It’s been two weeks since the Episcopal Church’s Ash Wednesday video invitation. Wow! Time flies.
When I posted a tutorial to help you customize the video, I asked you to give me your email address if you were willing to share your experience. Forty-nine of you did.
Eighteen actually filled out the survey, a pretty impressive rate of return. Seventeen of those people used the video (one person filled out the survey to let us know why they chose not to use the video).
Are those numbers small? Yes, they are small. Here’s why:
We’re in the very early stage of the innovation lifecycle.
The church has sought to share God’s grace since Peter preached on Pentecost, but this specific way of reaching people is completely new.
When did any Episcopal Church first customize an invitation video and upload it to Facebook as a boosted post? Just about 60 days ago.
The mainline church tends to lag culture in general. (Facebook started showing video ads in 2014.) So we can’t expect huge numbers at this stage.
Even with this super-small sample size, I learned a few things:
Lesson #1: We can do better.
We didn’t have a big enough sample size or a clearly designed enough survey to get clear and compelling data here. Seventeen responses on a SurveyMonkey don’t provide enough information to drive innovation in a church of our size. They’re better than nothing, but not good enough.
Lesson #2: Because we can do better, we should do better.
We should be putting real money behind boosting posts, designing surveys and analyzing the impact of this type of evangelism. Because these super-early, super-small results are telling us something interesting. (Hmmm… I think we already allocated some money for digital evangelism… I wonder if any could become available for this work?)
Lesson #3: We exist to proclaim the love of God in Christ Jesus.
Even if nobody ever showed up at an Episcopal Church as a result, sharing the good news is still the work of the church.
Just with the video view numbers from survey respondents (a small fraction of the total number of people who shared this video), more than three thousand people received a clear message that Jesus Christ invites them to new life this Lent.
That’s what we’re in business to do.
Lesson #4: Boost the video on Facebook, probably (?) to your friends.
Most people who used the video did experience a higher Ash Wednesday attendance. A detailed analysis of the data (which you can review here) indicates a very very weak relationship between the audience identified and the outcome of increased worship attendance. It’s probably not statistically significant, but it stands out to me that most of the churches which boosted the video to “friends” saw an increase in Ash Wednesday attendance. It makes sense, because human connections matter. If you want to invite people to worship, Facebook is like real life: it’s better to have a relationship.
However, more than half of the churches which boosted the video to a specific demographic area also saw an increase. I have no idea what this means. Unfortunately (see Lesson #1) there were flaws in the design of this experience leading to inconclusive results.
Lesson #5: The goal is disciples of Jesus making disciples of Jesus.
If you like the video, use it more than one way. Encourage others to use it also.
A survey respondent who described using the video text in a prison ministry and printing an image as a handout made a great use of the video. I used it with a high school youth group.
So share the video with parishioners. Use it in Christian formation. Encourage church members to share it in their personal Facebook feeds. It’s not a single ad or attendance at one worship service that matters – it’s engaging and being transformed by the life of Christ. The video exists to assist you in living your discipleship.
Learning #6: Chromebook users, don’t worry about customization.
Just use the original. As one survey respondent said, “Google has a video editing add-on now but it totally sucks.” Sorry, Chromebook users, we didn’t realize this wasn’t possible for you. We’ll include that information in future video releases.
Learning #7: We need to move up that innovation lifecycle.
Acts 8 is going to do this again. For Easter, the video invitation, tutorials, and the “give us your email we’ll send you a survey” will all be in one location: the Acts 8 Movement site. We want to make this as easy as possible.
You don’t have to use the Acts 8 Movement video. But it’s not hard. The only way to learn how to do digital evangelism is by trying.
If you don’t like this way, try a different way. Just begin, and share what you learn.
Remember: the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. If, like me, you are wondering how we reverse the trendline of our aging and shrinking church, why not try some experiments in digital evangelism?
The move to a digital world is the biggest thing the church hasn’t yet come to grips with. Let’s get going.
Plus one announcement:
An Easter video is coming! If you want a link to land directly in your inbox, give me your email below. Then I’ll send you an invitation to fill out a post-Easter survey. We can only go up from here.