Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Shock! Facebook Actually Does Help Friendships!

This evening I ran into a friend of mine who I used to see all the time, but haven't lately.  I walked up behind him, tapped him on the shoulder and said, "It feels like it's been forever since I've seen you!"

He replied, "I know, but it doesn't feel that way." 

This is a guy who almost always leaves me a comment on Facebook status updates and pictures. He actively engages with the Facebook community.

Sure social networking can have it's stalker-types who only get on to click around trying to see people's pictures and read about their lives without having to be involved in the network. But social networking gives you whatever you put into it.

If you're in ministry, especially with youth or young adults, social networking is practically a must. Find out what network your people are involved in (these days it's probably either Facebook or Twitter), and get involved with them there, as well as in person. Even if you don't see results immediately, the payoff will come.

I understand not having the time that other people find for it, but invest a little bit in social networking, and the impact can be huge.

Now if I could just get my friend to join Twitter.... hmmm.....

Thursday, June 25, 2009

(Un)Surprising Findings on Megachurch Attendance

I say (Un)Surprising because some of the findings correlate to almost any cursory look at a megachurch on a given Sunday morning. Leadership Network has released a study on megachurch attendance. Here's a quick run-down of the findings.
  • Young and single adults are more likely to be in megachurches than in smaller churches.
  • Nearly two-thirds of attenders have been at these churches 5 years or less.
  • Many attenders come from other churches, but nearly a quarter haven’t been in any church for a long time before coming to a megachurch.
  • Attenders report a considerable increase in their involvement in church, in their spiritual growth, and in their needs being met.
  • Forty-five percent of megachurch attenders never volunteer at the church.
  • New people almost always come to the megachurch because family, friends or coworkers invited them.
  • What first attracted attenders were the worship style, the senior pastor and the church’s reputation.
  • These same factors also influenced long-term attendance, as did the music/arts, social and community outreach and adult-oriented programs.
  • Attenders can craft unique, customized spiritual experiences through the multitude of ministry choices and diverse avenues for involvement that megachurches offer.
One of the surprising things I saw in the study was this
"Even one of the mainstays of megachurch programming -- participation in small groups of different sorts -- is engaging only 60% of attenders. Forty percent of attenders said they do not participate in any small group. This is interesting given that in our national research the percentage of megachurches saying small groups are central to their functioning rose dramatically in less than a decade. In 2000, just half (50%) of the megachurches said small groups were central to their strategy for Christian nurture and spiritual formation. By 2008, that number had risen to 84% of megachurches affirming the centrality of a small group strategy. Yet, this increased emphasis on small group ministry does not appear to havemotivated a large percent of attenders to active involvement in these groups."
60% participation in almost any facet of the church seems like pretty strong participation, especially when earlier in the study 11% of responders claimed that the megachurch they were attending was not their "church home." So you can knock 11% of people out of the potential small-group-attender pool.

Another interesting finding is shown in this table.

I think any church would be ecstatic to have 27% of their people inviting 6-10 people per year to church. In a church of 100 people that would be 162-270 new visitors each year or 3-5 visitors per week.

The question is, why are megachurch attenders so eager to invite friends to church?

For more information here's the full study (.pdf).

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Church of England Gives Free Beer for Father's Day

Mother's Day in many churches brings all sorts of recognition of the role that mothers play in in each of our lives. Usually the moms receive some kind of flower as a small way to say, "Thank you" and "We love you."

Try giving a flower to a dad who comes to church about as often as the church comes to him, and you might find that he begins to see the church as a place only for women or sissies. That being the case, maybe the Church of England is on to something here.

St. Stephen's church in Barbourne, Worcester passed out bottles of beer on Father's Day this year as a message symbolic of the "generosity of God." Other churches participated in the celebration by handing out beer and one church included bacon rolls.

The Ven. Roger Morris said, "Posies of flowers are given to mums on Mothering Sunday and we wanted to give a laddish, blokeish gift to the men. A bottle of beer hits the mark. The whole of life is to be celebrated in church."

The decision is not without controversy in Britain, but it's nothing compared to what a church in America would face were it to make a similar decision.

Those of us on this side of the pond have a culture marked by the temperance movement, but England, and Europe in general, tends to be more open to alcohol consumption. (Many churches in America still use grape juice in communion all the while claiming to be "Bible" churches. Hint: the Biblical celebration of Eucharist did not included Welch's.)

If you doubt my comparison at all between the British and American views of alcohol, allow me to add this tidbit:

"Men at St Stephen's church in Barbourne, Worcester, will be handed bottles of beer by children during the service. A prayer will be said for the fathers before the gifts are distributed."
How does that sit with you?

As much as I think the church in America needs a healthier and more balanced view of alcohol, I'm not sure this is the way we should approach it in our churches considering the ferocity of the opinions present in most American churches.

I do know of one American church who has a ministry named after St. Arnold, the Patron Saint of Brewers and Hops-pickers, which is a men's ministry that includes discussing theology over beer once a week. If your congregation is okay with it, I think this is totally cool. Other congregations probably wouldn't be so willing to embrace this type of ministry, so it's probably not for every church.

Anyway, it's something that makes you think, and that's always fun.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

3 Reasons Twitter is for Missionaries

Okay, I'll admit it: I'm HUGE into missions, missionaries, and everything that surrounds them. But, as anyone who's connected with missions will tell you, communication is not always the missionary's strong suit. It's not that they don't try, it's just that they're so busy and so far away that communication tends to slow down over time.

It's a two-way street too though. People back home tend to slowly forget not remember the missionaries they support financially and via prayer.

Enter Twitter.

Twitter is missionary's newest, bestest, most user-friendly communicate-with-your-supporters tool that web 2.0 has ever given us.

I know you're thinking, "Well what about MySpace and Facebook." MySpace and Facebook require two things many missionaries don't have in great supply: 1) time and 2) reliable high-speed internet.

1. Twitter Requires Minimal Time Committment
Facebook, as we all know, is basically designed to be a giant hole into which you throw as many waking hours as possible each day. Facebook is good, but unless you have time time to devote to it, the user experience is not all that beneficial. And unless you're a 13 year old girl, MySpace just isn't where you need to be anymore. Its time has passed.

2. Grab a Cell Phone and Go!
I've known missionaries from all over the world. Some of them have great high-speed internet connections, and others have to crank a generator to keep the computer functioning and only get dial-up internet from time to time. Thus Facebook may work for some missionaries, but twitter only needs an internet connection for the setup and maintenance. The rest can be done via cell phone and nowadays cell phones are as pervasive as Coca-cola.

3. Short Frequent Updates
Many times missionaries work for hours on update newsletters at the end of the month trying to remember everyone they talked to and how much time they spent doing this or that. With Twitter you're constantly updating supporters about what you're doing. So when newsletter time comes around, they can focus on the big stuff and point people to twitter to get the day-to-day updates.

Don't get me wrong, Twitter has some pretty glaring problems. For example, why aren't there groups? Or maybe a "Follow this conversation" option between two people? And it is notorious for showing the "Fail Whale" when the servers are overloaded.

But Twitter can be a missionary's best friend and a lifeline to friends and supporters back home.

Also, it's totally cool.

If you haven't already done so,http://twitter.com/gabesmith! Shout out to @txfilmgeek for bouncing around these ideas about missionaries and twitter over coffee the other night!
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