Let’s all face it: the future of the church is hybrid.
But what does that mean?
Most churches will say hybrid means offering both an online and an in-person option for watching a weekly message. But if we stop there, our idea of “hybrid church” is no more hybrid than gluing a polaroid camera, an alarm clock, and a notepad to a landline phone and calling it a smartphone. It just doesn’t work that way.
Google the definition of hybrid. You’ll unearth a concept way more intriguing, supernatural, nuanced, and beautiful than “offering two options for consuming a message.”
- Hybrid is “the offspring of genetically dissimilar (sources)”
- Hybrid is “crossbreeding of two unlike cultures”
- Good hybrid “works well in a range of conditions”
- Good hybrid “blends the wild”
- Hybrid is “a person or group of persons produced by the interaction or crossbreeding of two unlike cultures, traditions, etc.”
Don’t miss this: In science, hybrid isn’t just two options coming together, hybrid is also what results from marrying two dissimilar origin stories to create something entirely new. What could this mean when it comes to how we invite a generation to do church and be the Church?
And here’s the thing. We have hybrid experiences everyday, but because they’re so seamlessly integrated into our lives, we don’t even think about them as hybrid.
- When your car switches from gas to electricity because you hit a certain speed.
- When you open your AirPods and, thanks to Bluetooth technology, your phone pulls up the last podcast or Spotify song you were playing.
- When you open your GPS and it predicts which address you’re headed to based on what time of day it is and where you’re located.
- When the big picture of your weekly meal planning includes a grocery run, a Hello Fresh subscription, a few take-out orders, and a trip to the local farmers market.
Hybrid is what happens when we look at the big picture. Hybrid is what happens when technology becomes a little more human by remembering, empathizing, and anticipating for the purpose of creating a holistic and seamless user experience.
So maybe the goal of hybrid church isn’t offering two message options.
Maybe the goal of hybrid church is engaging students in a seamless, holistic, authentic faith strategy.
Seamless in that it doesn’t have to wait to attend the next service to proactively engage with a next step. Seamless in that the leaders I watch online are consistent and aligned with the same messaging when I show up in-person. Seamless in that when my small group leader challenges me to take a next step this week, my YouVersion Bible Plan is encouraging me to do the same, at the same time my parent “so happened” to bring up a similar topic as I was heading out to school this morning. Seamless in that as I engage with God daily I am being encouraged and supported by my faith community online, in small group text messages, at the dinner table, and in my personal devotional time.
What’s my point?
Your church shouldn’t be hybridizing because we’ve experienced a global pandemic that forced us to stay home.
Your church shouldn’t even be hybridizing because “people aren’t coming back anytime soon.”
Your church should be hybridizing because the human experience is hybrid.
Your audience is a hybrid of young and old people, traditional and modern styles. Your content is a hybrid of live and pre-recorded messaging. Your small groups are hybrids of social life and spiritual formation.
That means that our discipleship models should create opportunities for discipleship that feel cohesive to where students are developmentally and spiritually—whether in-person or online.
That means using digital tools like teaching videos, devotionals, and social media that are strategically designed to not feel like separate experiences created in isolation of each other.
That means the one hour that students spend interfacing with your ministry—whether in-person or online—spills over into the other 168 hours through daily applicable YouVersion devos.
When we stop defining hybrid only as offering two options for convenient content consumption and start rethinking of hybrid as an opportunity to create a holistic, seamless strategy to build a lasting, authentic faith in a generation, we start to help students love God with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength whether your church is in the room or not.
Hybrid churches crossbreed technology and empathy to help humans be better humans.
Hybrid churches fearlessly intersect timeless tradition with futuristic innovation to create an authentic faith.
When we create a hybrid strategy that emphasizes the human experience of connecting to God and others, we innovate the future of the church.
Let’s all face it: The future of the church is hybrid.
But not because a global pandemic ripped across the globe.
No, the future of the church is hybrid because when Jesus challenged us to do the only things that matter—to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength and to love others as God loves them—it was a challenge to go from attending a convenient weekly service to living out a daily, moment-by-moment commitment in an authentic, everyday faith. To go from rigid, religious checklists that took place at specific times, in a specific location and to embrace a lifestyle, a new way.