Tools, hosting, and technical support are readily available and at low cost. A church social network could be supported by ads or by local sponsors wishing to be associated with the church members. The cost varies depending on the depth of design and technology. However you’d be surprised just how little it cost compared to the benefits, including cost savings, revenue opportunities and most important building better relations with and between your membership.
A properly designed network can include integrations of related content which mirrors the churches doctrine and outreach to its members. Numerous high profile ministries are just now beginning to adopt some of the social technology within their own web presence. Focus on the Family, from Dr. James Dobson, has adopted several “social technologies” within their web presence including blogs, events, podcast, discussion forums and video broadcasting. The site does enable membership to connect with each other but on a limited functional design.
Where is the church in all of this social stuff? Stuck somewhere in 1998.
Design 2.0 writes The social networking phenomenon is something the church, particularly in the official sense, should not stand by and watch pass by.
Why? Churchgoers generally share at least two things in common – geographic proximity and their faith. Based on those two things they connect in all sorts of ways, across church related gatherings, events, organisations, schools, work places, colleges/seminaries, not to mention baptisms, weddings, funerals and more.
They grow up together, form families, have kids, move away, move back, and generally enjoy quite a high number of loose friendships formed over a long period of time across many different social groups.
It’s time to take this online. Enter Social Networking
Social networking has proven hugely popular because of the way it reflects and complements the nature of these sorts of relationships.
When it comes to members of the church, there is an enormous amount of potential for improving people’s lives by complementing their traditional relationships with the benefits of online social networks.
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way you could stay in touch online, keep abreast of what’s happening in their lives, send them a quick message, share digital media (such as photos), see who their friends are, and do it all in one place?
However, the time is almost ripe for niche social networking sites to make a major impact in the lives of churchgoers. Goodness knows just about every other niche has been covered.
Churches are not exactly known for their lightening fast innovation nor their desire to be on the bleeding edge of technology, but the length of time between mainstream adoption and deployment by churches is getting shorter, especially when it fits a clear need – take the reasonably widespread adoption of podcasting for example.
We are now at a point where there is enormous potential for well designed, geocentric services to bridge the gap not only between people’s online ‘social’ activities (blogging, photo sharing, messaging), but between individuals, churches, groups and organizations that all connect in one way or another offline. It’s the facebook (mashable profile) phenomena for churches.
Official buy-in and an end to community-phobia
Most of the interesting, innovative church projects have been driven by passionate individuals operating outside of official church structures. Due to ignorance, lack of funds, politics and sadly, lack of interest, the church has often been slow to embrace these initiatives.
There is an enormous opportunity for good by bringing people together by creating, continuing, complimenting and improving relationships between church members online. Social Networking is here to stay, and the church should embrace it.
As previously indicated there is tremendous potential to revitalize the outreach and service of ministries dedicated to serving its members and community needs. Social technology enables every kind of outreach with media and marketing that could propel church services into the global connections of people and institutions. There will always be the need for some physical presence however people are migrating to the web in masses and the next generation will expect to be met and served there rather than in a building.
It is time for church leaders to learn, define, deploy and effectively use social technology. There are plenty of people willing to help and there is a proliferation of different technology aimed at serving any purpose. Last but certainly not least, successful use of the technology is not a technical function rather it is the art of human relations and conversations. The technology is the least important, relations and conversations are the most important process to all this “social stuff”.
In closing, this blog gets between 500 – 1,000 readers per day. How many people read your church’s web site daily? More importantly if you adopted social technology how many people would be visiting your church’s web site daily? Is visiting to your church important? It should be.
Get it? What say you?
This is the last in a series of three post on this subject matter