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.