The other week I asked myself if it’s time to redefine mass media as the masses broadcasting media to the masses, rather than one publisher broadcasting to the masses. At least this is something I see happening in the traditional mass media. Seeing features as CNN’s iReport or Forbes blogs I wonder why something similar doesn’t exist on church websites.
Looking at the websites of several denominations and churches my observation is that generally:
- There’s nothing about everyday Christian life.
- Writers are staff and/or clergy.
- If there is anything about social media, it’s about sharing what’s published on the church website on social networks and not about engaging in conversations and dialogue.
Does our websites reflect the church that we are… or mean to be?
I know there are other online church initiatives with more social interactions. But, if you Google for a church the main website is what you hopefully find. Question is, do we want the visitor (maybe a curious seeker interested in the church) to be welcomed by an old style mass media one-way site? Or should the main website adapt and be two-way, thus reflecting what Christianity all about–the relationship with/love for God and our neighbour.
If our main website is a one-way broadcast, allowing the visitors to do nothing but pass that broadcast on in their social networks, do we seriously think they will get the impression that the offline church is any different? If we mean to be a fellowship of brothers and sisters in Christ, building the body of Christ, I think it’s about time this is very evident and visible on our websites as well.
The domains already exist, tools like WordPress are available (without costing a fortune) to create a website where not only staff or clergy can register, but every member willing to share something about their Christian life. Just like CNN asks for material on a certain theme, a church could ask for themed texts, videos and photos. Imagine visiting a church website where you could see what Christian life and faith means to hundreds of people on the main page, as well as finding the posts from the staff and clergy, information and other things we need on our website. If a magazine like Forbes and a network like CNN can do it, is there any reason the church couldn’t?
What does the main page of your church contain? Is social interaction and dialogue easily accessible from the main page? Look at your website from an outside perspective. What’s the underlying message that you send? One-way, two-way, monologue, dialogue, conversation?
Editor’s Note: Also look out for Sara Batts’ session, based on her PhD research into church websites at #CNMAC12