A new term has infiltrated into the mainstream of marketing and consumerism. Businesses are attempting to be “phygital” by blending a physical presence with a strong digital platform. The idea is to create a bridge between the digital brand and the physical experience so that they may have both at the same time. (See “Phygital: Six ways for businesses to adapt or die.” Source: https://www.bizcommunity.com/Article/196/458/190287.html
In this technological world that is changing with breathtaking speed, it’s hard for anybody to keep up let alone adapt whenever a new digital concept is introduced into our society. How can churches respond and remain relevant while attempting to communicate the gospel message in their community?
Churches can start by observing how businesses are adapting in today’s market.
Retail stores with only a physical presence are closing rapidly. Empty malls and vacant storefronts are a testimony to this change. Without some type of digital presence to build brand loyalty, a physical store is not going to last long. In response to this new dynamic, businesses are developing a hybrid. They are building a physical presence with a strong digital connection. This is being referred to as building a “phygital” presence.[How a congregation can respond to this concept was introduced recently in a blog post, “The Phygital Church” by James Emery White.]
Churches do not necessarily need to be on the cutting edge of technology. Instead, they can adapt how they are engaging the world, connecting with an audience who need Christ, and learning the best way to communicate a timeless message.
A “phygital” church uses the internet to introduce themselves to the community. A digital presence is the virtual front door of the church. It is an important entry point for young families shopping for a new church home. Churches can view their digital presence as their new virtual greeter. They want to make people feel welcome and safe before they make a scary decision on Sunday morning to walk through the front doors of a church and meet a room full of strangers. The same training applied towards preparing a greeter at the door are the same thoughts that can be applied to building an internet presence.
I don’t believe a digital church can ever replace a physical gathering of believers.
Churches are going to close, but Jesus will always keep the doors open until he returns. It means that a gathering place of believers will be different. [Read “Digital Church: Option or Aberration” by Rev. James Hein.
Faith in Christ is a relationship with Christ. He is present in his Word and sacraments. There is power in his presence and strength in the gathering of believers.
A wonderful, amazing opportunity exists right now for churches to provide what this emerging generation is looking for. They are looking for “phygital” churches that are genuine, compassionate, and purposeful.
The internet is largely impersonal, low-risk, and easy. The internet builds community but the digital relationships can be unfulfilling. Interpersonal relationships are complex, difficult, and risky. Growing up in a low-risk digital world, it’s scary to dive-in into a high-risk gathering of real people with real problems.
It seems that the emerging generation is willing to be associated but demonstrating an unwillingness to belong. Perhaps this is a reason why loneliness is prompting many to look for personal connection, community, and purpose. They want it all.
For the sake of the gospel, perhaps churches can look to being “phygital” to reach those who don’t know the Truth.