The social web has taken off over the past couple of years. The most popular websites on the web other than search sites like Google, Yahoo, and Live/MSN are the social medial site, YouTube, and social networking site, Facebook. The reason for the popularity of social sites like YouTube and Facebook is not just because they are really cool sites, but because of a change in the philosophy of how people think about websites.
When the internet first started gaining popularity, websites were about sharing static information. A person would create a web page that gave the information that person wanted to give and that information would not change unless the webmaster decided to change it. Visitors would then surf the web for websites that gave them the information they wanted. Web 2.0 and beyond is no longer about static pages and sharing information, but about interactive websites that facilitate sharing life. It’s about real life and real experiences. So, what can you do on your church website to allow people to share their lives and is your church website really the place for all this messy sharing?
There are four main components to the Web 2.0 and beyond:
- Build Real Community – People are looking to be more connected. Some people think that the social web is trying to replace real life relationships, but the reality is that it is more about growing relationships online and not so much about creating relationships online. Facebook, for example, works best with people you already know. That is how most people use Facebook, to deepen the relationship with people they know offline.
- Interaction – Interaction between people, like in Facebook, in blogs (with comments), forums, and podcasts. It’s also about increased interactivity with files, both in the form of file sharing (photo sharing, video sharing, etc.) and in the form of online file hosting, such as Google documents. Google documents takes file sharing to a whole new level allowing multiple people to not only view documents but edit them simultaneously.
- Functionality – New functionality like podcasts, blogs, groups, user contributed content, media sharing, forums, as well as online software for both documents and editing your website.
- Design Style – Web 2.0 has a distinct design style to it. It tends to favor simplicity, have fewer columns, be divided into easy to recognize sections, and have simpler navigation. It also is marked by the use of icons, bigger text and a lot of white space.
What are some reasons why your church should have an interactive website?
- Your Church Community Can Start To Share. How many members of your church only see another church member on Sunday morning? Give them a chance to connect throughout the week. In Acts 2, Paul talks about the church meeting together daily, devoting themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to fellowship. It seems to be getting more and more difficult to find time for that kind of community. And while I’d love to see more people take the time to meet face-to-face, your interactive church website can help facilitate that meeting online.
- Deliver Rich Content That Is Constantly Updated. One of the most common issues with church websites and one of the most destructive to the website is that the website is not updated regularly. Few things kill a website faster than out-dated info. With multiple leaders able to update their own section of the website and with users being able to add their own content. Your church website will constantly be updated with new and fresh information and content. (And your secretary will be happy to not have to make all the website updates anymore)
- It Can Save You A Lot Of Money. How much to you spend on newsletters? How much do you spend on cds of sermons?
- Good For Busy Lifestyles. The web is easy to access and it allows people to easily access information and easily share with others. Your interactive church websites also is able to be accessed quickly when it’s convenient for the user and it can be accessed from anywhere around the world.
- It Allows For Real Life, Including Problems. Remember, the social web is all about sharing life. Your website will have some great things happening on it and some not-so-great things, but problems create teachable moments and opportunities to resolve issues. If problems exist in your church, they will almost definitely come out on your church website. But keep in mind that these problems already existed. Now you have a chance to address them.
- Allows People To Look Into Your Church Past The PR. Show visitors real faith, real Christianity beyond the pretty façade. Everyone has problems and everyone sins. More and more people are looking for a church that acknowledges that and addresses the dirty aspects of our lives.
- Interactive Websites Are Relevant To The Current Generation As Well As Other Generations. Right now most teens and twenties use social media and social networking, but the fastest growing demographic in Facebook are those 30 years and older.
So, why should your church have an interactive website? It can help build community within the church and allow people to live out their faith seven days a week, online where visitors can see. It can save your church money while at the same time getting more information to more people. And, possibly most importantly, it’s what people want. It’s what many people in your congregation want.
Does your church have an interactive website? If so, what features do you have and how has your congregation responded? If your church doesn’t have an interactive website, are you considering adding interactive features? Do you think churches should have interactive websites?