Thursday 26 April 2012

Churches, the web, social media, all that

Why did books take off? You know books - those things where you make flat sheets of paper, bind them together - those things. Why did they take off? Well, at least one of the reasons was that they were a very good way to get to the Bible and its constituent bits - way more convenient than scrolls. And when printing made its way to Europe, what rolled off the presses? You guessed it!

Books weren't the only way the Bible moved round the world, but they were pretty important. And the Bible wasn't the only text that became widely distributed in book form, but it was a biggie.

So why are churches so far behind the times when it comes to the web, facebook, twitter, tumblr, even email? Er, good question.

And as far as I can tell, five of the leading answers are:
  1. We don't want to commit to anything too new: we already have an OHP, a church noticeboard and a hearing aid loop, and that'll do for now
  2. Printed books are cool, especially when they have rainbows on them, but the Internet is Satan's sock-drawer, full of ne'er-do-wells and general naughtiness
  3. We don't know how to do this, and all we hear are horror-stories of aged websites that make us look really, really stupid
  4. We already have a website: here! (I wonder who uses it...?)
  5. Haven't you seen our online presence? We have a search engine optimised website, all our rotas are online, our facebook page is humming. Behind? 
(In the interests of disclosure, I'm an ordained minister in the Church of England, so you could say I have a professional interest. I would welcome any contradictory views on anything I say here.)

If you're in category 1, I suggest you go and ask half a dozen under 30 whether it's too early to risk this. If they all say 'no' then well done, you can bide your time.

If you're in category 2, then ask yourself, if Jesus rocked up to your town, would he be hanging out at the church bookstall, and if not, where, and who with? (For those of you reading this paragraph who are now going, tsk, this guy doesn't even know it's "with whom," I give up!)

If you're in category 3, then I have good news and bad news. It's simple... But it's not easy.

And if you're in category 4, then I have bad news and good news. You need to start again. But at least you have an idea, now, of what's good and what's bad.

Finally, if you're in category 5, then congratulations! Now, you have some work to do: help another church get (at least some of the way) to where you are.

Now, some friends and I are trying to do just that. Here's how.
  • We won't spend very much money - we haven't got much to spend if we wanted to
  • We're building the whole system using WordPress (which apparently powers 8.5% of the whole Internet), so the skills people will need to have or develop are widespread, as are learning materials
  • We're making it easy for people to get started - our assumption is that everyone needs things to be super-easy
  • Our objective is to meet everyone's needs in getting off the ground - and we'll be happy when people outgrow the service
  • We'll make it easy for people to migrate away from our service
  • If 50 churches sign up for the private invitation, we will launch; if they don't, we won't
  • The cost to sign up is £0, the monthly cost is £0, the cost to take your site somewhere else is £0
  • We won't inject adverts into your website - it would be lovely if some people donate towards the running costs, but if they don't, we'll manage
  • If anyone wants to help, that's good too - we'll run non-profit, so your reward won't be ££££s
Privately, I don't think we'll get 50 takers. Why not? Just a hunch. I can hear the scepticism already. "Nothing's free. There's a catch. Who are these people?" 

(Why only 50? We know we can support 50 churches without having to buy anything we don't already have, we're confident that we can support 500 next phase, and we need to learn how to do this for 50,000 if we have to!)

So if you want to get involved, what do you do?

You could like the Facebook page at (UK only, sorry!)
You could tweet using the hash tag #jdapYes (start at!/jdap/status/195479387192311810)

That will work whether you want to help or be helped.


You can now also let us know you want to take part by going to:

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It's great to get comments - a good way to encourage, challenge and help me! Thank you. Jeremy