Concepts for upstream swimming with the net church

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According to research by the Barna Group, one in three practicing Christians does not see any online services during the COVID-19 ban.

Do not press the panic button yet. This does not mean that they leave your church, let alone belief. They just don't see you online.

And there could be a reason.

Hulu recently published results that describe four different types of streamers. Among those who use different streaming services, whether Netflix or Disney +, their study found that people don't use these services in the usual way. Furthermore, each subgroup consists of different demographic characteristics with different psychographic characteristics.

Hulu identified four groups of streamers

Here are the four groups:

Therapeutic streamers. This is the largest of the four groups and consists of those that stream content for decompression. Your chosen content often has a nostalgia element. Think streaming friends. Demographically, it is the closest to the entire population.

Classic streamers. This is the group that watches family, friends or a partner as part of the daily routine at fixed times. They are more likely to be married and somewhat wealthier than the average.

Indulgent streamers. Can you say "binge"? An indulgent streamer will take a weekend and go through an entire season or seasons in a series. This group tends to be older and tends to live alone.

Curated streamers. The smallest of the four groups are people who are looking for series and films, who are leading or promoting cultural discussions – a conversation in which they would like to participate. Demographically speaking, it is probably Generation Z.

Could there be different groups of Christian streamers online?

I would argue that it goes without saying. However, let's look at them less as different types of streamers than more as different types of "interactors" with streaming and especially online services.

There are four groups to consider:

The dial-up. Barna's investigation found that one in three is not tracking online services. But that means that two out of three are. That is the vast majority. However, this does not mean that they watch your church's offerings, even if it is the church to which they belonged.

The tired. Let's face it, there is currently a serious case of online fatigue. Unplugging is possible and being online (at least as much as we are) is not possible. Unfortunately, many online services are connected to everything else that they delete.

The needy. There are people who yearn for human interaction and the experience of personal corporate worship. All Christians should recognize the importance of both, but there are some who see this as their life support. Not only will they avoid online offerings as inadequate, they will also visit any community that dares to open up to find out what they miss so much.

The disappointed. Finally there is the disappointed. They went online faithfully, but the content, quality and value were bleak.

Ideas for each group

Let's see if we can combine the Hulu study and my own attempt at how people view online services.

For dialing in, Give them what they miss. Give them as much of the service they loved as you can online. They are your "classic streamers".

For the tiredPut on your lead trousers and implement the vision of increasing the importance of the spiritual content. Yes, a little less "baby bum" may be good, but not less of what your church has to offer. In addition, you should browse through your archives and experience nostalgia that warms your heart. B. Highlights from the recent past or even a “best-of” series in the light of services and discussions. In other words, take care of your "therapeutic streamer".

For the needyTry to offer as much physical experience as possible. You may not be able to open it, but you can offer alternative experiences that take social distancing into account while allowing social interaction. Think of them as your "forgiving streamer". The more you can combine the physical with the digital, the more the digital will serve.

For the disappointedIt's not just about quality, it's also about relevance. Have you spoken to the pandemic about issues related to hope and fear, belief and persistence? Did you speak about the murder of George Floyd? If you have not done so, you have exacerbated the disappointment and lost the "curated streamers".

We all swim to the point or more upriver these days.

… Swim upstream.


Garth Franklin, “Study: There Are Four Types of Streamers,” Dark Horizons, July 21, 2020, read online.

Brandon Showalter, "A third of practicing Christians who don't see online worship services during the COVID-19 ban: Barna," The Christian Post, July 12, 2020, read online.

James Emery White is the founder and pastor of the Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and associate professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as the fourth president. His latest book, Christianity for Non-Christian People: Occasional Answers to Frequently Asked Questions is now available on Amazon or your favorite bookseller. To get a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit, where you can view previous blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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