Staying on the ragged edge #digidiciple (@kneewax)

One of the hardest things in church media is staying on the ragged and cutting edge.The Church is often seen as a bit fuddy-duddy and a badly executed or maintained web presence only helps to feed that image.  A poor website / virtual window is the equivalent of those neon pink or yellow posters that adorn the noticeboards of too many of our Churches:

As a Church leader I am desperate for our community to get our web presence right and to build in to our strategy continued development.  However as in so many area’s of the church’s ministry the problem is often one of resources. Well meaning and dedicated volunteers are not always the right people to develop the Church’s online identity – but sadly for many of us these are the only folk available.  Professional Web designers are beyond most of our budgets and off the peg (fill in your details here) type proforma church sites generally look rather naff.

So how do you get a great website for no-money, and without taking up the time of leadership who should be doing other things?

…..No seriously, this is not rhetorical I’m asking……

To my mind there is only one way.  And that is to start taking your web presence seriously.  A website is not an nice added extra, it is increasingly your ‘shop window’ for the world.  Someone looking for a Christingle or Carol service will look on the web. New members of the community looking for a  Church will look on the web.  At my last Church, a couple who were moving to anywhere within a certain distance of their Grand kids came to us and subsequently moved into the town because they saw our website and it looked like the sort of Church they wanted to be part of.

Does your Church pay for posters, leaflets, a magazine, or any other form of analogue promotion?  Then it should be willing to stomp up for a website too.  Unless you are in the very fortunate postion of having willing AND SKILLED volunteers web strategy is something you should be engaging with.  The trouble is of course it doesn’t enbd there.  If you scroll back through the posts in these Digidiciple series of blogs again and agian you will see a number of words that are new and yet hjave in the past 2-3 years become common parlance: “Twitter” “Facebook” “Web2.0” “Social Networks”It is no longer satisfactory just to have a website – that is the equivalent of that ubiquitous neon sign again – only one that has never been changed. Websites need to be dynamic, updated and integrated with social media.  It could  be a  full time job on it’s own. But actually resources are not my point here.

What I really want to say is this:

A good web presence is an important component in your mission and evangelism strategy. 

It’s not about advertising per se, it’s not about looking funky (though it helps!) it’s about how you as the community of God in your context present yourselves to those around you. It’s about how you engage people in the purpose and mission of God’s people. A good website is a vital part of the evangelism of the Church.

When Jesus said Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” he may not have been thinking specifically about cyberspace, but his intention was for us to be a  presence in every community in the 21st century that means even online communitites.

Because internet is a great resource and with over 70% of all UK households now online, this has had a dramatic effect on the nature of community. For many people today, their neighbours, work place, local social events, Church or local pub no longer feature as part of their community. Rather they prefer to drive to another town to join a gym, or mix with people online. Some people have a closer relationship with someone they’ve never met living on the other side of the world then they do with their next-door neighbour.

More and more we are becoming defined by our personal preferences or attributes and online communities allow us to do this more and more.

Transcending the boundary of our new communities is hard to do, and most of us are uncomfortable trying, it is simply easier to mix with people like ourselves. But it is where the Church is called to be.  If you are reading this post, chances are you are familiar and comfortable with online media, but many Churches are not, they see it as a threat, as odd, as not real.  Yet I believe it is exactly where ther Church is called to be.

When Jesus came to earth, he upset those very same community boundaries he ate with people the Jewish leaders would have nothing to do with, he talked to women (a big no-no for a guy in 1st Century Israel), to prostitutes, to lepers – to all those people that ‘polite society’ would have rather ignored. Not only did he mix with these unsavoury people, but he told them that they would inherit the earth, and that they were more likely to get into heaven than the ‘religious elite’ and the rich rulers.

But it wasn’t just the poor and the down-trodden Jesus mixed with, he also met with religious leaders and the well-heeled, the movers and shakers. No matter what their background Jesus was keen to show his message is for all people.

A Church web presence is a first step in engaging with these communities.  The next step is encouraging the people of God into the communities themselves in order to be salt and light there.  But that is a  whole other post…..!

About Kneewax

geocaching missional vicar in rural England's mission fields, 5 great kids, beautiful wife, fab God, Wonderful Life. Love Jesus, kite flying & good coffee