Posts Tagged ‘online ministry’

The ludicrous case of the lost links

January 21st, 2010

Do you ever visit web sites only to find that the page you wanted is missing? It happens when web masters (web slaves – or whatever you want to call them) either move a page so the site is less cluttered or because a page is now so out of date that a new one is required. If you change from a static site to a dynamic site (html to php or something) then you will inevitably mess up every link that existed prior to the change. Sometimes, of course, the link was never right in the first place.

So there are a couple of things it is wise to do to avoid such problems:

1) Be careful with your links and do your best to make sure they work – perhaps have a rolling program of checking your links (there is software that will do this and if you sign up for Google webmaster tools you get a report on duff links but my experience is that they are never perfect).

2) Set up a special 404 page. You can see the one I have made for this web site here (opens in new window). It is just a very simple page and you could put in a lot more detail (make sure you use absolute URLs though – e.g. full web address to any images etc. There are various ways of setting your site to use these pages and most good hosting companies will have a way to enable this to happen. Here is a way to do it if you are looking for the technical stuff (opens in new window).

So, there are ways around the problem and it pays to put in that little bit of extra effort to help your visitors.

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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

Social Interaction Model

September 17th, 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

Here is another form of ministry that I’ve come across. The idea is essentially that Christians make friends outside of church. This friendship then gives opportunities for others to see the difference that Jesus is making in a persons life. This should lead to opportunities to reach out to them with the Christian message.

There are several good points about this idea:

Christians should be interacting with people outside the church anyway.

Most people who become Christians do so because of a friend and so the more friends we have the better chance this method has.

It gives Christians a way of reaching out to others that is pretty comfortable for most people.

The disadvantages are:

People often give friends who are different from themselves a kind of honorary membership to their social circles. This means that they appreciate someone might be a Christian but they don’t let this knowledge get in the way of a friendship. They still see all other Christians as weirdos.

People still need to understand that you are a Christian. It is surprising how many people are often unaware that friends are committed Christians.

Sadly too often Christians simply conform to fit in which means that they do not have a difference for anyone to notice. If we fit in too well then we have a negative effect on peoples concepts of what Christianity is.

How does this fit in with online ministry?

We have seen a rise in social networking over the last decade or so. This has become a major player in how people interact on the Internet. It is certainly true that this is a great way of keeping in touch with existing friends.

However there is difficulty in using the Internet to form new relationships. Somehow electronic relationships just aren’t the same as personal ones.

The Internet will never replace personal relationships but it can serve as a way to bring like minded people together.

Most Christians (with Internet access) could find groups to which they could belong on the Internet. Then it is possible using links to other sites etc to encourage people to think about faith.

This might prove to be a positive way of promoting the Christian faith.

However it should be noted that putting social networking apparatus on a Christian website is unlikely to have the desired results. Christians will need to make use of sites that people already use to reach out.

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

Remember that everyone who visits your site is a person

June 25th, 2009

In my youth I loved gadgets. I thought that the best T.V./Stereo/Camera/etc was the one with the most lights and if they flashed in different colours it was like going to heaven. I then learned that perhaps the best ones might be the ones with the least amount of flashy lights – after all if they need flashy lights perhaps it’s to cover up how bad they are. I now know that it has nothing to do with the lights at all – it is how good they work. There is still a bit of me that likes the flashy lights though!

One of the things it is easy to forget is that a web site is not about features it is in fact about people. I visit an awful lot of web sites (and believe me some of them are awful) and too often they seem to revolve around the gadgets. I get this a lot from customers as well who always want the latest gadget that they heard about on the T.V.

The point is that gadgets are nice but only if they help you get the message of your web site across.

A web site is about the people who will read it and not the technology. Too often gadgets and new “features” get in the way of the message itself.

Perhaps I’m just getting old but for me the importance of the Internet is not the technology that drives it but the people it connects.

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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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Who cares for their soul?

April 28th, 2009

One of the issues facing Christians online is the problem of helping Christians understand their faith. I’ve watched a lot of conversations on websites where Christians get engaged in very deep discussions. This is a good thing. However I’m sometimes disturbed by the lack of understanding of our own faith amongst some. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t believe that only those with training or superior knowledge should be allowed to talk about their faith online!!! Any Christian has the right to talk about their faith even if there ideas are not consistent with mainstream Christian belief.

However I am concerned that those with a responsibility to care for the souls of others don’t seem to be engaging with the Internet. I’m not saying that every clergy person should spend each day trawling the Internet looking for their members but perhaps there is a place for online chaplains. Perhaps there is a place for training people in ministry online who could then take some care to help those who are getting confused and upset.

There are many Christians who never go to church and yet they are willing to talk online about their faith. Perhaps instead of the church telling them they should come to the church – the church should go to them.

What are you thoughts? Should we have some kind of online chaplaincy?

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Building Rapport

April 23rd, 2009

One of the keys to a good online ministry is building rapport with people. Rapport is about having a relationship with another person(s) based on: trust, harmony, understanding and mutual respect. Without rapport people will not listen to the message that you are trying to get across.

Building rapport is notoriously difficult online but the better you can get at doing it the more effective your message will be. To develop rapport it is important to treat people online as equals. The moment you talk down to someone or indicate that if they think differently they are stupid you have lost the chance of reaching them. I think that the injunction to treat others as you would like to be treated is spot-on for the Internet (as of course it should be anywhere).

If you want people to listen to you then you must be prepared to listen to them. If you are not interacting with people online but just presenting a message then you need to try and listen to the kinds of people who will use your site and the kinds of things they will want to ask or say.

Humour must also be carefully looked at. Humour rarely comes accross well on the Internet (or in email) unless someone knows you well or you are a genius. Please be very careful about how you use it.

Do you have any ideas for ways of building rapport online? Why not share them in a comment.

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Using Twitter to reach others

April 22nd, 2009

I must confess that up till now I’ve not been a great fan of Twitter. I’m not one of those people who likes others to know about every detail of everything I’m doing and some research suggests that this ‘lighter’ approach to relationships might be detremental to some people. I think that is somewhat of an extreme view and is probably only true for those who mistake a twitter relationship with a real one.

Anyway Twitter is very popular and is a great way for Christians to build relationships with others, which of course has to be the basis for any outreach efforts. I came across this blog the other day which is an excellent introduction to the world of Twitter Outreach (Tweach perhaps?).

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Ministry on the web

April 20th, 2009

The world has changed a lot since I first started the web Christian ministry. Back then there were few Christian websites and even fewer Church websites. Some of the needs have not changed at all and there is still a big demand for help with church websites. However as more and more Christians use the Internet the demand for ministry online has rocketed. Because of my experience in ministry as well as the web I thought I might share some of my thoughts on a blog.

So the scope of webchristian is changing a little. We will still seek to support Christians who are trying to get a website up and running but we will also now include web ministry. I hope this will cover all aspects of Christian ministry including: caring for Christians, evangelism, apologetics, etc.

Why not share some of your own thoughts on this blog?

What challenges and opportunities do you think the churches faces on the Internet?

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