This conversation is not simply for the retail world. “Phygitality,” for lack of a better world, is here to stay. It does not represent the elimination of [brick] and mortar, but the importance of what we do physically to integrate with what we do digitally. And, ideally, to have the two create a synergy that is more strategic than either alone.
Consider someone who is wanting to explore a particular church. That used to be a strictly physical process — now it is phygital. When invited by a friend, the invitation is often to explore the church digitally through a website or internet stream. If all goes well, from this comes a physical visit.
The implications are vast, but much of the fruit is low-hanging:
Your digital presence is now the front door of your church. As such, it must be designed as a front door. Just as in the ’80s churches learned that the weekend service was the front door of the church, and needed to be “opened” in a purposefully sensitive and strategic way for unchurched guests, today we must open the front door of our websites and social media in a way that is inviting and compelling.
Previous barriers that you thought were first and foremost in terms of someone exploring your church — such as having a campus in close physical proximity — are largely muted as the initial exploration is digital instead of physical. And if they like what they experience digitally, the physical location is less of a factor for a subsequent physical exploration.
Your digital front door must seamlessly integrate with the physical experience of attending, most obviously by having the experience reflect the digital image and promise you projected.
Don’t let the digital remain simply a front door — let the phygital nature of your church be manifest in every conceivable way, including how children’s ministry check-in might be handled online, an app that offers ways to be served in terms of additional content or learning in light of that weekend’s message, and so much more. A guest will walk in because of a digital exploration and have their smartphone in hand. Keep the dynamic going in ways that both serve their exploration and foster a culture of assimilation.
Your physical experience must also provide what a digital experience cannot. We already know that the digital world is limited in terms of what it can provide in light of a biblically functioning community. But the person exploring your church most likely does not. They should be enticed by the digital, but then, upon experiencing it physically, should be reminded that whatever they streamed on the front end can never take the place of what they experienced on the back end.
We’re all just beginning to scrape the surface of the phygital demand, whether in the retail world or the church world. But make no mistake — the depths are there to be plumbed for enormous kingdom impact.
This article originally appeared here and is used by permission.
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, “Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World,” is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.