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November 2015

Teaching the Internet to Churches

Publish or Perish

Why don’t more churches use their websites? Really use them!

It’s 2015. The internet has been part of our lives for 30 years or so. Most churches have made some attempt at creating a website. Many have rudimentary, static sites only. Even those with flashy sites rarely use them to serve their audiences. They are informational sites, updated regularly—Christmas and Easter.

The interests and needs of seekers—the people churches hope to engage—are rarely addressed. If the website is found, it is not likely to result in a visit.

This is the critical mistake made almost universally on church websites. Even regional bodies make this error!

The art of the Sermon was perfected to spread the Gospel at a time in history when most people were illiterate and books were hard to come by. 

We approach the internet as a modern tool for doing what we already do. We fail to see that it can do so much more!

Here is the basic problem. We rely on church leaders to lead the way. Church leaders are way behind in using the internet.

This is understandable. It involves skills that were not imagined when today's leaders entered the ministry. Most business and organizations faced the same challenges. If they didn't, they are no longer with us! The Church has never seen this as a priority.

This lack of vision is regrettable—but not insurmountable. The merry-go-round is still spinning. We can still reach for the brass ring.

Why bother? Because reaching the people of today is our mission.

Here are the hurdles:

  • The internet calls for specialized skills that are not traditional church roles. We'll pay for a pastor, choir director, organist, youth pastor, and sexton before we'll consider paying a digital communications expert. And so the congregational website holds a perpetual place on many churches’ “To Do” list.
  • Communicating with the congregation is traditionally the responsibility of the pastor. Using the internet is not in the typical pastoral job description. The temptation is to hand this job to a techy volunteer who lacks the authority to use the site.
  • Our approach to evangelism concentrates on getting people to come to us on the one morning of the week when it fits OUR schedule. Optimizing the Sunday morning experience is the primary function of most pastors and the ONLY purpose of many part-time pastors. It is so entrenched in our thinking that we fail to notice—it isn't bringing people to Christ.
  • The most daunting hurdle: The internet is horizontal in nature. The Church is vertically structured—by tradition, not by need.

That’s not to say there are no pastors online. Quite a few pastors are blogging. 

Most online pastors write for other pastors, almost oblivious that lay people can read them, too.

I've read several pastoral posts that encourage pastors to label their congregations. It's a hot topic—guaranteed to draw online comments from disgruntled clergy. The examples given and comments attracted are always condemnatory! Lay people happening upon these posts must gasp, ”Is that what our pastors think of us?”

Pull Down the Chancel Rail

For churches to successfully use the internet, they must share the responsibility. That means blurring the line between clergy and laity. The skills of both are needed.

But what if lay people write something terribly wrong?

The answer is simple. Take part in the conversation. Correct it! The internet is a huge teaching opportunity!

You might think this would have happened ages ago. Digital publishing is an extension of traditional publishing. Churches denominations tend to have publishing houses—Augsburg, Fortress, Cokesbury, etc.

But there is a difference. Print publishing is an uneven playing field. It is costly and time-consuming to become noticed by publishers/marketers. Only the carefully vetted reach the bookstore shelves. Church publishing houses publish the thinking of the chosen few. They respect and protect the chancel rail.

Denominational constitutions often forbade congregations from publishing. They didn't want competition. Keeping clergy from creating cult-followings was also a consideration. The message of the Church needed to be united. Today such imposed unity is impossible.

Publishing has changed DRAMATICALLY. Anyone with a message has a chance to be heard without the filters of the past. The only way to protect the message of the Church is to lead the conversation—not control it.

Publish or Perish!

We sing about publishing more than we do it!

I Love to Tell the Story. Publish Glad Tidings. Go Tell It on the Mountain.

It is with difficulty that congregations think of themselves as publishers. But they must!  

Publishing is the key to reaching the neighborhoods. The web is the first place people turn BEFORE visiting a church.

A couple of years ago, I visited a church the week before they were scheduled to close. The pastor lamented, "We tried everything. We just couldn't engage the neighborhood."

They had no website.

A website cannot save a dying congregation, some church leaders preach.

Have we tried?

Publish or Perish. If you are not reaching your neighborhoods with the printed or digital word, you are isolating your congregation.

NEW! 2x2 Trainings​

2x2 Virtual Church has five years experience in online ministry. We are a small church.

Our website contains many posts about how to get started.

This week I conducted a first onsite workshop. I walked eight people through the first steps in creating a WordPress website.

Each had a laptop or tablet. Each created a site, chose a theme, defined its appearance, set up a post page and several pages and added them to a menu. Each learned to add images and use both the visual editor and HTML editor.

Each participant left with a website created—not just theory.

The workshop lasted 2.5 hours that seemed to fly by.

If you'd like this kind of hands on help to train an internet team ministry, please contact 2x2.

admin@2x2foundation.com

Thanks for the terrific seminar today! You're a natural teacher, and this was so much fun! —HM

Thank you so much. Your presentation was awesome and the information invaluable. —SHC

Great job today on the presentation. It was quite well done! I have a WordPress site, but you taught me a few things I didn't know before. I know we all learned today :) —TT

Thank you so much for putting the workshop together. It was so much fun and very helpful. —CK

Time for Advent!
Two new resources!

AN ADVENT PLAY
and
AN EBOOK COLLECTION OF INTERACTIVE SERMON IDEAS 

2x2 created two new resources to help churches of any size (but especially small churches) celebrate Advent—A PLAY and an E-BOOK with ideas for interactive preaching and use of your church website during Advent. These sermons often focus on an object, but they are not just for children!

