The New Tech ...and its implications for your church

...with links to 'how it works' and 'how-to set it up' for your church

an article by Neil MacQueen, Sunday Software, originally posted May 2009
with links to resources I've been writing over at www.sundayresources.net/neil

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We are in the middle of a communications revolution.  ...Is your church?

Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Texting by cellphone, Instant Messaging, Live Chat, Email Newsletters....  the technology for how we stay in touch with each other is undergoing massive change. And it offers the Church some tremendous opportunities... if we are willing.   

Get Used to IT: 
Internet Technology is becoming a "virtual campfire" around which we gather to tell our stories.  Times have changed, but human needs haven't
. Most of us no longer live in close proximity to our "tribe." And consequently, we have evolved new methods of staying in touch and learning from each other. And that's a good thing. Some naybobs decry the "depersonalization of society" and the distraction of things like cell phones. But it's important to continue to improve that which connects us across distances and busy schedules.  Like we say in church... "Blest be the ties that bind."

At Pentecost, we see the Spirit blowing the Disciples out of their comfort zone to go where the people are. And there they are given the gifts of speaking in a new way.

And ever since then, we've sought new ways to reach out, share the story, and stay connected as the Body of Christ ...as we gather, ...and as we disperse into the world.

Many of these new technologies help us do just that. They allow us to speak and share more effectively across the barriers of time, distance, and budget.

Over the past year I've been writing about some of these new technologies and how we can use them in the church. These posts can be found at www.SundayResources.net/neil. The site has a free subscription feature so that you can get an automatic alert to every new post.  The site also has many of my other "odd" ideas and challenging questions for improving the church and its programs. I invite you to browse the site and look for what's useful and challenging.

BELOW is a brief description of some of these NEW TECH IDEAS, and links to the full web articles. I hope they create discussion and help your ministry keep the campfire burning. 

<>< Neil MacQueen

 

WordPress... the instant church website option with professional features that's free -or nearly so. 

Almost anybody can create a website, but making it look nice, keeping it fresh, and allowing multiple volunteers to keep it up to date --isn't as easy over the long haul -IF you do it the old-fashioned way. Fortunately, Wordpress has the solution, and for less than $50 year.

Read my article about how to set up an amazing church site using Wordpress. Make sure you also read my note about how to set up the free and POWERFUL 'gadget' on your Wordpress-created site that sends subscribed church members an email notification each time you post new content to your site. It solves the problem of reminding people that you have a site!   www.sundaysoftware.com/wordpress.htm

View my complete article about building a church site with Wordpress at www.sundayosftware.com/wordpress.htm

View my additional article about creating a better church website at www.sundaysoftware.com/webpage.htm

Sunday Software... New Tools for Teaching the Word
     
www.sundaysoftware.com

Twitter... the new and completely free "phone tree"

A few years ago I helped my church setup one of those $800 phonetree gadgets...the ones that you program to call all your members with a voice announcement. At first, I wasn't sure if it was a great idea. But once they started using it, I realized what a blessing it was to get TIMELY REMINDERS. The problem with phone tree is this: It costs big money, and requires someone to program in and update all the phone numbers it needs. Enter: Twitter.  Twitter is more than a buzzword or technology that CNN is using. This innovative new free webservice is taking the internet by storm, --and for good reason. It's an incredibly powerful new kind of communications tool. And it's free.

Here's what Twitter does: You send text a message to your twitter account using your cellphone, and Twitter broadcasts your text message to everyone who's signed up to receive your "tweets" either on their phone at their email address. You can send as many as you want, whenever you want.

Send reminders about a special service, an upcoming mission project, meeting notices, emergency info, funeral announcements, or encouraging observations and scriptures. Best of all... you don't have to buy the expensive phonetree equipment or manage the software and phone numbers.  Your church members sign up for it, so they manage their own contact info. Many churches and pastors are already using it.

Read my article about Twitter, and how to set it up for your church at http://sundayresources.net/neil/2009/03/25/your-pastor-the-twitter/

 

Email Newsletters...for free or at a discount.

How much did your church spend on printing its newsletter last year? Did it get read? Was it timely? Did it help boost attendance? What landfill are all those copies in right now?  How much does your staff dread having to assemble a newsletter each month?  If you WINCED at any of these questions, you may be ready for an Email Newsletter, and they're surprisingly easy and inexpensive to set up.

Read my full article on this subject at http://sundayresources.net/neil/2009/03/24/an-email-newsletter-for-your-church/

There are several ways to do email newsletters:

1)  www.verticalresponse.com/non-profits/  offers a free email newsletter service to non-profits. Some companies like iContact.com offer discounted email newsletter services to non-profits with only 'x' number of subscribers. Even if you're a larger church, their monthly fee is much less than your monthly postage cost. Not to mention the staff time and printing costs. And for those who don't have email, you can always print copies of the email news for them. 

2) Churches are posting newsletters at their websites and letting the automatic notification of new content feature --which they built into their website, ALERT members that the newsletter is there. See my notes in my Wordpress article about setting up a free "subscription feed" for your church website. www.sundaysoftware.com/wordpress.htm

 

Facebook... now for "Old Folks" too

See my complete article on FACEBOOK for the Church at http://sundayresources.net/neil/2009/06/27/facebook-the-facts-why-your-church-should-be-on-facebook/

Facebook.com started out as a social networking site for college students, and now according to Facebook's own statistics, it has been overrun by Baby Boomers. Facebook is the defacto standard and definition of "Social Networking" on the web. You sign up for a free account, and post a personal profile, which other registered members can find and request to become part of your circle of friends.

You can create "groups" on Facebook. And those groups could be related to your church groups. And the tools for those groups allow group members/leaders to contact each other.

Most people are using it to stay in touch with friends and family members, sharing photos and stories. Some are using it to job network. Some are even using it for virtual Bible study, support groups, affinity groups (ex. peace groups), stay-at-home-mom groups, and the like.

Facebook profiles remind me of a youth group exercise where you ask people to write "all about me" ...their favorites, likes, dislikes, friends, what you did for summer vacation, what your hopes and dreams are. It allows people to go beyond "good morning."

My suggestion: sign up for Facebook and begin exploring. Search the word "church" or Christian, and learn from those who have already embraced this amazing way of staying in touch and building virtual community. And don't forget to look for fellow church members on Facebook. Many are already there.

 

LiveChat... it isn't just for tech support anymore.

IS ANYBODY HOME when visitors and members come to your church website? We make a big deal in the church about "extending an invitation" and "reaching out to others" ...so why not have a live person available when someone comes to your site? 

It's easy with a free 'live chat' module plugged into the front page of your church's website. And that live person behind the site can be anywhere. All they need is a computer and an free instant messaging account. So your church staff during the day could be saying "hello" to people coming to your site. Or a volunteer could be 'listening' at night.   It's easy to set up and use. I use a Pluggo.com module at sundaysoftware.com and have written about how it works and how to set it up at http://sundayresources.net/neil/2008/04/22/adding-live-chat-to-your-church-website

"Behold someone stands at our website and knocks, if anyone responds and answers, maybe they will come in!"  

 Copyright 2009 Neil MacQueen
www.sundaysoftware.com  neil@sundaysoftware.com

Permission granted for local non-profit use.