Have churches gone digital?

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It has come to my understanding that the new media millennium has done more than take over our personal and social lives (via Myspace, Facebook, Twitter), it has crept into our professional portfolios (via LinkedIn, WordPress, and sometimes even on Flickr). Your best friend, your mom and your boss are all on Facebook. Your colleagues on are in your network on LinkedIn and in your spare time, you manage a blog (like me). Don’t forget that you can now receive updates via Twitter from @your_neighbor, @SenJohnMcCain, @Taco_Bell, @Starbucks, @WorldVision, @Microsoft, even @Oprah. The point is that there has emerged 2 kinds of people in the world: (1) the internet addict and (2) the internet handicap. No matter what category you or your mom falls into, you are both online. (*Actually, did you know that Mom Bloggers or Digital Moms are now a market of their own?) Welcome to the Digital age.

So you, your aunt Kathy and your company have all gone digital. But have churches gone digital too?

The truth is……that churches have really stepped up their game when it comes to meeting new people and starting new communities, and its all happening digitally. The internet has proven to be a very efficient and cost-effective way in communication, especially for the church. Not to mention, the web is virtually “paperless,” go green! So other than those silly brochures that you still get from the greeter at the door every Sunday morning, your church is probably utilizing the web as the major means of spreading knowledge and information. The internet is one of the quickest (and sometimes cheapest) information spreaders. This is why churches must go digital. There’s too much opportunity to engage new and fellow followers of Christ to let it go by.

Research and stigma shows that the digital church is on deck to be next at bat in the digital world. But what does this really mean? How are churches going digital? What does that mean for you- the pastor, the church-goer, and the church-hater?

How Are Churches Going Digital?

Stone Briar Community Church made Vandelay Designs' 50 Best Church Websites

Websites. Websites have unofficially become the basic internet starting point for any business, company or organization, even the church. Churches now offer themselves to be large competitors when it comes to website marketing. But don’t be fooled in thinking that a volunteer always does the web work. Maybe you thought web analysts, developers and graphic designers were only for Nike, Coca Cola and Google. In the age of the digital, everyone is looking for and hiring web guru’s, and that means the church is too. Have you looked at your church’s website lately? Check out 50 of the Best Church Website Designs

Groups or Fan Pages. Facebook has a fan page or group for anything you can think of- McDonalds, Brangelina, Madonna, Taking a Nap, Summer Time. I even saw a fan page ad today that said “be a fan of ‘Otter Pops.'” Groups and fans show support for anything and everything. It only makes sense for churches to acquire its own “fans” or “groupies.” By the way, there are over 500 hits for “church” search on Facebook.Picture 4

Picture 6Podcasts. If churches aren’t podcasting the Pastor’s sermons on itunes, then they are seriously missing out on engaging their audience in an important and new way. We are busy people and sometimes we can’t make it to church on Sunday morning. But that doesn’t mean we should miss the teaching. Podcasting allows anyone to hear the sermons and teachings of the church that might otherwise have missed. Everyone needs a little spiritual pick me up and wouldn’t it be nice to remember the words of your Pastor from last Sunday? Podcasting is simple and easy and only takes an audio recorder and someone to push upload. It also allows people to hear teachings of the pastor’s they really enjoy across states, and sometimes even continents.

Live Streaming. Lots of small organizations are starting to dip their toes into live streaming. What is live streaming? Live streaming is a multimedia type that can be constantly received by an end-user while being delivered by a streaming provider. In other words, live streaming allows you (the end user) to tune in live to a special report, conference, or church service. The #ideacamp and #churchtechcamp are already doing this. Watching a church service live online? Can it get any more cooler? On July 4th, 2009, New Hope Christian Fellowship in Hawaii became the first church to live stream their worship service on iPhone. Church attendees requested live streaming of worship on iPhone and thanks to the inclusion of HTTP live streaming in Apples iPhone 3.0 software, now everyone can worship live with the Hawaiians.

