For the past two years, I have been conducting research on Internet ministry. This has included one-on-one interviews with leaders in the field, case studies, the development of my own church’s web site and the implementation of a survey taken by over 300 different ministry organizations. This culminated last month in a presentation on Internet ministry “best practices” at the Internet Ministry Conference in Grand Rapids, Mich.
The Internet Ministry Framework
The Internet Ministry Framework embodies the three different aspects of implementing an Internet ministry: technology, people and process. This is an important definition because many, many organizations looking to start an online ministry immediately focus on the technology and completely ignore the more difficult decisions surrounding the people involved and the processes undertaken to implement and maintain the ministry. None of the three components are any important than the other: all three play an equal role in supporting a successful Internet ministry.
The “best practices” for Internet ministry were developed by looking at what the successful online ministries had in common based on their responses to the survey. This data was combined with follow-up case studies to reinforce these findings.
- The specific software you use is not as important as content. While a nice looking site is important, it is the content that provides the value to the users.
- Use interactive content such as blogs, podcasts and videos as much as possible.
- Do not build new features yourself if you can integrate with existing sites that do the same thing. For example: put your videos on YouTube and integrate them into your site instead of hosting the videos yourself.
- Install data collection code on your site and analyze it!
- Recognize your limits—gets outside help if you need it!
- Use volunteers wisely, sparingly.
- Have a team responsible for setting direction.
- Designate one person to be ultimately responsible for the site.
- Planning may be the most important step in the implementation of an Internet ministry.
- Develop written goals and/or a mission statement to guide you. Refer to these as you make decisions about features and technologies for your ministry.
- Have a centralized approval process for site updating.
- Allow for distributed updating of information that belongs to different parts of your ministry.
I realize that not all of these best practices will make sense for every organization. These are meant as general guidelines that will assist ministries in developing the most successful Internet ministry possible. These best practices are skewed towards smaller organizations that have limited resources. As we saw when reviewing the success data, organizations that can spend money and devote a lot of time to their Internet ministries will be more successful.
View the entire 6-page Best Practices in Internet Ministry report.