While larger churches are pulling out the props from storage for their annual Christmas pageants, smaller churches often struggle to add color to the Advent season with fewer people and resources.

We watch the secular world having fun with our season, while we try to focus on the inspiring, lesser-known stories that lead to the birth of Christ. It is hard to compete with the secular hoopla!

These resources add color to the season without sacrificing the spirit of Advent.

NOTE: 2x2 has been publishing resources for free for five years. We'll continue to so, but some resources take weeks and months to develop. For resources these resources, we are charging a small fee—not much more than a cup of coffee and a slice of pie at a family restaurant—well within the smallest church's ability to pay. Please keep in mind that the charge is per congregation! Buy one copy and use it with your members. 

THE PLAY
I Am Only the Messenger!

In this play, the angel Gabriel visits key players in the Advent story—Zechariah, Mary, Elizabeth, Joseph, and John the Baptist and Jesus. The Act in which Gabriel visits with John and Jesus can be used as the Epiphany season approaches.

Even the smallest churches can use this play.

It is written in five Acts. Each about 10 minutes. The fifth act was added to give versatility if a congregation has trouble casting a certain role. But all five acts can be used.

The acts stand alone and can be used as chancel plays for the four weeks of Advent Sunday or midweek worship. They can be combined for one, longer Advent celebration.

Props and costuming can be as elaborate or simple as you choose.

The cast is small: six or seven people, but no scene includes more than three of the actors and most include only two. That makes scheduling rehearsals so much easier.

The acts contain tips for congregational participation.

They are written to be fun, engaging and highlight the key stories of the Advent, pre-Christmas story which are so often lost in the concentration on snowmen and reindeer.

SPECIAL OFFER:
This play is FREE with the purchase of Interactive Preaching for Advent.
See below.

THE EBOOK

INTERACTIVE PREACHING for ADVENT
Sermon Starters Using Interactive Exercises to Reinforce the Sunday morning message all week long.


This 74-page ebook includes 14 sermon ideas—one corresponding to the each set of scriptures for Advent Sundays in the Common Lectionary Years A, B, and C and two generic sermons. Ideas can be mixed and matched.

These are not word for word sermons but outlines with tips for hymns, object lessons, role-playing, images for bulletins and websites so that the 20-minute sermon can live throughout the week.

The techniques involve all ages and can be adapted to any setting.

The sermons are like the 120 sermons posted on 2x2 for free. They have been significantly enhanced.

A special web page provides copy and paste content for purchasers of this book and an online forum for ongoing support.

SPECIAL OFFER:
Purchasers of Interactive Preaching for Advent will receive a link
for a FREE DOWNLOAD the Advent Play:
I Am Only the Messenger
(a $4.75 value).​

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The Quandary Facing Small Church Leaders

Who is in charge?


First the Downside:

  • Small churches face huge challenges.
  • Small churches have fewer resources.
  • Small churches have minimal services from professional leaders.
  • Professional leaders can do only so much alone.

Now the Upside:

  • Small churches often have a greater percentage of the congregation willing to take leadership roles.
  • Members of small churches often include skilled professionals in areas related to church needs (business, teaching, healthcare, social media, music, writing, art, drama, social work, etc., etc., etc.)
  • Mission opportunities abound—if only there was a plan.
  • Professional leaders don't have to work alone.

Recognizing Leadership Potential

LINK: Read this post. It addresses concerns that 2x2 has often addressed.

Here is a quote from this article:

Traditional leadership seems to still work when the problems are clear cut and the solutions are, even if difficult, at least known. But these are not usual times for congregations and their leaders. The challenges are not always apparent, and few speak with assurance about solutions. They found that innovative leaders no longer could afford to surround themselves with “their” people who instinctively supported the leader’s ideas. Rather, these new leaders had to ensure that diverse people with a range of interests, personalities, and gifts were included. This is where pastoral leaders in particular become anxious. Differences and conflict are inevitable when you seek diversity in the makeup of those involved. But it is out of creative tension that innovation is born.

Lovett Weems, Director

Lewis Center for Church Leadership

The reason the Church is stuck is because its leadership structure is vested in the past. The only plan is outdated and unrealistic. Our continuing allegiance to a structure that no longer works has many churches mired down. It takes a toll on pastors and members alike. We ask, “We are all doing what we are supposed to be doing. Why isn’t it working?”

If your congregation has tried to borrow money, you may have encountered this.

The first question from lenders: How many members do you have? They want you to have at least 100. That figure is meaningless today. The 100-member church typically has 25 attending regularly and only a quarter of them contributing—and most of them at 1970s levels.

The second question: Who is your pastor? Can you provide a bio? The typical pastor of a small church is so “part-time” that he or she has little engagement in the business of the Church. If lenders think they can rely on pastors to safeguard their investment in any way, they are probably wrong.

Modern Measures of
Church Leadership

In evaluating small churches it is a far better measure to look at their networking. How do they work with other churches and community groups—but then a lot of churches work in isolation within their denomination and in their communities. Change this and it may change the expectations of outsiders!

Another effective modern measure is the engagement of members. Supporting the offering plate is not the most significant measure. How are lay skills used for ministry. How are your business members guiding, setting goals, reaching out and handling finances? How are teachers sharing the Word? How are musicians, artists and writers enhancing worship and spiritual life? How are the social media experts connecting your congregation to the neighborhood—and the world?

In short, how are congregations using the resources they already have?

The failure to notice these significant measures of viability is related to our focus on "whose in charge." Churches can find answers—often right under their noses—if we look beyond this.

We all know who is in charge. It is none of us!