Christian Web Trends 2007 Predictions

Happy New Year everyone!  I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas with family, friends, and most importantly, Jesus.  I love this time of year because it’s a time of optimism and fresh starts.  More than any other time of year, in January we believe in the possibility of what could be.

Now I’m sure you’ve noticed in the last couple of weeks there has been no shortage of articles, blogs, and TV shows containing 2007 predictions.  They range from the dire like Pat Robertson’s prediction of a terrorist attack to the wacky (the Spice Girls will reunite.)  I promise not to scare you with doomsday forecasts, and while it’s tempting I’ll resist the urge to humor you with outrageous possibilities.

In fact, I’m kind of cool to the whole prediction thing, but I believe that success often comes from anticipating a trend and putting yourself in a position to ride the wave.  My hope is that by talking about some of the current trends related to Christianity and the Internet that you can position yourself to ride one or more of these waves in 2007.  So, here are 5 predictions for 2007 and their implications for Christian ministry.

Online video will go mainstream
Prediction: One of the biggest stories of 2006 was the rise of video sharing site YouTube and it’s subsequent purchase by Google.  In many respects, online audio and video went mainstream in 2006.  However, I believe in 2007 Google is going to take online video to a whole new level when they monotize (make money from) YouTube.  It won’t be long before Google rolls out a new system that places ads at the front of YouTube videos and then splits the ad revenues with the video producer just as their adSense system does for bloggers today.  Advertisers will be able to target and bid on video advertising.  That will drive up advertising rates.  That will generate lots of money for video producers.  That will cause the TV networks to clamor to partner with YouTube instead of suing it for copyright infringement.  And before you know it you’ll be able to watch nearly every TV show online.

Implications:  In Christian circles (church and ministry sites), online audio and video is still in the early adopters stage.  While few churches and ministries will benefit directly from this trend, as more individuals become accustomed to watching video online, churches and ministries will begin to incorporate audio and video into their websites.  In 2007, we’ll see audio and video of church services, introductory videos, and podcasting become common.

Web 2.0 will continue its momentum
Prediction: Another huge event of 2006 was the rise social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook.  Web 2.0 (aka social networking sites aka the interactive web) hit it big in 2006.  Some are saying social networking sites are just a fad that will begin to fade, but I believe the fundamental principles behind social networking sits are sound and will only continue to grow in popularity.  Web 2.0 technologies like blogs, social networking sites, video sharing sites, and so on level the playing field and give everyone a voice to share their ideas and creations.

Implications: Organizations with websites that allow people to interact and participate in what’s happening on the site will grow in popularity and help people stay connected with the organization.  It’s already common to find church, ministry, and business websites with interactive components like forums, blogs, and polls.  Some are beginning to allow registered users to upload photos, add links, rate and comment on web pages, articles, and products.  The more you can involve visitors/users the more likely they are to return.

Content management systems will increase dramatically in popularity
Prediction: As more websites become interactive and allow users to participate and contribute to the content and discussion on the website, content management systems (CMS) are continuing to grow in popularity.  A content management system facilitates all of a website’s functionality – static pages, forums, calendar, newsletters, photo galleries, shopping carts, and more – into a single system.  The simplicity that comes with a single administrative interface and single user registration system makes them appealing to webmasters and users and will cause them to become increasingly popular in 2007.

Implications: Organizations that do not utilize a CMS will be left with a website that is static like a brochure rather than interactive, or they will try to implement new technology in a cumbersome piecemeal approach.  Organizations with a CMS-based website will be able to better engage people with web interactive web 2.0 functionality, will be able to keep people in their organizations better informed, and will find it easier to add new technology to their site as it becomes available.

People will search online for everything
Prediction: Initially the web was primarily an informational resource, like an online encyclopedia.  But in the past couple of years search engines have developed specialized search engines for almost everything.  There are product searches, news searches, image searches, video searches, book searches, and more.  In 2006 the biggest strides were made in local search.  Now people are just about as likely to look online as in the phone book for a local business or service.  In 2007, the scales will tip decidedly towards online search over the phone book.

