We've all heard the folks at church who lament how society has changed so much over the past (insert time frame here). All these terrible people, leaders, movies, and so on. The truth is, however, that you can be part of the solution, part of the problem, or you can do nothing at all. Most of modern life revolves around communication, and if you're not communicating with a modern, mobile-friendly website, you've chosen to do nothing at all, but it's even a little more complicated than that.
Let's start with the few churches that are getting it right. Those churches use the internet to inform and reach out, directing users to their own website and their brick and mortar building. While not all of those churches are growing, they participate in being part of the solution because they use the tool of technology to counter those forces that would bring our fellow church members down. Rather than ignoring what society has developed, these churches use technology in order to help people. Think about it this way: when the printing press was developed, it meant a lot of people were able to read a lot of books. Some of those books were not approved by the church, and maybe there were plenty of clergymen who didn't even like the printing press. However, others thought to include the Bible as one of the many books published using this new invention. Churches with a strong online presence today are a lot like the pioneers who decided to use a new method to get God's Word out to the masses, even as others use the same medium for leading church goers astray.
About half of the church websites I've looked at are middle-of-the-road, meaning the church is doing very little to keep up with the times. These churches think that any website is modern and any content is fine. Not true. If your website is old, Google is downgrading it, so less people are finding it. If your content is stale, even if people do find it, they're not coming back. When people have enough with watching videos about kittens and reading infotainment, they start to think about philosophy, maybe even religion. If a church website has nothing to offer the seekers, it will not be found. Many of these websites have old links that are dead, making them frustrating and fairly useless to anyone not associated with the church. Many of these churches see doing as more important than telling the story of doing, but if you don't tell others the story, they won't know it, which seems a bit like John 3:16 to me. Sounds like Brave New Church.
Still other churches, with finances in mind, gravitate towards Facebook and Twitter. Have you seen the articles, tweets, and videos that represent the competition? If you're not going to go all-out and use viral marketing, you can't win with social media. You can, however, link to your legitimate content with the use of these accounts. It's kind of a compromise, as you meet people where they are but direct them to where they ought to be. You simply cannot represent yourself as a professional organization with a Facebook page as your main website. Think back to the printing press: if the first printers of the Bible would have decided it would be easier and more popular to print a single-page flyer about God, what good would that have been? Just another leaflet to be forgotten with all the others. That's your Facebook page and Twitter account. By all means, if your intent is to help finance social media corporations, keep posting articles FOR the social media giants, but I think you'd rather get others off of those sites and into your seats. We can lead you to the water, but you'll have to drink it for yourself.
Before I get to the kinds of churches that avoid the internet altogether, I want to mention the churches that accidentally miss the mark. For example, I recently fixed a website that was liking out to a free audio hosting site with all kinds of inappropriate images. When I did some research, I found at least a dozen other churches with similar problems. They were a party to the pollution without knowing it. What's worse is that when I contacted those other churches, most of them ignored me, probably thinking I was a spammer. However, if churches ignore free advice from a competent web designer, that means they're probably ignoring all kinds of cries for help, too. Church offices that assume all contacts are spam end up making it impossible for others to seek them out, making an online presence almost worse than not having one, if you think about it. Of course, we can fix your spam problem at Brave New Church, too.
The last kind of church has decided not to have an online presence. It's too difficult or evil or only for bigger churches. Exactly. Being successful online takes time and effort. You have to create content that others want to read and is meaningful. But you also have an opportunity to fight against what you see as evil. We all have the opportunity to add to the Great Conversation, and if you have views, then it's your duty to express them right now, or else those views will be drowned-out by others: that society you fear and loathe, perhaps. And if you ever want your church to become one of those big churches, avoiding the internet will not help. Every church, big and small, needs to have a voice online, and Brave New Church is the means by which this can happen. Join us.