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A Pastors Perspective On Community

5

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Community websites are all the rage these days. We've talked about building them. We've talked about services like MyChurch that help churches have a community web presence. Now, after a few months of having our own community church website we talk with Pastor Dion about the good, the bad, and the ugly of the experience. The past few months has been a learning experience. There have been successes that we never predicted and failures where we assumed there would be a success. As a bonus, we get Dion to talk about his studio style podcast for his local church community. The very kind of podcast we talked about in our Podcasting Your Church series.

Before we dive into church community on the web we talk about the impact of the words please, thank you, and your welcome. These might be some of the most powerful community building words of all.

Great podcast this week

Great podcast this week guys.

It is interesting to hear the pros and cons of the community sites. We call our small groups "Rock Groups" (Rocky River Community Church). I think a community site with Drupal OG will be nice for this type of thing.

I want to make our main web site strictly for new and first time visitors. Content very simplified and planned for that audience. I want it easy for those people to get the core info about our church, allowing them to make a good decision on whether to check us out or not. I will have a link in there somehow to our community site... Lots of work ahead..

Thoughts on this?

Thanks
Shrop

Mark Shropshire "shrop"
Geeks & God Forums Moderator
http://geeksandgod.com/users/shrop

Our Setup

Our current setup is for the main site to be outreach oriented and our members site to be at community.ourchurchdomainname. We separated it out.

When I get some time I want to take it a step further with something like... http://www.innovatingtomorrow.net/2008/02/27/re-th...

It fascinates me how the pros and cons are related to the physical community and not the technology. With some time to dwell on it I think different people will have different pros and cons depending on what their church is already like.

It really pointed me to some weaknesses of my home church. Which is good. It gives us a place to start something.

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.innovatingtomorrow.net
www.mattfarina.com

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Former Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

Community vs. Outreach

I can understand how separating the community site out from the main site fits in with the traditional view of "outreach". I imagine most church outreach and communication specialists have a hard time understanding how church community has anything to do with public relations.

But ultimately, wouldn't giving everyone a first-hand view of the church community be the best outreach tool possible? Wouldn't a stranger to the church rather see the church community directly rather than have it filtered and edited through a "communications specialist".

I know it may take a while for churches to start thinking that way. But I look forward to the day when the community site can be the main church site, and people can experience the church community directly for themselves.

Main Site Isn't Outreach

Can you show me a church website really targeted at outreach? I can't think of any and I've looked at a lot. Most church webistes give information about the church itself. Things like service times, locations, programs, and other top level things. These are important to visitors and people interested in churching out the church. These things aren't really outreach. Outreach isn't bringing people to your church. Outreach is sharing Christ with people... they may never end up at your church.

When we build sites we need to consider the context of the user. Are they a member of the church community or are they someone looking to check out the church. In each case you want to put the info/enviornment best for them up front. That's different for visitors or people checking out the place and regulars.

You'll notice I didn't say anything about an outreach element. Outreach is taking sharing Christ with people who don't know him. People who are not followers. How would you do that through a church website? Do people like that ever visit church websites?

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Former Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

"On your permanent record"

I don't know what show the "On your permanent record" thing is from, but I did see this article today which shows that you may need to be sensible about what you publish about yourself some times:
"'Facebook' lost policeman top job"
The policeman had been warned over photos he'd posted on Facebook, which meant he wasn't allowed a new job!

Church Website

You talked about your churches website and how it integrates groups, etc. Any chance I could get a link to see a "successful" church group site?

yeah

It's a fairly new community but...

http://community.st-matthew.org

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.innovatingtomorrow.net
www.mattfarina.com

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Former Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

iTunes centric podcasting

I was looking for the feed for The Six podcast but I only see a link to iTunes. Personally, I listen to podcasts daily and subscribe to several, but I don't have an iPod and don't use iTunes.

I will save my opinions of iPods and iTunes for later, but I am curious why you decided to exclude people that choose not to use iTunes.

I was able to find the feed by guessing the feedburner URL, but most people wouldn't be able to do that.

The audience

Great and interesting question...

The reason we didn't promote or even post the RSS feed for The Six is because of our intended audience. Our church is a VERY non-techie crowd...I would bet that 5 people in our congregation of 1500 knows what RSS is (and that includes me and MF).

Our main goal for that podcast was to make it EASY to subscribe to for people who are afraid to do anything on the web. So, rather than offer multiple ways of subscribing (and confuse people) we settled on one single 'how to subscribe' path. Any additional icons or mention of RSS or feeds would do nothing but confuse our audience.

I think this is a good example of a time when "the audience comes before the technology". Just because we can, doesn't mean we always should.

-Rob Feature
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.mustardseedmedia.com

-Rob Feature
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.mustardseedmedia.com