Are you getting ready for Internet Evangelism Day this year? It’s an excellent chance to focus your church on the possibilities and impacts of the Internet for Christians.
You can find out more about it here …
If nothing else then please take some time on the 25th April to pray for Christians on the web.
There are lots of things for the church to sort out as regards the Internet and one of them it the difficult question of whether it is possible to have an online church. Here is a report about one online church that seems to be doing well in its outreach.
My own feeling is that we shouldn’t see church online as something separate to church offline. We would be wrong to think that we can do everything online that we can do offline but equally wrong in assuming that online means a weaker version of what we do offline. I have a feeling that the online church is here to stay.
Came across a story about a church (in USA) that used Facebook Adverts as a way to bring people to their church for their Christmas celebrations.
You can read about it here …
I think they did this in just the right way and here are my suggestions for why this worked
- They had a specific even to invite people to
- They used Christmas as an event that people want to celebrate (I can never understand why churches don’t advertise more around Christmas)
- They were prepared to spend money (you have to be prepared to spend on ventures like this – by all means set a budget but unless you are prepared for spending at least a reasonable amount you will find that your adverts won’t seen enough to be effective).
- They issued tickets (this gives people a reason to respond and you must encourage people to respond in some way otherwise they will take the “that’s interesting I might go to that” approach but of course they then forget about it or something else pushes your event out of the way.
- Afterwards they encouraged people to come to regular church events (I am often amazed when special church events offer no encouragement to visit regular church – seems like a very basic thing to do and by all accounts a lot of people are just waiting to be asked).
Have you used Facebook Ads and did they work?
I’ve been reading about a study that was taken about people listening to speeches via video conferencing. When people are removed from direct contact with a speaker (this was in a public speaking context where the main speaker was broadcast to other locations) where they don’t think the speaker can see, or even hear, them they react very differently than if they were in the room with the speaker.
In the room with the speaker people pay more attention and tend to react more positively to the speaker, whereas those who are not in direct often move around, get cups of coffee, have conversations with others, react with noises to bits they don’t like (sighing, tutting, negative comments).
I think that has implications for trying to get worship on to the Internet. We are mistaken if we think that people are going to be paying as much attention to a sermon, say, or singing, or prayers. The removed nature of the experience will create a different response in the listeners.
I think this also raises important questions about virtual worlds (e.g. Second Life) and how effective they can be as a way to communicate the gospel. The different kind of relationship that such places create complicates things.
I am becoming more and more convinced myself that the Internet can only ever be seen as a tool in mission and evangelism. There will always be a need for face to face relationship building and that the web is simply the tool that will help that to happen.
Relationships seem to be the prime way that people become Christians and although online relationships can be formed they will never replace the kind of relationship that physically meeting creates.
I was listening to a TV programme the other day about Islamic terrorism and it focussed in on the Internet and how it was used to radicalize young Muslims. I was struck by a comment made by one of the young men. It ran along the lines of saying that his parents would never talk about their faith with him and so where else was he going to go for information?
I was struck by this because it seems to me that Christians are in the same boat here. Parents often find it difficult to talk about Christianity with their children and so children will increasingly look for information about Jesus on the Internet.
I guess we should learn:
- that children want to know – they want to know about all kinds of stuff
- that children will increasingly turn to the Internet for answers
- that parents often don’t know themselves (this is either through ignorance or not wanting to know)
- that people of any faith need to wake up to the fact that this is happening – that the prime sources for young people learning about something is from the Internet and if the Internet is full of bad stuff then this is what they will believe
- that we should encourage Christian young people in their Internet use (they often discover new sites through friends and so the more Christian friends know about good sites the better) – not discourage them
It’s time to get on the Internet!
I came across this training programme for web evangelists the other day. It’s a free course and covers quite a bit of ground. Some of it is basic training in evangelism so it is coming from a starters point of view rather than an experienced evangelists point of view but it’s pretty easy to skip past the bits you already know.
You can see it here …
I came across an interesting pdf that gives some insite in to how social psychology can inform us about evangelism.
Here are the main points:
- Teens and early 20′s are formative years.
- Attitudes influence behaviour.
- Attitudes follow behaviour.
- Credible and attractive communicators have more impact.
- Personal persuasion is more effective than media persuasion.
- Ineffective appears can be worse than none at all
- Vivid concrete examples are more potent than abstract information.
- Messages that relate to what people know or have experienced are better remembered.
- Spaced repetition aids memory.
- Active processing boosts persuasion.
- Group discussion generally strengthens shared convictions.
- We join groups, in part, to enhance our self image.
You can see the full pdf here
Of course there is much more to be said about each point and I don’t think any of the points will be a surprise to those who study communication but they are still important for Christians to understand in any evangelism situation, not least the Internet.
I feel the first point is particularly relevant to the mainline churches in the UK who mostly don’t have people of that age in them. These people are on the Internet however.
I came across another free web editor today. It looks quite good although I haven’t tried it yet. It’s called PageBreeze and can be found at:
Do you ever pray for the Internet? Is this important area something that ever finds its way on to any prayer list? My experience is that it doesn’t – at least not in any church service I’ve ever been to (of course there are an awful lot of services I don’t get to so perhaps someone has prayed for it somewhere).
Here is a list of things you could pray about some time connected with the Internet:
- People who use it every day – that God would use the Internet to bring them closer to God.
- People who use the Internet to feed their addictions – that God would release them from the addiction and heal them.
- For those who are trying to help the addicted through the Internet – that God would guide them and give them wisdom.
- Christian webmasters/webservants/etc. – that God would give them the inspiration and the gifts they need to do their jobs
- Christian web designers and developers – that God would use their gifts for His glory
- Governments – that they would help the Internet to grow and be a resource for all
- Christian leaders – that they would use the Internet for God’s glory
- Christian web sites – that they would reach out to many who are seeking
- Those who are seeking – that they would be lead to the right web sites and find Jesus in those sites
- Charity web sites – that they would inspire people to be generous in helping others
I’m sure you could add a few yourselves.