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Online Ministries Community Blog

Mar 25

Don't Build a Website ... Build a Web Ministry!

Posted by Bill Anderton

Yes, this is a provocative headline in the context of churches hearing the cacophony of, "You MUST have a website. You MUST have a website." However, and to actually belabor the point, my provocative statement has a purpose which is the charter for this special-interest community.

Churches need online ministries, not just websites!

Too often church websites fall far short of their potential as a true ministry. They too often focus on only tactical aspects of making the website and miss the larger opportunity to provide a truly interactive and vibrant ministry to their parishes and to the world.

Further, I strongly maintain that churches need EFFECTIVE websites. Not just only a container for your address and telephone number and some long-stale static brochure-type information, but something that engages your parish, reflects the Christian community of your church, causes visitors to return to the site frequently for more and (most importantly) listens and engages in dialog with your visitors. Done correctly, an effective website becomes a true ministry in every sense of the word!

No, my definition is not a case of splitting hairs; there is a world of difference between a website and a web ministry. The difference begins with the envisioning and strategy-setting processes, goes through executing and operations and culminates to measuring effectiveness and reaching defined goals.

Actually, armed with a bit of knowledge and some guidelines, building an operating an effective web ministry is pretty easy to accomplish.

This special-interest community will be dedicated to teaching and encouraging how to use the Internet to build a comprehensive and effective web ministry.

The need for this community is great. In 2011, Lifeway published the results of a survey that stated 22% of all churches have no website at all and 40% do not use any type of social media. While these statistics are telling, more telling are deeper indications of the “typical” church’s online presences. More than half of all churches’ online assets are not updated more frequently than once a month; some only once a year! Also, less than half of all church website are used for any type of interactive processes such as prayer requests, event registration or streaming media.

While such surveys provide some objective measurement of the current not-very-positive state-of-the-art of church online assets, we do lack any measurement of the subject question, “Of the churches that do use online assets, how many of the are effective?”

I don’t think many would argue my basic premises that the vast majority of church online assets are NOT effective and could be greatly improved. The vast majority of church websites seem to only fulfill the basic purpose of checking the box that says, “Yes, we have a website.” Far too many only serve the function of providing an address and telephone number of the church and some very basic static brochure-type information about the church.

Changing this situation will require some education and training. Not necessarily in how to “code” a website; I don’t see the root cause as a technical one or one of the lack “intellectual capital.” Instead, the root of the problem is one of discernment, planning and leadership. The people in churches who are charged with building the churches’ online assets need to first understand the medium and then develop a mission for their online assets.

While there are many moving parts in an effective online ministry, the foundations for success are simple and can be learned.

This community is a beginning for providing the foundation for effective online ministries. First, it is a “birds-of-a-feather” group made up of people with similar interest in online ministries. We will help each other in sharing experiences and discussions in peer-to-peer learning. We will also provide access to subject-matter experts who are participating in this community to provide guidance and mentoring. Also, we will be providing both free training in our podcasts, webinars, events and case studies.

Later this year, I will be launching a series of fee-based distance-learning education courses centered on the subject of planning, building and operating effective online ministries. Currently, as I write this, I have outlines one 3-hour free course and six 12-hours fee-based courses. My total outline for these courses and this community is currently 525 pages cover almost 11,000 topics. As comprehensive as this is, I expect it to change based on the experiences gained from this community; I'm here to learn too! We're never too old or too experienced to find something new to learning.

I look forward to the future of this community and have high hopes that it will be positive and helpful resources for the Church.

Category: (03-13) March 2013   Tag:

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