Ministry and social media

At the recent Anglican Missions Conference in New Zealand, the Rev. Mark Brown presented a workshop on ‘Anglican Ministry in a Technological Age.’ He's adopted it for the web, and posted it over at his blog for the Anglican Church in Second Life.

The presentation is a wonderful overview of Web 2.0 and 3.0 technologies and how you might be able to find ways to create those presences for your youth group, church or diocese. Don't know what Web 2.0 and 3.0 are? Think of it like dimensions:

- Web 1.0 - one dimension. You have a website, people go there to get information. - Web 2.0 - two dimensions. Your website includes tools that allow people to talk to one another or to you, such as message boards, blogs, or links to communities in which people can participate, such as Facebook, MySpace, or LiveJournal communities. You also have multimedia content and have that available on your site as well as social media outlets such as YouTube. - Web 3.0 - Three dimensions. Your web presence includes the above plus communities within virtual worlds, such as Second Life.

Brown picks up some statistics (with references cited in his original post) that show why it's important to pay attention to these media vehicles, and it ties to a question of the very youth we're so fond of wanting to attract:

So what is the rate of internet usage in New Zealand? 2006 figures:

15-24 years of age - 85.5%
25-44 years of age - 79.8%
45-64 years of age - 66%
65-74 years of age - 38.7%
75+ years of age - 17.3%[4]

Research out of the US shows that most in the 12 – 28 age bracket expect interaction with Web 2.0.

Given this age bracket comprises a key demographic for the church the question has to be asked: “what percentage of churches utilize Web 2.0?” According to a survey completed in America by the Centre for Church Communication, the percentage of churches making use of this new communication method is only 10%. One could say it is like ships passing in the night.

But he also makes a very important point about how we use this technology as he discusses blogging (emphasis his, but we'd do the same):

Blogging is about sharing information and encouraging participation and engagement with that information. At any point in the life of a church or ministry there are a range of issues that need to be shared and discussed. An example: a church is working on a new mission statement. Traditionally this might be shared via the pulpit, through extraordinary meetings etc… With the addition of a blog, an article on the mission statement could be posted and congregation members encouraged to comment and debate the merits.

As with any technological offering, it exists to assist, not replace, our present face to face methods.

Read the entire primer here.

Also, it's worth noting that the Café is establishing a presence in some of these spaces as well. We've created Episcopal Café groups in Second Life and Facebook to allow our readers and friends to interact within these platforms. The Facebook group is here, a link you'll need a Facebook account to access. If you're in Second Life, do a "Search" in "Groups" for Episcopal Cafe and you'll find us.

Comments (7)

I remember a very painful meeting I called to address a festering issue. We began with prayer and an appropriate reflection before getting down to issue at hand - that had been long avoided in the history of the organization. The meeting went a long way to bridging the gap. I'm sure if we'd tried blogging about it a disastrous flame war would have erupted.

Choose your issues wisely.

Does this mean that we have a Cafe to adorn with art in Second Life? If so, I may recruit a few teenagers to help this almost 50 Art Editor!

I've toyed with the idea a couple of times over the years of a startup that would focus exclusively on Web 2.0 sites for churches, dioceses, and religiously-inclined non-profits.

I'm constantly amazed that so many churches have websites that are so bad...

Mel: Mark and I have talked about it, and that would be a great idea. I'll email you!

Derek: I've had the same thought, and have contemplated trying to secure a grant for just such an enterprise.

John: That's true to a certain extent, but take a look at today's question on another blog I volunteer for, RevGalBlogPals. Today's Ask the Matriarch is soliciting advice on how to handle a vituperative parishioner. I edit the feature, and make it a point to protect people's anonymity. I blog so much myself, having 10 of the blasted things, that I can't imagine NOT blogging.

The best model for getting parishes involved in Web 2.0 sites is probably blog software. (Facebook and MySpace may apply, too, but I'm not as familiar with them.) You need someone behind the scenes to do the heavy lifting of PHP and MySQL and just provide some simple templates and minimal customization features. The average parish faces enough of a challenge getting a site up and running; the priority is making it easy for them.

At ecwh.org, we once looked at adapting some CMS software for parish web sites. The software we picked turned out to be far too complex for what we had in mind. It may be time for another look.

--Paul Martin

I know Paul; I'm a database programmer with PHP experience... :-D

And I'm a web content manager and social media strategist with experience on all manner of platforms with MySQL/PHP back-ends. Now I know who to go to when I need programming support. :)

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