Walking the line between nerd and cool.

The (Dying) Church Website

May I propose something crazy? Church websites as we know them may be dying. They’ll still be necessary, even useful, but I don’t see them lasting in their current form, at least as they exist for most churches.  I’ve been thinking about this since I purchased jasonthedce.com

What if a church’s website were something like my digital business card?  What if it provided only basic information about itself to visitors, but then linked to numerous sites where you can connect with others in the church online?  Should the church have a Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, MySpace, Blog or other social networking tool where people can connect with real people from the church?  The church is the people after all, is it not?  Seems like it might be worthwhile.  It might be extremely beneficial for members to connect and grow closer together as well.

It’s not coming tomorrow, but maybe in the next few years as social media penetrates more and more sectors of our life and with the increasing number of truly smart phones that blend the PC and phone experience into one (see Google Android, Apple iPhone and Blackberry Storm for just a few examples). 

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11 responses

  1. Not crazy, but very forward thinking. I think there will always be a need for some sort of “digital brochure”, talking about the general activities and ministries of the church. The sites you mentioned are personal/social sites, and while they can be used to inform and communicate with the “general” public, the way they work now is that you need to make a “connection” or have a “connection” with a person or an entity for the sites to really leverage the power and attraction of the sites.

    If we had a facebook site for example (and I’m sure we will), and someone posted a question, who would answer? Would we want just any member of the church to answer, would any opinon do? Same with Myspace. We already do have blogs for specific church members, how would a general church blog be any different? And couldn’t any of these co-exist with the basic “brochure-ware” the website is now?

    I love what’s happening in this tech area, and I’m very pleased you are volunteering to lead our way into the brave new world of social networking sites replacing traditional websites. Just let me know when you’re ready for me to hand you the keys, I’ll do it with a smile!!

    😉

    January 14, 2009 at 5:46 pm

  2. sweetsoup

    We actually do have a First Trinity Lutheran Church page on Facebook. Not very active. If you’re on Facebook, see if you can find it!

    January 15, 2009 at 8:00 am

  3. Leo

    We need to take baby steps in this new concept of technology. A parallel information system should always be in the forefront of our thinking since a good portion of our congregation is older and do not own or have access to a computer nor are they capable of accessing any of these sites or even know what they mean. Foreward thinking and advancement is a great tool as long as we can back it up with a paperflow of information readily available to those who still need it.

    January 15, 2009 at 9:51 am

  4. I’m with Leo – but not one of the “older” members of the congregation! 🙂 I think the problem with technology and social sites like Facebook and MySpace is that you have to have time to keep them up. Some of us are very busy (too busy!!!) with our work and ministry and families that to keep up on these sites would be overload. There needs to be parallel information paths.

    That being said, I love technology and would love to be able to use it more. We have to, as a church, be very forward thinking in using the technology so that we can be relevant and minister to people where they are. After all, as Jason said, the church is people!

    January 15, 2009 at 9:04 pm

  5. Very interesting thoughts. Whatever websites may develop into, I certainly think that they should introduce outsiders to real people. Not just explain what meetings are going on in a building.

    This is what we try and share in our church site self-assessment tool
    InternetEvangelismDay.com/design

    Think of it more as a window on a family, than brochureware?

    Blessings

    Tony

    January 16, 2009 at 11:06 am

  6. @Leo/Eric: My thoughts aren’t necessarily about our website, but church websites in general. That being said, I obviously think our website could be heading there one day as well. It should be designed for the people who are most likely to use it. In this case, I would see that being:

    1. Visitors looking for information about service times, who we are, what we offer, etc.
    2. Members with some level of technical skill (enough to get online and type our website in) who want information about upcoming events, how to “plug in”, and to stay connected with the church leadership (news/vision) and each other (social networks).

    What we do with the website may influence what happens with paper copies for those who can’t access the web, but it’s certainly not going to replace that stuff anytime soon. I’d say at least 20-30 years before our church is ready to go “paperless”, though who knows?

    @Tony: I like the idea of thinking about the website as a “window on a family”. Thanks for sharing! I’m assuming you’re connected with InternetEvangelismDay.com since you used it for your web link. If so, do you have a list of sites that scored high on your test?

    I know Kent Shaeffer at ChurchRelevance.com keeps a list of great church websites. I’d be interested in seeing what you think are good sites based on their scores from the test. The test looks like a great tool to help churches get started with improving their websites. Thanks for sharing it with us!

    January 16, 2009 at 11:20 am

  7. Lynn Shaffer

    I am one of the “older” members of the congregation and think the church website is great. However in talking to some of my “Older” friends who do have a computer ,they dont know how to get to the website or use the blogs etc. Maybe having a class on using the computer would be helpful.

    January 19, 2009 at 10:44 am

  8. @Lynn: Some sort of computer class for members would be a blast. Maybe at the very least, a guide to using the website and blogs (in paper form) would be helpful. Take it home and work through the guide to find what you need. Worth talking about, that’s for sure!

    January 19, 2009 at 2:29 pm

  9. Jen W.

    I think it’s a great idea! A way to connect with people who have similar interests or age group or some other commonalities that brings people together. Our homeschool group has a website. We have all our basic info for anyone to see. Then, we have forums, chat groups by subgroups, book discussions, etc. We are now working on a lending library application so that will keep us in contact more! For those who don’t like to get into that, they don’t have to. The basic info is there all the time – upcoming events, calendar, etc.

    It’s well worth the look see and I think a GREAT EVANGELISTIC tool for the future and a way to get young people interested as well as adults.

    Get them where they are at!

    January 20, 2009 at 8:16 pm

  10. We use ForMinistry.com , arm of American Bible Society for our free website. I don’t have experience of any other organization offering so much so I think it’s great.
    I would like to see some Great Websites also.

    February 2, 2009 at 7:43 pm

  11. @Alice: Check out this list of 90 top church sites for some good ones. Thanks for the link to ForMinistry!

    February 2, 2009 at 10:27 pm

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