Next Steps Classes in a Digital Age

What is your next step from the live stream service?

While we’re all hustling to get our Facebook or YouTube live streams to work properly each week, don’t forget about the other things you can do online.

It may feel unusual to think about a next step/membership class as an all-digital thing, but take a minute and ask yourself some big questions: What possibilities are there that we might be missing? Could we make part of it digital and part of it in-person? Would it be more convenient? Would more people attend if it were?

Can your next steps class be digital?

Our short answer? Yes. However, we’re fans of the hybrid approach. When we have the opportunity to talk to our partners about strategic moves for their Next Steps or Membership classes, we guide them towards a digital/physical hybrid model.

Prep for a Digital Next Steps Class

First, if you have a class already, then the hard part is done. No need to write curriculum or try to decide what your classes will be about. Start there before going forward here, of course, if you haven’t already.

If you have that class already, then you need to break that class up into sessions (if it isn’t already) and film each session. The production value doesn’t have to be Hollywood movie-grade, but make them as professionally as you can. If you have no studio or nice camera, you can still create high-quality videos with your phone, a tripod, a ring light (or window), a decent mic, and a quiet area. Phones are amazing these days, so it’s really the lighting and the audio you have to work at to get good videos.

If you have slides, get somewhere that you can put a TV behind you that your computer can run slides on. It’s also ok if you run the slides yourself on camera. If you don’t have access to a prompter TV, then you can edit the slides into the video later.

Once the videos are shot and edited, upload them to YouTube or Vimeo as “unlisted” or private videos. Create a playlist named after your next steps class and put them in order. This is just so you can come back to them later.

Now your videos are ready to go!

Setup the Landing Page & Email Sequence

Next, let’s create a way to deliver people to your class automatically.

First, you’re going to need a landing page on your website to send people to sign up. When they sign up through the Mailchimp embed form, they should be placed on an email list or tagged in your email provider. This should trigger the automated email sequence to send them the first email with instructions for the class, login links, etc. You may want someone to reach out immediately after as well.

If it’s easier to use your database CRM like Planning Center or Church Community Builder for these emails and follow up, go ahead. Whatever works best for your church is fine. You just need a way to automatically send them what they need to succeed in taking the class.

Next, we will need to create a series of automated emails. Whether it’s just one email or a few, it’s important to make these connections with those who want to take the class online.

The first email is the instructions and links email that triggers automatically. But after that, here are some ideas for how to run the class via these automated emails:

The next email should send either 1) the first email in a series of emails with one session linked in it per email, or 2) a link to the playlist for them to watch through as fast or slow as they want to go. Your call.

The first option is a “guided tour” approach where you control the speed at which they take the class. It may last 6 weeks or 6 days. The second option allows for them to binge watch all the videos at once Netflix-style.

If you send one video at a time, you can also put a form at the bottom to ask a few questions along the way. Why do this? I’d want to ensure that for something as important as membership, they were actually watching the videos.

If you send them all, you could provide a quiz at the end to both make sure they got the info and that they actually watched them all. Either way you want to do it, you need to communicate that this quiz is coming. People don’t mind quizzes, but they tend to hate pop quizzes.

When the last email sends, it should have a feedback survey in it so you can improve the process. In that survey, you should also put a link to your calendar or some way to automatically set up a phone call to follow up with the connections pastor. We use Calendly.

If you want to take this class to the next level, look into a teaching/course platform like Teachable. It’s made for this sort of thing and it’s free if you don’t charge for the classes you make. Otherwise, they take a percentage of the payments.

Now you’re set up to do the course online, let’s talk about how to get people to it.

Live Stream capture

When your services are streaming, it is an ideal time to bring up Next Steps Classes. When you do, make sure there is a link posted in the comments that will take them to a web page with the signup form embedded on it.

This form you will either 1) create in Mailchimp or your mail client and share the link, or 2) create a form yourself that is linked to your CRM. Either way, it has to be connected to whatever triggers your Next Steps class email automation.

You will be able to see who is in the class, what emails they have received, opened, and clicked on the backend. Third-party email providers like Mailchimp or Constant Contact do this. Gmail does not.

Make the capture form available to department heads to check every week and have them follow up with those interested in volunteering with their dept or if there are questions specific to them.

When the last email sends with the Schedule a Meeting or Register for a Class link in it, be ready to have that phone call or Zoom meeting with them quickly to add the personal touch.

Follow Up

From here, whatever you do for new members is up to you. Do you do a certificate? Take a family photo? I’m sure you pass their names off to the department head of where they’d like to serve. Just make it personal and efficient.

What to do for guest follow up online

If you’d like a really great plan for following up with guests online, my friends at Text in Church put together an AWESOME PDF that lays out a plan for that. You can get that HERE.

Of course, you could take a look at our plans as well and hire us to join your team to create this class for you!

How are you dealing with being a scattered, digital church?

Seth Muse

Seth is one of the co-founders of Church Comm Team and has been in ministry for over 20 years. He is a trusted voice in the Church Communications space nationally. He has served as a Communications Leader at multiple large churches in the DFW area, is a seasoned blogger, and hosts a church communications podcast called The Seminary of Hard Knocks. Learn more at Sethmuse.com.

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