Monday, May 4, 2009

How Can the Church Ride the Crest of the Wave?

We had a very interesting discussion in staff meeting last week about how best to communicate with the congregation. I'm sure a lot of people in the congregation have no idea how much we think about this! We've been analyzing the use of the newsletter that gets mailed monthly, how information is accessed on our website, whether folks are picking up the Weekly Happenings on Sunday mornings, etc.

As the congregation has grown, it's been an ongoing quest to find the perfect way to communicate with a congregation that ranges the full spectrum of ages. A church that has been planted in the last 30 years or so would probably have far fewer problems in this area. Such a church would have very few members that were not tech savvy enough to use online communication easily. In our case, we must respect the fact that our most elderly members are not necessarily using computers at all (although I'm actually proud of our retirees, many of whom are pretty with it when it comes to computers- after all, this community is the home of HAL!).

Here's a little example from my area of ministry. My choir consists of members ranging in age from 14 to 82. Now, the 82 year old is the retired dean of the U of I college of engineering, so he actually knows the developers of, say, Mosaic, and he's a proud technology whiz. I have several people who live in the country and are still using dial-up. I have a couple of retirees who check e-mail only occasionally- it's still not the main way they communicate. I have young 20-somethings who do everything online. Some of us are even FaceBook friends!

When I need to communicate quickly with this group (say, we're cancelling rehearsal due to snow) I use e-mail, and then also call about half of them, because I'm not sure they'll check their e-mail on time. If it's something that isn't immediate, I still send out a postcard by snail-mail. We are a classic example of the transition our whole society is in with communication.

It's even more glaringly disparate when you view the whole congregation. What about the shut-ins? What about the families from other churches who send their children to our AWANA program? If we push everything to our website, or use e-mail alerts for informing people about deaths in our church family, we are bound to miss someone. If we rely on paper, there are people who don't read those publications. And then there's cost. We're paying a web administrator, but we're also paying a lot in postage. So much to think about.

I saw this video on several ministry blogs today, and I thought it was very thought provoking in light of our staff discussions. No matter how you look at it, how we serve our people, how we reach the wider community with the unchanging Truth of the Gospel, is going to change radically in the next couple of years.

9 comments:

Clausewitz said...

Oi. Parabéns pelo seu excelente blog. Gostaria de lhe convidar para visitar meu blog e conhecer um pouco sobre o Brasil. Abração

DramaMama said...

Hi Joyce - a visiting missionary to our church used this video clip a few weeks ago too. He made the point that of all the info the youth of the church are receiving 'out there', how does it compare to the amount we are feeding them 'in here'? The ending question bothered me then and it still does. The makers of the video, I would presume, have their own answer and I wonder what it is. My answer is that it means we need to pray. Hold on and pray. I feel a huge spiritual battle coming on. More accessibility to info in my mind means more windows, doors, portals, whatever you want to call them, for Satan to come in. More info can distract us from the truth. But on the flip side I think that more info and accessibility could mean more people learning about Jesus. Either way, prayer is the only thing I can do about it...

Joyce said...

Mel, I agree with you that there are so many sources of both fluff and real junk, it can be a problem. We were talking here about things like newletter items, church family info, etc. But I do know what you are driving at, especially when it comes to youth.

I do have faith that people will always be searching for Truth, though. Athough the information age can feel like we're drinking from a firehose, we'd be foolish to ingnore the fact that that's the "marketplace" now, the place where people hang out and discuss things. We need to be there with them, just like Paul was at Mars Hill.

C. Marie Byars said...

I REALLY like "DramaMama's" thoughts---I think that "moderate" point of view, holding & considering several angles is SOOO important! Anyway, the percentage of Americans attending church has fallen again. A lot of the people who consider themselves "Christian" now have sketch 2nd-hand knowledge from parents who barely attended themselves. And many of the large, large "non-denoms", which are picking up people right now, don't have much of an instructional focus. God willing, we can just be thoughtful and attentive and try to keep feeding people at whatever level they're at---starting with OUR OWN KIDS!!! God bless!!!

C. Marie Byars said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joyce said...

Marie, I think you've both hit the nail on the head. How are we instructing and guiding our children? If we leave it up to the cyberworld they live in, how will they sort through all those zillions of messages available to them? I'm not afraid of cyberspace, nor do I think it's evil; it's just a tool. We need to use it well, and be moderate in our intake (everything always comes back to "moderation in all things" doesn't it?). As Mel says, the spiritual battle is in the home and church, where we nurture our families. If we do that right, they have a plumbline for comparing the other messages they hear. A BIG job!

Joyce said...

I had to come back and be a comment hog on my own blog: I thought this video had some other very thought-provoking things to learn from. For instance, that there are more honors kids in India than we have kids. We are so America-centric. We must, must start to look past ourselves and be aware of the world we live in. So, another gift we could give our children is that awareness.

Marie said...

Joyce: I need to ask you to be a prayer partner for us. We came to New Mexico for my husband to be a part-time pastor of a very small church in a small town. (It's close enough to a city that this is partly a commuter community, though.) This was a fairly new start of less than 2 years, made by a semi-retired pastor. We knew that many of the people had been through conflict at one church up the road & thought it was just the "rigidity" there. That was only part of it---some of the parishioners had a lot of baggage in several ways. They left, which sort of cleared the air. But we are left with a VERY small little church. Please pray, God willing, that we get just 5-6 able bodied parishioners because that would be a big boost to a group this size. I know that might sound self-centered, like it's for all the wrong reasons, but it would matter a lot.

Joyce said...

Marie, I would be glad to pray! My son pastors a church in a very similar situation.