New Hope Christian Fellowship's live worship stream on iPhone

New Hope Christian Fellowship's live worship stream on iPhone

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Church Online. As I was researching the topic of the digital church, I stumbled across something pretty revolutionary and amazing- church online. There is a real, completely online church that live streams services from around the world 7 days a week sometimes multiple times a day. (Now you really have no excuse to miss church). This church also offers small groups, prayer and ways to serve, give and volunteer all online. To find out more, visit sadfasdfasdf

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So what does this really mean for you…

The Pastor. The digital church places quite a bit of responsibility on the pastor. If you thought you had a public profile to keep up before, you now have a web and digital profile to keep up as well. But really, like anything else, it’s an opportunity to engage your audience in a new way by showing your congregation and community that, like them, you are a real person with real thoughts. Not only is there talk about the “digital church,” but the “digital pastor” is fighting its way into the conversation. Things you can do to embrace the digital age:

  • Make a Profile. It might be out of your “limits” to join Myspace or Facebook, but the reality is that a majority of your congregation lives on one of these sites. So make yourself a profile and join the conversation and digital life of the people you pray for.
  • Picture 11Blog. Many a pastor is blogging out there and giving his/her congregants something to think about, talk about, or apply to his/her life. Blogging is a way you can make your sermons and teachings timelessly available for anyone ultimately increasing the following of Jesus. Yah!

Picture 12The Church-Goer. Church has never been made so easy and accessible. On the run, or on a run, in the car, on a plane, or on your couch, you can now enjoy the worship and teaching of your very own pastor and pastor’s of churches around the world. Maybe you still enjoy the traditional “in person” church, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use the wonderful resources the digital age has to offer. Want to know more about your church or pastor? Look it/him/her up on Facebook. Want to know what’s going on and what’s new? follow your pastor and church on Twitter. Forgot your church’s service times? Check the website. Have an iPhone? Found out how your church can live stream. The digital church means resources and support at your finger tips. Let’s just say that you really can’t hide from Jesus now, don’t let ignorance of the digital church become a sin in your life (just kidding).

The Church Hater. What I personally love most about the church today is that it has become a place everyone feels their spiritual and social needs are being met. The church has always been about spirituality, but the digital age has made church socially intriguing as well. Do you have a certain belief or value or religious habit? There is a church for you. Would you prefer to “go to” church in your pajamas? There is a church for you. Are you a web junkie? There is a church for you. The church as a place for everyone isn’t really even a new concept. Think of it more as a concept redesigned, redesigned digitally. What the digital church has done is reminded people that church truly is a place for anyone, anywhere and truly, anytime. So if you’re a traditional church service hater, don’t worry, you can still love the Lord and serve the Lord, and experience “church” outside of church.

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More on the Digital Church:

Experience Church Online- Life Church Tv

Articles and Insights about Technology and the Church

Thoughts on the Digital Pastor

Digital Leadership Network– an excellent blog and insight resource

List of Churches with an Internet Campus

What are you thoughts on the Digital Church and Digital Pastor? Do you like the idea? Do you not like the idea? How has your church gone digital or not gone digital?

***Do you have articles, links, or resources on the Digital Church or Digital Pastor? Please share them with me!

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  • Colin Hedren

    Your thoughts are not only relevant but extremely accurate. The Internet is pretty black and white. Either you love it or you hate it. I agree with you that the world is becoming increasingly segregated between those who cannot live without the internet and those who have no idea what a ‘log-in’ is.
    I really appreciate that you bring up the fact that the church is not so much the up-and-coming anymore, but actually keeping up in some ways with technology of today. The church has always had the ‘just add God on the end’ ideas and a second best stigma attached for decades. We, the church and pastors have a long way to go, but as the world of technology advances faster and faster, we had better kick it up a notch to stay ahead of the game.
    I know your articulate thougths will spur some to pursue technology as a means of outreach and encourage others to begin to use the many social networking and incredibly useful technologies of today.

  • Excellent post! Met you on Twitter…and am following! You seem to have a knack for great topic selection! — Alex, OutreachNewMedia.com

  • Thanks for the comment and compliment Alex. Yes, I noticed your twitter following. Definitely looking into Outreach New Media. Thanks for the following!