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ChurchLead is a collection of articles aimed at helping churches become more effective in their mission.
  • Visitor Connection and Closing the Church Back Door
  • Effective Communication and Processes in the church
Recent Articles 
Saturday, 07 May 2011
The church website landscape is changing again.  The fastest growing trend in websites these days is all about the method of access.  With the use of smart phones skyrocketing, it is fast becoming a frequently used method to view your church website.  According to Pew Research, over 59% of American adults  access the internet wirelessly. The younger demographics are even higher, with ages 30-49 at 69% and ages 18-29 at 84%.    Unfortunately, most websites do not look very good on a mobile phone and the information loads very slowly.  Websites that rely heavily on Flash or scripts have a particularly hard time with many features critical to site navigation being disabled on these devices.  It is great to leverage Facebook and Twitter for mobile users, but your website still needs to be the "go to" place.

So, what is a church leader to do? 

First of all, this is not a problem.  It really represents an opportunity.  You have the chance to reach out to people in a more personal way than ever before.  Websites have never been this accessible or personal. 

There are two ways to leverage this opportunity.  One is to create a mobile website and the second is to build a church app for i-phones or Android.  Each has its place and they are companions to one another.  In the end, these are just more tools in your communication strategy.  (Assuming of course, that you have a communication strategy!)

The mobile website should be the easiest part, primarily because the content required is pretty straight forward.  The best use for the mobile site is to give a new visitor the basic information about the church.  Who are you?  Where are You?  When do you meet? What do you believe?  Why should I visit?  What should I expect when I visit?  Who can I talk to?  I think that if you answer each of these questions, then you will have an effective mobile site.  My website platform was recently upgraded to include mobile website options.  The Tech Tools SiteBuilder is a website platform that provides a mobile website as part of the basic package.  It is very easy to get going and people that visit your site are automatically routed to the mobile site if they access it on a smart phone.  It could also be used exclusively as a mobile site in conjunction to your existing site.  There are also other ways of building a mobile website.  A quick internet search yields many ways of building a site.

Building an app is another tool which would provide you an extremely high level of interaction with people.  The function of the app will be determined by what you want to accomplish.  It can be event driven or perhaps geared toward spiritual formation.  The big question here is one of function.  What do you want the app to do?  There are a few tools that can be used to write an app, but most of these are going to require a bit of technical savvy.  I think that most churches who desire to have an app will want to work with someone to help with the design and creation.

These are not projects for vanity.  The issue is not to look more cool than the other churches, it is to reach people for Christ by putting yourself where they are currently looking.  Right now, they are still waiting for your website to load on their phone!
Posted by: Rob Overton AT 08:30 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, 30 September 2010
Just a few years ago, the biggest issue that faced churches when building a website was determining the primary audience and message.  Now, this is only the beginning, as the website has become only one of many online tools used in a communication strategy.  Churches routinely use  Twitter, Facebook, Blogs and websites along with the face-to-face messages to reach people.  While it is great to have so many tools, it does present a problem.  The problem with using the various modalities of communication is that it becomes hard for an outsider to get the whole picture of an organization.  For example, Twitter can be a great tool, but it is limited to only short bursts of text of 140 characters each.  There have been some creative ways that this has been used, but it is virtually impossible to convey a church's identity and message with tweets alone.  Sermons and teaching sessions are obviously longer, but it is not practical to go through all of the opportunities for involvement in every occasion.  This is where the website comes into the picture.  The website can and should be an easy next step for people who find the tweets or hear the sermon. 

The website needs to be an "information and communication hub" where people can find all the various ways that they can learn about the church as well as connect with other people who are involved. It can be a starting point, but it can also be more of a point of convergence from all of the tools being used.  Blog posts, tweets, status updates and "likes" can all be linked together via the website where the whole message can be shared.  For example, a person might read a Facebook update which references a blog post which links back to the church website.

The website also serves as a hub to re-enforce the messages that are delivered in face-to-face situations.  Through some strategic planning, the experiences of an event can be enhanced and extended with direct communication, discussion and other online resources.  The diagram below shows the interconnected relationship of the various communication mechanisms.



Technology can be a useful tool in churches if it is properly implemented.  I encourage church leaders to reassess their communication methodology and determine the best way to impact people at this point in time.
Posted by: Rob Overton AT 07:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 08 June 2010
Having helped hundreds of churches implement various technology solutions, I have come to appreciate the difference between potential and real improvement in church processes.  Simply put, purchase decisions are made on the potential of becoming more effective, while the reality is that most will never achieve success.  The reason for this phenomenon is different in every church but I have seen several factors that are common.
  1. Technology implementation is viewed as an issue of minor importance.  This is a misguided perception, but all too common.  If proper use and application of tools were not important, I would be able to build a house with the tools in my garage!  After all, they are the right tools.  The truth is that I could build something using my tools, but it would not be a house you would want to live in!  The correlation is that the implementation process will be the determining factor between success and failure.  Since technology is just a tool for a church to use, it is incumbent on the leaders to make sure that the tools are used properly and for the right purpose.
  2. Technology implementation is viewed as a lower priority than all other ministry activities.  On the surface, this seems like a reasonable statement.  After all, it is the ministry that matters, right?  Well, yes, but if the implementation is never temporarily elevated to a high place of priority it will never be used effectively. Leaders must properly position the project as a temporary high priority so that there can be an actual improvement in ministry performance. Afterward, technology can go back to it's appropriate supporting role.
  3. Technology implementation is not put in proper perspective.  Let's face it, change = pain!  People don't like change and they resist the hard work unless they see the value in the outcome.  The staff needs to know that the change is being made for the improvement of ministry efforts and not just to have the latest technology.  The senior leadership of the staff will either sanction the project by properly framing the intent of the changes or they will allow it to languish in obscurity.  Typically, all I want from a senior pastor on a technology project is for him to share his perspective of why the changes are needed with the staff.  The project requires his unwavering support of the implementation process and the intent to see it to the finish.  I like to think of it as similar to early settlers burning the ships on the shore so that everyone knew that going back was not an option. 
  4. Technology implementation is led by someone with too little authority.  A good implementation plan will include tasks that need to be performed and accountability for those who have been given those tasks.  Many times, an administrative person of the staff has been given the unenviable task of managing the project.  How can they possibly hold a pastor accountable for their tasks?  The most successful implementations of technology always have a senior staff leader who owns the project to completion.
It all comes down to this.  If the benefit of the technology is never achieved, then all of the planning and effort was a complete and utter waste of time and money.  The worst part is that the staff had to go through the pain of change even though the benefit was not attained.  Most times, we just blame the technology and look for a new solution rather than admit that the implementation was a failure.  It is always humorous to hear people get excited about a cool feature in a new software program that existed in their old system!

There are many reasons to implement new technology.  I encourage churches to use as much care in the implementation as they did in the tool selection.  Technology can provide great benefits if it is used the right way, at the right time, by the right people, with the right training, for the right purpose.
Posted by: Rob Overton AT 08:00 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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