The body of Christ has traditionally been slow to implement technology to further kingdom objectives. Fear of change as well as fear of the unknown have definitely hindered work in this area. Even a recent post about how churches use technology set off a debate about the place of technology in churches.
But technology is simply a tool. Like any other tool, it can be put to good use or it can be abused. So then, what are the best ways use the web, blogging, and other technologies as effective tools?
Enhance and Support Ministry
Tech tools, the web in particular, should never supplant ministry. Rather, they should provide expanded opportunities for connection (online forums, small group sites, blogs), outreach (electronic content designed to allow people to explore Christ and your community of faith on the periphery) and empowerment (tools that empower people in your congregation to share their faith and the church with their circles of influence). But in no way should our technology supplant opportunities for personal connection in small groups or other interpersonal approaches.
Focus on Outreach
After looking at the web sites of the top 100 churches in the US, I was struck by how internally focused they were. Trying to view their sites from the perspective of a non-believer left me wanting, nay turned off. It is time to stop being organizationally focused and start reforming our web content to speak to those who are desperately seeking transformation. Church web sites should speak primarily to the seeking in terms that they understand while providing all the necessary info and vital stats for your internal audiences as well.
God is the ultimate creator, and we have been made in his image. Our people, both followers of Christ and pre-followers, must be empowered in their technical and creative gifts and set free to propagate the kingdom. Use of technology should espouse a deep understanding of our partnership with God in bringing life change to the world.
Honor with Relevance
When I go to Amazon.com, I have a great experience. I find what I want, can buy it easily, and have a pleasant and fun experience in the process. Why is it then that many church web sites are so ill-conceived? Should they not be at least as useful and valuable as the best of the marketplace sites? Striving to employ the best features of the best of the web drives relevance. User-focused design honors those that visit our church web sites.
Technology in carrying out church mission cannot be an afterthought. People’s expectations are just too high. In using tech, we must strive to do everything as unto Christ. As for myself, when I go to a web site that is poorly designed, it irritates me and I generally leave (a giveaway of a free Ferrari or a new backyard smoker might induce me to hang around for a while though). What are people seeing when they come to your church web site? Does it compellingly reflect Christ through its production values? What is your level of quality saying about the type of church you are? Are you communicating mediocrity, inward focus, lack of attention? It may be time to make a difficult re-evaluation.
My belief is that if we as a church focus on the above areas, we can use technology to its highest form. We may even set the bar for the rest of the web world. I’ll tell you that my church is working hard through the above issues right now, and we have a ways to go. It is tough, but I believe our focus on the above will make our fervent efforts well worth it, leading to many new changed lives in Christ.