I’m amazed at the number of churches that still view the web as primarily an advertising mechanism to let people know who they are and what they’re doing. Go ahead. Visit several church websites. Really doesn’t even matter what size the church is. With few exceptions, you’ll find their web strategy is essentially a bullhorn approach. The church is standing on a streetcorner of the web yelling at the people passing by:
- “Come to our services on Sunday!”
- “Let me tell you about our men’s ministry!”
- “Join us for the golf tournament or fishing derby!”
- “Serve on one of our ministry teams!”
- “Give money to our church!”
- “Here’s what we believe!”
It’s a one-sided relationship. The church views the web as a place to promote their agenda. No interaction with the audience. No stories of life change. No solutions to help people experience community or discipleship online. At best, you may be able to watch a video of a service, but you certainly won’t have the opportunity to engage a conversation with others about what you’re watching.
Essentially we’ve taken the Sunday service bulletin and we’ve put it on our website. That’s the web strategy for the Church today. “Here’s who we are and what we’re doing. Join us!”
The rest of the world views the Web very differently. For example, outside of the Church, people go online to:
- Meet other people and build relationships
- Share what’s happening in their life and tell their story
- Get a taste of the experience, primarily through video, with the opportunity to interact
- Have the ability to share slivers of content with others (3-minute clips, not 45-minute messages)
- View content on demand on their time
- Create content to add their contribution to the bigger story
Rather than looking at the Web through the eyes of a Facebook and YouTube and Twitter user, though, we’re still looking at the Web through the eyes of a Sunday bulletin reader. That approach works for the people who are already attending our churches. It completely ignors the people who we are trying to reach.
And that’s the problem. We view the Web as an add-on. After we’ve figured out how we’re going to do ministry, then we want to know how to use the Web to promote our ministry.
Instead, the churches that have influence within our online culture look at ministry differently. They assume the people they’re trying to reach are online. They assume the people who are connected to their ministry are online. Rather than looking at the Web as an add-on, they consider their web strategy as a fully-integrated part of how they help people take steps toward Christ. They are a church online as much as they are a church in a building located on the corner of First and Main.
The website isn’t something the “web monkey” maintains. It’s a place where the youth pastor, worship leader, children’s director, small group leader, senior pastor and every other person of influence help people to connect and grow. It’s an environment where the entire church engages the community and encourages each other to take their next steps. It’s as much their story as it is our story.
Of course, this approach to the Web would require far more time, resources and leadership. It would be much less expensive than building a new building, but it would require a shift in thinking and a shift in focus. Because it’s new, it would be hard. Because the staff and volunteer leadership team would have to embrace this new approach, it would be challenging.
We’d rather stick with what we know. It’s a lot easier to maintain our online bulletins. And that’s another reason why we are the new traditional church.
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