Implications: A lot of small local businesses believe they really don’t need a website, but the truth of the matter is that when people are looking for a restaurant, a nail salon, or a locksmith, they are more likely search online than anywhere else.  The bottom line is that every business, every ministry, and every non-profit organization should have a website.

Additionally, the value of optimizing a website for search engines cannot be underestimated.  In particular, it’s vital for local businesses to be optimized for local searches.  Whether you’re in business to make money or in ministry to help people, the more people who find your site the more successful you’ll be in your endeavor.

Organizations will have to inform people on their terms
Prediction: Web pages, email, opt-in newsletters, forums, blogs, podcasts, video casts, IM, text messaging, voice over IP…  Seems like every 5 minutes there is new forum of electronic communication made available.  When communication forms were limited, the individual was forced to get information in the few ways organizations made it available.  But today people are constantly being bombarded with information and with all these new forms of communication the scales have been tipping in the other direction towards the individual.  Now, it’s organizations that have to ask themselves, “How do we need to communicate in order to be heard by individuals?”  In 2007, Microsoft will roll out its Windows Vista operating system to the world.  It includes support for RSS, which will take RSS mainstream and further tip the scales giving the individual the capability to receive information on their terms.
 
Implications: Most churches and ministries still rely on verbal and printed announcements to get information to people.  A fair number are making it a priority to keep their websites up to date with the latest information about events and opportunities.  That’s important because the website is the first place a lot of people go when they are looking for information.  But that doesn’t solve the problem of getting information to a person who is not looking for it.  That’s why it’s vital for churches, ministries, and businesses to publish a regular opt-in e-newsletter.  In 2007 it will also become increasingly important that the newsletter include an RSS feed for those who like to receive their news that way.

OurChurch.Com will take over the Internet
OK, I so I couldn’t resist one wacky prediction.  But we here at OurChurch.Com have plans in the works to stay out in front of all of these trends and help you to ride the waves.  In the next few months you can expect announcements about the new web builder we have under development, new search optimization services, new Custom CMS Express services, new advertising services, and more.

So, what do you think?  Am I right on the money or did I spend too much time in the holiday egg nog?  Post a comment and share your 2007 predictions.

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, elder of CypressMeadows.org, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck and add him to your circles at Google+ as +Paul Steinbrueck.

10 Responses to “Christian Web Trends 2007 Predictions”

  1. Maybe you had too much eggnog. Unless believers reach out from a rather smug, inclusive and absolutist posture, in some denominations, walking is what I predict . . . to booming “private” spirituality without the organizational spin and twist.

    Rev. Dr. Lawrence Ventline
    http://www.creofthesoul.org

  2. Howdy!
    You are certainly right about one thing. Organizations are going to have to communicate and inform people on THEIR terms. Out here in rural Oklahoma, not everyone is able or willing to keep up with the outrageous speed of change in technology. My sister-in-law in Dallas sends me emails that take me forever to download on my old phone modem. Guess what?? Most of them just get deleted because I don’t have time to mess with it. I do love our new web site hosted by ourchurch.com, and it is a wonderful tool, but I still have to make phone calls, and go down to the local coffee shop to “inter-act” with my people. I get all excited about the possibilities of all this new technology and think about upgrading equipment and jumping right in the middle of all of it, then I think about who I am ministering to. A lot o fmy people are just now learning to use email and are struggling to download pictures of the grand kids!! I’m sure that your predictions about on line video will become reality in your neck of the woods, but you know….I still like goin’ down to that coffee shop!!!

    Have a Blessed Day,
    Pastor Lynn
    http://www.cowboycountrychurch.com

  3. Paul,
    I think for the most part you are accurate with your predictions of where the Web is headed and where the Church – in many parts of the country – should be if they want to reach non-Christians. I had a few comments about each of your predictions.

    As online video goes mainstream, churches with small budgets could easily be left behind. This is the time for us to begin finding who in our congregations is into online video and whether they will help the church move in that direction. As technology spreads faster than churches can afford to purchase it, we need to be thinking about the early church concepts of sharing all that we have for the common good. This would include talent and skills along with spiritual gifts and things.

    Web 2.0 – what an opportunity for online missions! Rather than being alarmed that the youth in our congregations are moving toward these technologies, we need to equip them to share the Gospel online. Audio, video, text – all can be used to spread the Gospel. If that’s where the non-Christians are, then that’s where we need to be.

