Monday, December 28, 2009

Does Technology in Ministry Have to be Cutting Edge?

Recently, a friend of mine, Russell Martin, blogged about the goals of websites in ministry. His question, based on a conversation we had about a website we had a mutual interest in, was that when we create a website for our ministry or our church, is our goal to get people to our website or to get people to our church? I have a similar question as well about the role of technology in ministry.

I recently took over our church's website. In the last 24 months, the approach to web development seems to have drastically changed as the shift has migrated from having static information about your program available on the web, to having constantly changing, updated information that comes to your "followers" through Twitter, Facebook, blog feeds, or email subscriptions. No longer are you trying to direct traffic to your site, but rather you're trying to direct your site to others. As for me, I am involved with an older congregation, most of whom probably have computers with internet connections. However, does that mean that every technology available is going to be right for our church? For example, out of 230 people who regularly attend services, we have 53 who follow us via our Facebook fan page. Conversely, of the numerous random people who are following us on Twitter, only one of those is a church member and she actually had never used Twitter before signing up to follow our church website!

So, should I continue to progress in our technological capabilities by allowing our church members new ways of keeping up with our church (i.e. podcasting as opposed to online audio), or continue to use the methods that our congregation is comfortable with? I think the answer lies in what your congregation is comfortable with. Here's why.

1. Technology is scary to some people. For many, the simpler the better. If you do not serve a bunch of IT personnell and web developers, don't be afraid to keep your communications simple.
Not only will people be more likely to use it because they are comfortable with it, but they won't feel compelled to change just so they can stay up-to-date with your group.

2. There are so many portals available for people to receive information (Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, blogging, Posterous, Email, StumleUpon, LinkedUp, iphone apps, Blackberry apps...etc.), that it's easy for information to get lost in the shuffle and you can spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to send information to all these media that may or may not ever be used by anyone in your organization.

3. Being "cutting edge" is a relative concept. So while a new smartphone app or social media site my be the next big thing to a very tech-savvy person, for many simply having a Facebook page is just as revolutionary. You don't have to be cutting edge with the world to be cutting edge with your followers!

What have been your experiences using technology in ministry?

1 comment:

Russell Martin said...

Great post and thanks for the link. On thing I noticed on Facebook and Twitter is that our users went up as they could see it's usefullness and how it helped build community in the church. On Facebook not only did I pit the same church info but I also used it as the main way to post photos and videos. With a fan page anyone can read it. We posted our VBS photos last summer and went from 54 to 183 users in a few months. Our youth group posted updates and pichtures from their Alaska trip on Twitter. Use tripled as parents an church members signed up to see pics and what was going on.