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Confirmation model of evangelism

July 7th, 2010

15743423This is where people are brought into the church through a process or system defined by the church. This form has operated since the beginnings of Christianity.

The model is that Christians are introduced to the church by parents and are educated within the church about the Christian faith. At a certain point they are then asked to attend confirmation lessons which will, hopefully lead them into a deeper relationship with Christ. They are then confirmed within the church at a special service.

There can be little doubt that this has worked in the past in a more regular form of church. Of course going through a system doesn’t make you a Christian and can persuade someone who has no faith that because it all sounds nice and familiar they must have a faith.

Although the web doesn’t really have this form of evangelism on it the web can have a disruptive effect on this approach. As people explore what they believe it is possible to find all kinds of counter ideas on the web. This can disrupt what a church is teaching – especially where the person has not really had a personal encounter with Christ. The authority of the church is challenged and like all good post-modernists people start to question the churches authority to make a claim to absolute truth.

Churches that still want to use this form of evangelism must take account of what is happening in a world where people have instant access to the web. It is not enough to simply describe what is believed it is now important to give a good answer to why this is believed. But just having an answer to why it is believed is still not enough because now people also want to know if it works. In a society that defines itself by what it owns or possesses it is becoming important to show that the Christian faith is more than just an idea but it is an idea that has a positive effect on life.

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Festival model of evangelism

March 11th, 2010

This model uses a blend of contemporary and Christian music at a live festival to draw people into a relationship with the church and hence to Jesus. It has proved more popular with younger people – generally – although the larger secular festival scene now has a following amongst middle-aged professionals.

These events work for several reasons.

a) People feel more willing to invite their friends to a music event than to a normal church service – friends are probably also less likely to feel threatened by such an invitation.

b) Music has always been a good way of telling people about God without them getting upset about you telling them. It always amazes me that in a song you can speak about the gospel in very strong terms whereas if there is no music involved people easily get upset.

c) Festivals are good fun and people are more willing to listen when they are enjoying themselves.

d) It’s possible to present the gospel in a way that is relevant to modern people.

How does this relate to anything online and is there something we can replicate or learn from?

So far the web itself doesn’t seem to have anything that equates to a festival of music (I expect there must be something that is similar somewhere but I just don’t know about it).

There are, however, sometimes events in the offline world that are so big and important that they attract bloggers who will follow the event closely and blog about the experience – the Olympics is one event that springs to mind. These blogs then tend to attract a large number of followers who are interesting in what is going on. Perhaps this equates a little to the festival model, or perhaps I should broaden my thinking and apply it to any event online that attracts a large number of visitors.

It is quite hard to think of an online event that non-Christians would be willing to join in with that would be the equivalent of a music festival. Perhaps the only answer is for Christians to provide information about an event that people would naturally be interested in anyway and then use this as a chance to express the gospel to them.

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Events Evangelism

October 7th, 2009

Another model for evangelism I came across the other day was called “Events Evangelism”. This approach seeks to engage those outside the church through the organising of events to which they are invited.

I’ve seen a lot of this approach (I’ve even done it myself) and it can work but it suffers from a lot of problems.

It’s a good idea because:

  • People will feel more comfortable coming to something that is not going to be churchy.
  • Church folk don’t feel embarrassed inviting people to things that are not churchy (I always find this a little sad really but I often feel the same myself).
  • It enables people who don’t come to church to see church people doing normal and fun things and so removes barriers.
  • If it is a big event then it can really make an impact on people.

It’s a bad idea because:

  • Often it is only the church people who turn up anyway
  • It can be very embarrassing when hardly anyone comes (once had this with a church BBQ we tried on a bit of waste ground near a new housing estate – even the church people stayed away (it still makes me shudder even now). Needless to say 10 years later the church is still struggling.
  • There are some who will only come for the event and don’t want to know about the Christian side of things.
  • It’s hard to know how to get the Christian message into the event – music is a great way of doing this though.

Will it work on the Internet?

Not really – at least not yet. It’s really hard to plan an ‘event’ on the Internet because people use the Internet at times that suit them. Sometimes its possible but it doesn’t fit too well with the general nature of the Internet.

It’s also hard because one of the things that makes an event go well is the food. This is pretty impossible to arrange on the Internet.

Despite the best/worst efforts of some it isn’t really possible to get people doing things at the same time on the Internet e.g. group singing, etc. I’ve seen some creative attempts but in my experience it doesn’t work so well.

I think perhaps there may be ways of getting this to work on the Internet but only in association with a ‘real’ event. I’ve seen some good blogs produced for events and perhaps live streaming some things is possible but ultimately there will always be the problem that people connect to the Internet alone (or at least generally they do).

models for online ministry

Conforming Outreach

July 27th, 2009

One of the many ways that Christians have attempted to reach out to non-Christians is through conforming. The basic premise is that the less the gap between Christian and non-Christian the easier it will be for the non-Christian to become involved with the Christian faith. On the surface there is a lot of merit to this idea because one of the most difficult problems that Christians face is the big culture gap that often exists between those who go to church and those who don’t. If we can create an atmosphere that is familiar to the non-Christian then there is going to be less resistance to hearing what Christians have to say.

However this approach has resulted in some pretty disastrous attempts at outreach.

