a whatever it takes follower. That’s the type of church we are trying to be. Our “why” starts with our vision as a church, and our vision starts with Jesus. We’re a whatever it takes type of church because God is a whatever it takes type of God.

But “why” is an online campus doing whatever it takes?

2020 forced us to re-think and re-invent, well, everything. In the midst of the last year, we realized that there is a big assumption going on when it comes to church. We assume that if we can stream our services in a high-quality way, it will keep people engaged and reach brand new people.  

I do believe our guests check us out online before they come in person. But, now I see that they often don’t come in person. They might never set foot on campus. Even if they are never here in person, I believe God still loves them, and we're still called to do whatever it takes to reach them.

The truth - the assumption that people will stay engaged with a streamed service is only partially true. I do think streaming our services helps to engage people, but once someone is engaged, what then? We assume the next step is for them to come in person, then we're done. If that's the case, great. But I don't think getting more people inside a church building is the goal. The goal is for people to follow Jesus with all they've got. It's not about attendance or buildings or anything else. It's about people. Some people will come in person. Lots won't. Why? People consume content online at a greater pace than doing ANYTHING in person. The average amount of time a person was on social media in 2020 was 2 hours and 3 minutes A DAY. That blows an hour on Sunday out of the water.

So we're changing our assumption. We can’t assume that streaming a version of our in-person services on Sunday is going to keep our congregation engaged online, let alone reach brand new people. At least in the way that we're hoping to reach them - as fully devoted followers of Jesus. The online campus certainly includes a Sunday service, just like in-person church does. But it’s more. Our online campus will also do everything else we do in our physical location, but online. This includes children’s ministry, student ministry, and groups. We will look to find ways to engage individuals to serve. All online.  

When we think of church, we often think of what happens on a stage on Sunday morning. I understand that, and it's definitely important. Still, that's merely a portion of what The Ridge is all about. Think about all the other things that make up The Ridge. Kids, students, caring for our community, loving each other, helping people grow and connect and learn about Jesus. That all can happen both in a physical location and online. Our online campus will help to make it possible for something to grow in their relationship with Jesus even if they don't set foot inside The Ridge.

You might be skeptical. I can relate. I was, too. I thought, "This online campus makes sense logically, but I still don't fully get it. Will people actually grow online?"

And then, people started to respond, and I heard stories like this one. And I experienced these stories for myself. I was in a store and someone came up and told me they had been attending The Ridge for a few weeks. They had never been there in person and they made it plain and clear they had no plans on going in person. That stuck out to me because I thought, "Why in the world would you tell me this?" But then they asked how they could be involved. See, Jesus was reaching them in a bigger way than I could even assume, because my assumption was caught up on being in a physical location.

So, why launch an online campus?

Because people matter. Your friends, my neighbors. They matter, and we want to do whatever it takes to reach them for Christ. And right now, whatever it takes means launching an online campus. I'm excited to hear story after story like these - of people in person, online, whatever - talking about how Jesus changed their lives.


All because of doing whatever it takes.