For some people this may be a point of contention. For me it seems like a no-brainer: Every church should have a web site.
Nay-sayers would contest that church web sites do little to reach unchurched individuals or those not following Christ. Those individuals are, after all, not looking for a church; so why would they look for a church’s web site or even care about what’s on it?
Except that those individuals are not looking for a church, so why would they care to hear about our faith in person, either? Because it is not a question of people asking, nor is it about forcing the information on people, it’s about making it known.
The key is understanding the time in which we live. Today is a day of information. More and more people are turning to the Internet when they have questions. While I will certainly not disagree in the least that the Internet does little to foster deep relationships, it does have several advantages.
1. Increased Communication
The Internet sacrifices “connectivity” for communication. That may seem like a contradiction since we have to be connected to be online, but I mean it sacrifices the essence of people connecting with one another on a personal level for the sake of improving the ability to relay raw information from one person or source to another.
Businesses nowadays are virtually incapable of functioning or increasing productivity without e-mail or internal web sites. The same is true for people in the church and outside of it. There is a certain disarming quality about the Internet. Because we are less connected we are more apt to receive information and provide it without fear of reprisal.
2. Everything is Optional
Well, almost. Our faith and core doctrines are certainly not open for negotiation, but the advantage here is that people are not being force-fed information they don’t want. There is a saying in Christian circles, “Be a witness for Christ. If necessary use words.” It sounds nice, but in reality, not very Biblical. Christ called us to preach the Gospel as well as live it. There is a balance and believe me, it is a very fine line at times; yet something we must learn to walk.
All of us have probably lost count of how many people have been turned off of God because of over-zealous Christians who cared more about their personal tally of “saved” individuals than they did about changed lives. The Internet makes this balancing act significantly easier because the information is always there on an as-needed basis. A person genuinely seeking to learn more about a relationship with Christ can find a place where he or she can learn in doses that are manageable for him or her personally.
3. It’s Practical
Really. A church web site provides some really simple information that was once only available in the Yellow Pages.
4. A Hammer Is a Hammer
The Internet is a tool, just like a hammer. It can be used for purposes that benefit the Kingdom of God or for purposes that stand against it. History has shown that God moves in ways that are relevant to both the culture and generation of the day. Today that includes the Internet.
Whether a church decides to update the information on their web site daily or just once in a while, having a presence on the Internet takes advantage of another tool that can help further the plans and purposes of God.
I say this because it is important for church leaders to recognize that being current with the times makes them relevant to the generation of the times, and that is a pivotal first step to actually reaching people’s hearts and drawing them into a relationship with God through Christ.
If a young teenager is struggling he or she is likely to post their struggle on MySpace or Facebook. Because teens embrace increased communication (see Point #1 above) they have a tendency to be more open and forthright on blogs, social network sites and through instant messaging. Believe it or not, this is a very untapped resource for church leaders! In as much as open and forthrightness can be a negative element (teenage rivalry is a good example) it can also be a very positive element: Teens will open up to youth pastors and others who are willing to listen. This is a key point we must never forget. Youth will open up to others who are willing to listen; almost without regard to the listener’s beliefs, or intentions. In other words, if you don’t listen and speak into their lives, someone will–and that could be life-changing.
5. It’s Relevant
Teenagers, 20- and 30-somethings are more likely to rely on the Internet if they ever want to find a church. For that matter, they are more likely to rely on the Internet if they are even remotely curious about God, Jesus or a local church. Therefore, if God is moving in the heart of an individual in your city or community, you owe it to that person to make yourself as available as possible.
The reality is that people will visit your web site before they visit your church.
6. And More
I could go on but I want to quickly establish a few points from a slightly different perspective. That being, church web sites are beneficial for people in your church. With a web site you can:
- Provide members and visitors a central place for communication.
- Post a calendar of events.
- Save money by e-mailing your church bulletin every week instead of printing it (and who doesn’t want to save money?).
- Have a form for people to submit prayer requests.
- Put your weekly sermons/messages online for people that either missed a service or are curious about your church’s style.
- Share your church’s vision and passion.
- Share your staffs’ functions, interests and hobbies.
The list goes on and my goal is not to be exhaustive but to stir up an interest in the possibilities and value behind having a church web site.
To wrap-up I want to add that it does not have to cost a lot of money nor take a lot of time to have a web site. Post in the comments if you have questions about getting started or want to share your thoughts.