“Carefully cultivated online places can help bring people back to embodied Christian communities and can make these communities healthier and more spiritually transformative. ”
Online church gatherings were a pandemic necessity many would like to leave in our pandemic past, but can online places actually nurture healthy Christian community between Sundays?* It is easy to discount the value of online spaces for Christians. Online church attendance has declined, and the ills of social media platforms are well documented. However, live-streamed worship services alone are not a formational model of community. In the Black Barn Online, I have been able to identify and implement best practices for individual and community formation and growth. Christians want to connect with other Christians online, and I believe this desire can actually help embodied communities flourish in the hours between in-person gatherings. Over the course of this project, I would like to collect, codify and present to church and academic partners the best practices derived from our online community. I long to see other Christian communities flourishing online, to help them grow and to learn from them. I believe that intentional online communities will help churches build bridges of connection toward and within their embodied communities and that such expansion would encourage the spiritual formation of individuals, faith communities, and the North American church as a whole.
*In their most recent quarterly report, the Unstuck Group observes that church attendance has fallen by 28% over the last 12 months and that online service views, having declined by 15%, no longer offset the in-person attendance decline.