The worst that happens is that the message itself becomes compromised in an attempt to appeal to non-Christians. For some reason Christians have always had problems understanding the difference between the Christian faith and Christian culture. We either mistake our traditions for what we believe or we think that everything (even what we believe) is simply dependant on culture. So either we lose the message or we mistake the practice for the message. In my opinion both are disasters.

The other thing we often see is where well meaning Christians try to become something that they are not. Christians will sometimes attempt to playact at being ‘in the world’ by dressing or behaving as though they aren’t really Christians but just one of the lads. At best this ends up being a little bit embarassing and at its worst Christians with no discernable difference to non-Christians (including the bad language and drunkeness that goes with it).

How does this all apply to the Internet?

Well I think this approach does have a lot of merit – at least when it comes to the design. Christian web sites need to look and feel like everyone elses web sites. One of the problems with a lot of Christian sites is that they turn people off before they even get started. There are many Christian websites that I feel uncomfortable viewing and I’m a Christian!

The problem is though that we must have something to offer that others don’t – otherwise we just become one more web site. If we conform too much then what can we really offer?

models for online ministry

Does the attraction model of ministry work for the Internet?

July 23rd, 2009

Table of contents for Models of online ministry

  1. Models for online ministry
  2. Does the attraction model of ministry work for the Internet?
  3. Conforming Outreach
  4. Social Interaction Model

Everyone who is interested in models of ministry seems to have their own names for things – often because they want to redefine what each one means. Because there seems to be no one definition for anything I guess I’m going to have to do the same thing. I’m going to take a look at some of the models I’ve come across (feel free to tell me about others) and see how they relate to online ministry.

The attraction model works on the basis that people will be drawn to that which they find attractive. So by making the Christian faith attractive people will be drawn into exploring it and joining it.

This model has a lot going for it because it has been proved to work on more than one occasion. Let’s look at its merits:

  1. It works. This is a model that works for everything, people really are drawn to what they find attractive. This works for the precontemplaters as well as those already committed so we can start to draw in those who are not even interested in the first place.
  2. It’s simple because it works on some basic human instincts and you don’t have to get too carried away with being clever.
  3. It works for everyone. Even those people who are in the church find that it works to keep them interested and engaged.
  4. It self perpetuates. People are willing to tell others about things that they find attractive (well most of the time anyway) and so it helps to spread the message.

However, there are some serious problems with this approach as well:

  1. It only works if you can make something attractive. One of the problems that the church in the U.K. has had to face is that often it isn’t very attractive. Small numbers of people in a crumbling old building, keeping old traditions alive (I like some of these old traditions so don’t misunderstand me) is very hard to make attractive to others.
  2. It only works if you have a number of people already interested. This is perhaps were it becomes unstuck for the Internet. To draw people in by attraction you have to have a group of people who already think something is attractive. Without a following there is no growth.
  3. There is a temptation to cheapen the message in an effort to keep things attractive. This is especially true when there are a small number or a very large number of followers. If attraction becomes the focus instead of the gospel things start to go wrong.
  4. It’s primary job is only to draw people in. There is rarely a time when this is all that a website would want to do.

So it can work in certain circumstances but is limited and dangerous.

It is possible to present the attractive side of something to get attention and then use the interest to get a message across. In fact this is how I became a Christian myself. I was a young man and I encountered a church where there were lots of young women. However on the Internet things are a little different than in a church. In a church meeting you have a somewhat captive audience. Once they are in the building they will give the church a chance to say something, they will also come back. On the Internet there is no compulsion to stay. If someone comes to a website and they don’t like what they read then they will simply click away. There is the added problem that unless they have bookmarked the site or come from a site they often visit there is a fair chance you will never see them again.

So in my opinion the attraction model doesn’t really work very well. It is an appealing model because you can persuade yourself that if something looks good then people will come without you having to go out and find anyone but it has too many problems to be a simple cure all approach.

The conclusion is that whilst it is important for a website to look attractive, it is unlikely to make a site successful on its own.

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Models for online ministry

May 13th, 2009

Table of contents for Models of online ministry

  1. Models for online ministry
  2. Does the attraction model of ministry work for the Internet?
  3. Conforming Outreach
  4. Social Interaction Model

I’m intending – from time to time – on this blog to explore models of online ministry. I know sometimes it’s better not to try and reduce everything down to a formula and just let God does His stuff, but I also believe God gave us a brain and we should use it whenever we can. Perhaps a model of ministry might help you decide the direction to take your website or ministry in.

I’m interested in six stages of successful change that psychologists have come up with because I think it could help with trying to understand how to form a model for online ministry. This process is outlined in the book “Changing forGood” by James Prochaska P.H.D., John Norcross P.H.D. and Carlo Diclemente P.H.D.

The stages are:

  • Precontemplation
  • Contemplation
  • Preparation
  • Action
  • Maintenance
  • Termination

If we can identify which stage people are in then perhaps we can respond to their needs more appropriately. It seems to me that many Christian websites try to get the attention of precontemplators (those with no interest, yet) when they should really be targetting the contemplators (those who are thinking about things) or even those in the preparation stage (gathering information, etc to help them make the change).

Precontemplators just don’t see the point and may well be quite anti. They are an important group of people to work with and may form the majority but if you are going to work with precontemplators then your focus needs to be to convince them that making a change is a good idea and not try and force the point of how they should change.

I hope this all makes sense. I’m sure there is going to be time to consider all this at another time.

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