This is a re-publication of an article written by Jason Isaacs on his & (his dad) Bill Isaac’s Forward Leadership Blog. No comments are allowed here.
If you have a comment, please visit the Forward Leadership site: http://forwardleadership.org/blog/?p=989
I recently read a book by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff called “Groundswell” you can find out more about here. It’s not Christian book, its a book about social technologies (computer nerds like me soak this stuff up) but at the very beginning of the book they discuss what qualifies a social technology to create a groundswell. I thought these questions were incrediblly profound for where we are headed in our churches. Keep in mind that the goal of all these online tools is to create community (and make money) which is exactly what we’ve been called to do in the body of Christ. So whether you are having lots of success in your ministry or struggling to engage people beyond Sunday, ask your self these questions.
1. Is it effortless to sign up for?
Whether it’s small groups, or bible study, or softball, is it easily accessible? How hard does someone have to work to get “signed up” for your “next step.” Obviously promotion and creativity come into play to grab people’s interest but once you have grabbed their interest how hard is it for them to get connected? For us “professionals” our initial answer is probably “Oh well, it’s real easy” because we are familiar with our environments but what about someone who doesn’t know where the sign up table in the foyer is, or someone who doesn’t know everyone’s name. If someone came into your church tomorrow and wanted to get connected, how easy it for them?
2. Does it shift power from institutions to people?
This is interesting, and we probably don’t have the time to really dive all the way into this one, but their thesis is that the companies experiencing the most success with social networking tools are companies who use their technology to empower the people. Companies who let users rate their products, or leave feedback (good or bad) on their website. Companies who allow customers to instantly access support and help for their products. They show how many companies have tried to provide a facade that they want to connect with their customers, but it’s really just a front to give the perception that they are using the new tools, but in the end they want to hold on to control and power. It’s a scary thing to empower a customer to leave poor feedback about tech support or the quality of a product. For our churches it’s not a question of who has the power, and I’m not claiming that the church be congregation led or anything like that, my question is do our people feel empowered? Do they feel like what they do matters, like they are a part of the company, and what they do has influence over the success of our church?
An example would be Youtube. It’s good idea for you to provide videos to your customers, it’s a much more powerful idea for everyone to provide videos to everyone!
3. Does the community generate enough content to sustain itself?
Another way of posing this question is, “Is the impact worth the energy?” There have been a lot of companies out there that have spent LOTS of money on web applications and tools only to find that the consumer or customer didn’t have any interest (or lost interest). If a company is constantly having to provide the content, and the customers aren’t taking the lead it’s only a matter of time before it dies. We are really bad about this one as pastors and leaders. What areas are we having to pump all of the energy into because the people don’t have any [interest] for it? It’s probably time to shut it down.
An example would be the newspaper. It has been slowly dying for years now. Why? because people are looking for community where they generate the content. Does it lower the quality of the content? Yes, but people don’t care as long as they feel a part. Most of your people would probably want to hear teaching from someone worse than you if they had time to give feedback and discussion.
4. Is it an open platform that invites partnerships ?
People are connected to a lot of things now on the web, and a sign that an idea will take off is if it incorporates a way to connect all of the different tools we use. Think about how many things we use now that have a way to update facebook and twitter instantly. People don’t want to be a part of isolated things anymore. We are seeing that trend in churches now as well – especially among younger attenders. They’re not looking for a place that is solely focused on itself, they are intrigued by places that are secure and smart enough to partner together. Partnering with organizations and churches that are already doing things. I heard of a church recently that wanted to provide a place for homeless people to sleep at nights, but they didn’t feel like they had the facility or ability to do it all. So they partnered with 6 other churches and each church took 1 night of the week. There is power in partnerships. People want to know they are connected to a large CHURCH – not just yours! On a side note, for all the talk about denominations are going to continue to die, I don’t think that’s totally true. I think it’s all in how you present it. At our New Members class we explain how great it is to be a part of a denomination because there is accountability and partnership. We say things like “a percentage of your money will go build 69 orphanages around the world this year.” People get excited about that.
5. Is it accessible from a mobile device ?
This may seem like a silly thing to relate to a church, but I think it’s incredibly important. More people update their Facebook from their phone than from their computer. Think about that for a second. I’ve been asking myself for a few weeks now, how can we incorporate the cell phone into our ministry? Their are people out their doing it all ready. A great example is http://youversion.com/live. If you have a younger church get up Sunday and ask this question. First, ask how many people brought their bibles. Then ask how many people brought a cell phone that has internet on it. I think you’ll find that cell phones win. Now, you can either get mad about that and tell people that they should bring more bibles or you can figure out a way to use the cell phone.
Sermon notes, videos, church website, bible reading, etc. these are all just the surface level answers of how we can connect the cell phone to our ministry.
An example: We didn’t come up with it but one of the things we do at our church is put a number up on the screen and allow people to text in questions during the sermon, at the end of the sermon I answer those. It allows people to have their questions, that are created by the bible, answered (or at least attempted).
I know this has been incredibly long but think through these questions in your ministry and see what you can come up with.