April 15 is usually dreaded because it’s Tax Day (for those self-employed who also pay taxes in full, I feel your pain).

But April 15, 2019, will be a day remembered in history: the day the historic Notre Dame Cathedral caught fire and the iconic spire collapsed.

Like you, I watched the blaze from a far. Thankfully no one died in this tragedy. Yet the structure known by people around the world is no more.

Perhaps the most fascinating thing about the fire was watching people on social media. One firefighter had a fascinating thread on Twitter about what was probably happening with the blaze. I’m not a firefighter, so reading his insights gave the fire an entirely different perspective.

The most remarkable thing about the fire, though, was in the hours and days that followed. My social feeds quickly went from pictures of friends to throwback photos.

* My cousin and his wife on their honeymoon in front of the cathedral.

* A colleague at the cathedral on a weekend trip while studying abroad in college.

* A former coworker and his wife visiting the cathedral 20 years ago.

Those were just the tip of the iceberg. Countless other people posted their memories of the cathedral or how it inspired them in their faith, their art, or their daily lives.

While watching all of this unfold, a thought struck me about the church, marketing, and church communications:

Physical spaces spark powerful emotions.

In our world, we focus so much energy on digital communications and engagement. And it makes sense. Our world lives online, so we want to meet people where they are. We invest time in social strategies so we connect with people between Sundays. We write better email newsletters to keep people informed and connected to what’s happening. We design thoughtful and impactful images so people are inspired and encouraged through visual media.

All of that is important. Don’t get me wrong. People come to Christ and grow in their relationship with Him through online church services, digital Bibles, and Bible Studies in ebook form. All of those tools are really powerful in connecting people to Jesus.

But it’s a means to an end.

What’s the end? Gathering people in a physical space. Whether it’s a church meeting in a sanctuary built in the 1800s or a church plant in a middle school or a church meeting in a modern venue. It doesn’t matter. What people connect with and remember are the events in the real world.

What does this mean for you? Remember digital plans should bring people to meet in-person. Together. At an actual location.

Your social media images, updates, videos, or live feeds are great. They’re not the end. They are part of the path. The path to get people in the doors and tied into a local community.

Because when people experience community, Bible teaching, and musical worship together, it creates moments they remember far longer than a popular Facebook post.