Church Tech Camp: Dallas

Thursday I had made my way over to Church Tech Camp: Dallas. It was a free unconference conference. Rhett Smith, Tony Steward and John Saddington put it together.

My first impression is how varied the definition of “Church Tech” can be. I think “Church Tech” can fall into 3 categories:
1. A/V/L Tech (Audio/Video/ Lighting) this is my first thought of tech.
2. IT Tech (managing church computers, databases and church management systems)
3. Web and social media.

The focus on this unconference conference was on the last of those definitions, web and social media. It was a loosely moderated discussion. The challenge with any open discussions is how to moderate it. There were over 75 people there and typical group dynamics means most people don’t talk up and a few talk too much.

But it was good to get out of the office. It was good to see some other tech friends from the area. And it was good to meet some people I’ve only talked to online.

Here are some of the thoughts I’m working through after today. Let me know if you have any thoughts:
– Media has 2 core roles: community and communication. What are your strategies for each role?
– Social media enables us to have lots of relationships. But how can media deepen our relationships? It’s easy to grow wide but we need to grow deep. How can media be used to engage both?
– Some people want to use media to shout at people (one way messages about themselves or their organization), but most of us want to be communicated with. It’s called social media for a reason.
– Don’t limit your organization by only communicating one way. Use as many as feasible (email, rss feeds, twitter, websites, etc…).
– A great way to get senior leadership on board is to help them to tell stories with the media. They don’t have to personally do it but how can the web, twitter, blog, etc… tell the story of the ministry/ organization. Tony Steward likened it to someone being a window into a house.
– Go to where the people are. If people are online, get online. If people are on a social network, get involved on that social network.
– There was a lot of discussion about “Internet Campuses”. I do think that they are a valid ministry but I think it’s the exception for them to replace a traditional church. I think it can be great resource for people who’ve missed church or those who serve in another church. I know I’ve stopped by the Life Church campus for the last reason. To pull off the interactivity that Life Church does takes a lot of resources and talent. Technically everyone who is online is a part of the Life Church demographic but practically I think it’s a small demographic. I wonder how many Internet Campuses are sustainable? In other words are they financially viable and sustainable or are they seen as a missions expense from the parent church.

So what’s your take? How should the church be using the internet and social media?

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January 8, 2009. Tags: , , , , . Tech Stuff, Web Development.

2 Comments

  1. Ben Anderson replied:

    Social networking and Social Media, and how the churches role on the Internet will play out is something I’ve been thinking and writing about a lot in the last couple of months.

    Over the last year or so I’ve evaluated how the church could create and/or use social networks to further develop the community within the church outside of its walls, but the Internet community will not ever be able to fully replace the physical interaction of the church. This isn’t so much a result of relationship not forming as strongly, but due to the nature of the relationship’s distance, both physically and emotionally. Your pen pal and chat buddy is going to be far less likely to drop what they are doing and run to the hospital to meet you in the waiting room simply due to the lack of commitment and loyalty a “real world” relationship would have. This will of course depend of the individuals involved, but at the exponential speed relationships form on the Internet, they aren’t deep enough to have the faithfulness needed to walk someone through the tough times in person.

    All of this is very different for the tech savvy late twenties, since we started our Internet experiences with communities from the beginning because the mid 90s had a different tone to its internet usage. There was a more friendly and tech oriented demographic that was quick to make connections and form relationships through the virtual channels. AOL chat rooms, ICQ and IRC were the ways everyone connected, and small families formed. You don’t see the same thing happening as much in the “social” networks. There are more frauds, more fear and more flaky relationships in the new social networks than there used to be. The church’s Internet presence wouldn’t be able to allow for the vast amounts of surface level relationships and falseness present in so much of it. Granted, there is a lot of that in the physical church also, but we don’t want to use more energy and more resources to further extend the problems that already occur within the community.

    None of the new mediums would provide a meaningful extension for cold turkey evangelism, which is what several church see the Internet opportunity as. The Internet community would depend 100% on its current body and word of mouth in order to grow significantly. And the communications would have to be two way, otherwise it wouldn’t provide anything of value to what is already served at the church during the services, through podcasts or on TV.

    The social network extensions of the church are going to have to be lead by the small group leaders in each of the churches, and not the pastors. Because the social aspect of the relationship has to include multiple people that are just as dedicated as the pastor, but are not paid by the church, otherwise the efforts will be no different that have a robot impersonate someone on staff or spam the members of the church with “encouragement” messages.

    I have a lot of hope for the social networks eventually providing meaningful extensions to the church community, and allowing the members to become more that the traditional Acts church, but it will take a paradigm shift for both the social networker, the teenager and young adult, and the church leadership, which is usually made up of more conservative and slower adopting individuals.

    The younger generations have to get over their church prejudice and the older leaders have to get over their technology prejudice. Neither of which will happen very easily with the Internet in the way. The younger generation needs to see, in person, the real care of the community. The older generation needs to see that the Internet social communities aren’t something that needs to be a fear or liability for the traditional community.

  2. Dave replied:

    Great thoughts Ben!

    I think the Church’s biggest use of social media is to enhance already existing relationships. I have a lot of the typical “Hi, how’s it going?” conversations at church. Very superficial and nothing real.

    But I’ve found the people that I have connected with online. More with Twitter than Facebook. I find out what’s going on with them and they know what’s going on with me. Now when we meet at church it’s a deeper conversation and relationships are being built.

    Even in small groups there are people that don’t like to share. But if they are connected with their small group through social media it may help to quicken the development of those relationship because they are getting little interactions during the week, instead of the 1 or 2 hours they may spend in group.

    I still want to meet up for coffee or lunch. Let me know what works with your crazy schedule.

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