4 Questions Churches Are Asking About Phygital Church, and How to Know If It’s Right for Your Church
Your church building is one tool of many to help you express your mission, accomplish ministry goals, and connect with people. When churches create ministry space, they do it to facilitate the programming they are currently providing—or hope to provide in the near future.
The world, however, is changing more quickly all the time. Physical space that serves ministry purposes today may not provide the kinds of spaces we need next year, let alone for the next decade or more.
As we talk with churches around the country, we often hear about how their facility spaces are not aligned with the needs of the world today. Churches are wrestling with this reality. As we look to the future, we’re asking:
- How do we create spaces designed for ministry impact?
- How do we embrace tools that make it easier to do ministry?
The digital age has been driving us to change our physical spaces. Because of COVID, churches are taking a closer look at how to adapt their physical ministry space to help serve both their physical and digital ministry needs.
Learn how physical AND digital space can work together to support the discipleship journey.
As Aspen Group’s first point of contact for church leaders, Josh Gregoire shares four questions he’s hearing from church leaders, who are wondering how to adapt their church facilities, and his insights on how to seamlessly integrate physical and digital spaces (phygital) to provide creative solutions for better engagement.
1. What areas of our facility should we adapt?
In the midst of COVID, many churches have contacted Aspen for help adapting their facilities to accommodate COVID safety protocols. According to Josh, many inquiries have centered on worship areas, kids’ space, and especially maximizing lobbies.
“We want to make sure that lobby space allows for traffic flow and conversation but also social distancing,” Josh says. “As people walk into a church, the lobby is the space where people get a first impression of your church and have their first face-to-face interactions. Don’t get me wrong, people are checking out your website before they ever walk into your lobby space. But with regards to the physical space, once someone walks through the door, that’s where they’re going to start to engage and consider things like, Who are you? What’s the culture of this church, as I see it reflected in the way people interact with each other and me? How is the space arranged?”
In any type of space adaptation, it’s essential that churches return to the foundation of their mission to help them chart ministry goals first. Those goals can help clarify what needs to transform in both physical and digital approaches.
"Along with changes to the lobby, we’re also seeing spaces being transformed to maximize digital tools, like turning Sunday school classrooms and other spaces in the building into recording studios or live church online production rooms," says Josh. "Churches need a place where a host for an online service could speak directly to those that are online versus those who are in person.”
2. With increasing mental health issues, how can we better care for people?
As we move into a new year of ministry, many churches are acknowledging how the ongoing pandemic has revealed deep needs within our culture, including increased anxiety and depression rates. The church has an amazing opportunity to fill that gap and serve in unique ways, which will directly affect the types of spaces they create. Church leaders are wondering how to meet these needs and make their spaces more relevant to the people they want to serve in the future.
“A number of churches are not only looking at the physical health of folks, but they’re also looking at the mental and emotional health of their community,” says Josh. “Certainly, we don’t want to put people in harm’s way with regards to COVID. But at the same time, with depression, anxiety, and even suicide rates on the rise, what is an appropriate way to engage people? Sometimes, there is a face-to-face component that makes all the difference in the world.”
As we think about a strategy that incorporates physical and digital elements, this could mean offering places where people can meet, socially-distanced, to have in-person conversations. Or offering areas of your campus for people to come and use for respite and reflection. What underutilized resource does your church have that could benefit others?
3. How can we keep growing disciples?
At Aspen, our architects focus on how to design for discipleship in physical spaces, while integrating a digital strategy for ministry. We guide churches on how to be intentional about the path they are trying to create for people to meet God, have an experience with him, and get to know others. With a phygital approach to ministry, churches can meet people where they are and help guide them on a discipleship journey.
According to Josh, a “both/and” strategy when it comes to physical and digital spaces is an important shift for church leaders to consider. In the same way that churches have pathways for connection when someone walks in the door as a new guest, it’s critical to create similar pathways and opportunities to connect with pastors and others online.
“In all efforts, it’s not just about providing resources, but also about building relationships in an integrated experience,” says Josh. “Whether physical or digital, all your tools can work together to support the work of taking people on a discipleship journey.”
4. How do we engage people who aren't yet coming to our church?
With the increase during COVID of new churches adding online services and other digital experiences to their ministry strategy, churches are realizing the opportunity to reach many more people beyond their own geographic area.
As Josh points out, “Now, it doesn’t have to be within 5 or 10 miles of your building. We can look at how to engage those who are close and also how to welcome those who are joining from afar. Churches need to create a discipleship pathway whether you’re attending church in person or online.”
Churches that want to build a phygital strategy need to invest resources to support this approach. “A phygital strategy is not just asking the tech person in your church to stream services online and get a Facebook page started if you hadn’t already,” says Josh. “We’re seeing churches that are saying they are going to be all-in and have an online campus pastor. This is not just a service we provide that augments what happens on Sunday, but it’s a whole community that we can engage. We’re going to invest in people.”
With a phygital ministry strategy, churches no longer compartmentalize their physical and digital spaces but begin to combine them into one seamless, cohesive strategy. The in-person experience supports the online experience and vice-versa.