To make full use of the Internet world, your online strategy needs to be broad:
“Content is king,” experts say. Whiz-bang technology is fun, but in the end people look to the Web for content. That means:
» Text: White papers for downloading, useful tips on life issues, Q&A, reviews, articles to share – let your imagination run free. Items need to be brief, well presented, responsive to questions people are asking, easily downloaded and/or forwarded. Consider making the task of “curation,” that is, content creator and manager, a key staff or volunteer post.
» Images: photos people share, perhaps paired with stories or sayings.
» Videos: This is the hot offering now. Hip Web sites are filled with videos. They’re easy to make and edit. Post videos on your site, or post on YouTube and link from your site.
» In church education, you should place on your Web site all curricula and supporting materials used in regular education classes, materials used in faith-formation groups, member incorporation, and leadership training.
At a minimum, the senior pastor needs to have a blog to express his or her leadership. This isn’t a personal blog, but a “CEO’s blog” — speaking as leader of the organization. If resources allow, the church itself could post a separate blog, enabling constituents to engage in dialog. This will need to be moderated to filter out intemperate responses.
The jury is still out on whether Facebook groups and/or pages have lasting value. You certainly should have a congregational Facebook page to show pertinent information and establish your brand. Facebook intends groups to promote conversations. But that seems to work best for controlled groups. For example, a Sunday School class could have a closed group to continue the Sunday discussion.
On the whole, Facebook’s methodology has tended to encourage one-way communications. Twitter is even more one-way.
Word to pastors
The senior pastor needs to take a strong and active lead role in promoting this online agenda. This is an important opportunity for ministers to present themselves as thought leaders, as well as organization leaders. They should see online work as a first priority, not something they will get to someday. Virtual ministry will touch far more lives than anything you do in person. A church with 300 members, for example, could touch several thousand lives through online ministry. Some of those will eventually gravitate toward personal engagement (worship, mission, fellowship). Many won’t. Either way, these touches represent a vast expansion of your ministry.