    CMS probably will increase rapidly, but we may see some backlash as webmasters lose some control while conforming to the CMS structure and realize the difficulty of moving larger sites from a more traditional host to a CMS. Before completely abandoning sites in favor of CMS, look into using both types at the same time. Traditional hosting is great for large amounts of data, and can be less expensive. While you may want a CMS to provide functionality, you may need a traditional host to hold all your audio, video and text files. The two can run seemlessly with multiple domain names. (I’m not an expert, but we’ve tried it with success at http://www.newlifexn.org – done in a CMS – and http://www.newlifexn.com – done in FrontPage.)

    Most people I know are already searching online for everything, even if they don’t do much else on the Web.

    Organizations will have to inform people on their terms. Yes, but first we need to determine the terms of our audiences. They might be using high-speed or dial-up, sitting on an airplane or walking miles to an Internet cafe. The audience is key, and defining it can be difficult. Sites definitely need to focus more on non-Christians; but they also need to determine the needs of local, regional, national and International visitors. The Web has far reaching implications, literally. We can’t assume that the only people using our site are from our congregation or even local or regional. We have the power to change lives all over the world, and we need to take that responsibility seriously. This may mean multiple sites, multiple versions of a single site and/or separate points of entry for different groups.

    We’re coming to a day when the whole world could hear about a single event in a day. The Web will be the largest part of that, and then the other media will pick it up from there. We don’t know when Jesus is coming, but we’d best not waste the evangelistic and discipleship opportunities laid before us thinking we have time.

  4. I’d like to highlight, by way of a prediction for 2007, the rise of mobile-platform-based ministries. This aspect isn’t addressed in the writer’s predictions and I think it deserves a focus. Already, I’m told, more people in the US have their first experience of the Web through a phone than through a computer. Phones are nearly ubiquitous.

    I am amazed at the diversity of mobile (cell phone) applications as ministries and businesses discover the audience that wants to access Christian information through their phones.

    I invite you to visit a wiki I’ve created to list these: http://snipurl.com/Mobilev

    The rapid growth of these ministries will flower in 2007 with the mainstreaming of mobile-accessible ministries – for evangelism purposes as well.

    Dave Hackett

  5. Pastor Lynn – Great point. Sometimes people who are quick to embrace technology mistakenly assume everyone is using the same tools they are. You definitely have to know your audience.

  6. Lisa – Thanks for your insightful comments. A few responses…

    I’m not too concerned about churches who don’t utilize online video being left behind, at least not yet. At this point, video is not expected. It’s a bonus, an opportunity.

    I agree completely that web 2.0/social networking is a great opportunity for sharing the gospel with others online.

    Interesting point about setting up a second site or at least a second hosting account for media files.

  7. Wasn’t Pat Robinson the same one who predicted that the world would end in the early 1980s. I remember that I was fairly young at the time and it scared me horribly. I think that people of faith, particularly in leadership positions, should be more responsible with “predictions”.
    My son, now 8, was very worried about the terrorist attacks on 9/11…I thank God that he didn’t hear Pat Robinson’s words before I could change the channel.

  8. I think that the only way any “christian” could stay on tops on the internet if they compromise with things of these world, but hey don’t most christians when it comes to makes the big money? They will even sell the Name of Jesus to make it big in this world. Pretty sad but none the less it is true. What does it have to do with this article? Probably not much to those who are blind but those who can see and have not defiled themselves with the world will agree. When I hear someone claim to predict or prophesy I dont take it to heart, joke or no joke. People do many foolish things in the Name of God!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Reflections » Blog Archive » Web Trends for 2007, and what it means for ministry - Jan 4, 2007

    [...] The Christian Web Trends Blog has published Christian Web Trends 2007 Predictions. In the article they list five trends for 2007 that have implications for the church: [...]

  2. » Informing People on Their Terms - Jan 18, 2007

    [...] In our last blog article I posted some 2007 predictions, focusing on trends in communication technology and their impact on Christian ministry.  The prediction that sparked the most comments and the one I’ve been thinking most about recently is, “Organizations will have to inform people on their terms.” [...]