Thursday, December 11, 2008

11 Characteristics of Successful Churches - 5. Technology is Not Optional

Technology is Not Optional

My family has long been involved in public education, and in recent years there has been a push to "use technology" in the classroom. This thinking misses the mark when it comes to connecting to students. Students don't think in terms of "using technology," they just use it. It's part of the language they speak. So "using technology" does not typically produce a wow factor; it's just expected.

Technology is no longer optional; and simply having a website doesn't cut it anymore. You have to connect with people where they are. Connect with people via podcast, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter. To not have these things in the 21st century is like a church not having a phone in the 20th century. It's a must.

Use text-messaging to connect people to the service and to the staff. Ross Sawyers at 121 Community Church gave out his personal phone number for people to text if they wanted to talk about what it means to trust Christ.

Technology should be a big part of the services. Going digital costs money, but the things mentioned above do not. Also, going to church Online is gaining a lot of attention these days.

We are now 67 days away from the nation-wide switch from analog to digital television. In response people have purchased converter boxes or have gone ahead and made the plunge into the world of HD television.

On February 17, 2009 the television airwaves go digital and many churches become obsolete. No longer will the overhead-projection-on-a-bedsheet or flannel-board methods be sufficient.

When my home church, Waxahachie Bible Church, built a new sanctuary in 2002, they included widescreen projection screens because the worship pastor, Jay Trull, saw where digital technology was headed. They have not made the conversion to HD yet, but the infrastructure is in place for them to do so when it becomes financially possible. Bent Tree Bible Fellowship completed their new facilities this fall and have gone full HD in their services and so have several other churches we have visited.

Certainly finances are a consideration in this discussion, but embracing technology does not have to be cost-prohibitive. The web is full of free resources to connect people within your church and to introduce new people to your church. Making technology a priority will speak volumes to people who are visiting because it will be communication that is on their terms, using their terminology, so their condition isn't terminal.

What are some ways you are utilizing technology to connect with people? What are some ways that you would like to do so, but haven't yet?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

11 Characteristics of Successful Churches - 4. Missions

Missions is Mandatory

Saying the words "missions" or "missionary" to many people in the church it conjures up images of never-ending slideshows illustrating the oppressive need of people who live in mud huts and eat bugs out of either preference or necesity. Of course, missionaries living in places like Hawaii and France have a much more difficult time demonstrating that the work they do is really "missionary" work.

Unfortunately, for many of us, our experiences have created a false idea of what missions in the church really looks like. For a lot of people it is just writing a check once a month or promising to pray for someone you'll likely never see again.

No longer constrained to mud huts on the other side of the world, missions has become a reality in the day to day lives of the people in many of the churches we have visited. It shows itself through tales of evangelistic efforts from people within the local church, service efforts to minister to the local community, or through the emphasis on overseas missions. Different local churches have their focus on differing parts of the overall unifying mission of the Church.

While missions to the "mud huts" must continue, there is a real need to share the gospel through word and deed in the steel and glass "huts" where many of us live and work every day.

Monday, December 1, 2008

11 Characteristics of Successful Churches - 3. Sunday School is Passe

Sunday School is Passe

Growing up Sunday school meant two things: felt boards and donuts. In high school, Sunday school dropped the felt boards, but retained the donuts, so I was still okay.

Then upon graduation, I was thrust into the world of Adult Sunday School, a place completely void of felt boards, and the donuts were mysteriously replaced with bran muffins and bagels, which are like donuts minus all the "good."

From what I've seen through my whirlwind of churches is that many churches have done away with the idea of formalized adult sunday school programming in favor of some type of small-group model. Children and youth up through high school typically have some contextualized programming while the adults attend the main worship service.

This has the potential to be a good move as small groups tend to encourage more interaction between the people involved. This is especially important as churches grow and it becomes harder for visitors to connect with the members of the church. While small groups can have their share of pitfalls too, I think this will ultimately be where most churches end up in the years ahead.

But small groups would be better if they came with donuts, of course!
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