“Church leaders have to strike the delicate balance between the spiritual and cultural potential of tech tools without surrendering to the false promise of these tools. Having the means of reaching the masses - for instance, through podcasting - is a good thing. Yet, nothing matches the potency of life-on-life discipleship. In this respect, social networking and blogs can be effective tools to intimately connect with a small, natural network of relationships. The key is using the technology in a way that is consistent with your calling and purpose, not just an addictive self-indulgence.”
There is a no question that church leaders are taking a serious look now at the new forms of media available to them. Most have gone the route of setting up a website and then adding one or two social media channels (usually Facebook and Twitter). The more advanced integrations involve getting sermons and special presentations transferred into a digital format for download or streaming. Podcasts, RSS feeds, online video and mobile updates all make the message accessible to anyone with an internet connection. People are catching up on missed sermons and interacting with their small groups throughout the week on their computers and phones. However, the question remains in some minds that this accessible format is enticing people to interact less with other Christians and rely solely on ‘media’ for spiritual guidance/fellowship.
The quote above really points out some of the fundamental questions (and answers) about the new Church media movement and how it can be most effectively integrated with the traditional. There certainly is a value in discipleship, and seeing and being able to pray with your mentor is wonderful. However, people move and relocate. We are busy and spread out all over the world. Does this mean that mentorship or fellowship have to come to a halt until we are physically back together? When churches effectively make new media (social and web based) streamline and stay consistent with their vision this can be a powerful way to reach and bring people together.
There have been a few churches that utilize Twitter during the sermon to post ‘digital notes’ online. Basically, it’s one person who is sitting there during the message with their phone listening in and relaying their take (or direct quotes) to the masses. It’s a very innovative way to share information and inspiration with people. However it can also be distracting. Some suggest that the end result can also be achieved 10 minutes after the service with a blog post and multiple ‘tweets’ as a review of what was said. Regardless, this form of social media awareness makes people feel they are a part of something and often times puts more good content on the web for our consumption. Example: Time Magazine Article - Churches and Twitter
Where most businesses (and churches) fall short is the lack of planning before developing. Marketing departments know they need to use social and interactive media to reach a greater audience. The problem is often discontinuity and a lack of clear message. For most churches the best course of action is to start over. Building a website with the proper design, message and navigation is the building block. After that is established then is the time to chart out what your ‘social’ goals are. A good question to ask is, ‘what else do we want to do online that we can do through our website?’ If it’s distributing your sermon videos or conference footage then utilizing Youtube and Vimeo are great channels. If it’s helping form and tie together small groups then a Facebook profile can give people a central meeting place (away from Church). If it’s quick updates and a daily verse you’d like to share then Twitter can help you convey the message quickly and effortlessly. If you have an event or local workshop that needs attention then press outlets like Digg and StumbleUpon come in useful.
The main thing to remember here is Continuity! Thinking through your vision and establishing your goals before you ever start building the site will help all along the development process.
If your church or ministry is looking for assistance with branding, development, marketing or online distribution please feel free to send us an email or give us a call. We love working with people who share our vision of spreading the Gospel of Jesus!