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You mention photos of the building vs. the people of the church. I completely see your point. But here is the dilemma ... if the church has a small (or even medium-sized) budget for the website, where are the photographs of people going to come from?

Photos of the building are easy for an amateur photographer to take. But as soon as you put any people in those pictures, you can tell pretty easily that they were not done professionally. Everything from lighting to posing and framing becomes much more difficult to do right. And my thought is that amateurish photos don't belong as design elements in an otherwise professionally-made layout—they stick out like a sore thumb. (A church photo gallery would be a different story.)

So if it's too expensive to hire a real photographer to take quality photos of "real people" for the site, and amateur photos don't look right ... what's left? Stock photos.

And those pose another problem. I remember one time that my church of maybe 100 people switched to a pre-made bulletin design that had photos clearly meant to promote or reflect racial diversity at the church. And while we would have loved to have more diversity in our congregation, the fact was that those photos didn't really match what our congregation looked like, and so it was immediately obvious that we had picked those bulletins out of a catalog.

Meanwhile, I saw a similar bulletin when I visited a large church closer to the heart of the city, and yet I had a feeling I was looking at photos of people that actually attended that church.

All of that to say ... stock photos can end up having a really weird effect when used in church materials, since a church is supposed to be a community where you know and recognize lots of other people. And yet the smaller communities that know each other best are the ones that would least be able to afford their own professional photography.

So I think it's a dilemma! I completely agree that something is missing if you only have church building pictures. Any thoughts on a solution?

Don't know the exact link but here's ours from SD

http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Corsica-SD/Corsica-CRC-and-Grace-Reform...

Post almost daily. How do you get more people to interact with it? It feels sometimes like a one way conversation

Thank you! I appreciate all the links, it's helpful to see what churches are doing with their Facebook pages.

As a regular Facebook user, I connect with a lot of news outlets and other websites on Facebook. Although I find the information very helpful, I almost never comment on those links and pages. Based on my own experience, I'm not sure that interactions are the best measure of success. I think, like Stanley said,  it's greatest usefulness may just be in having an online presence where people are anyway.

facebook.com/telkwacrc
Usually something gets posted at least once a week. Same as New Hope above, "there's not a lot of two-way conversation on our page," but it's helpful for having an online presence and for alerting people to upcoming events.
Stanley

Our Facebook page is doing all right. We have a good number of fans. But, like others have said, we don't get a lot of back & forth conversation. I try to post something at least once a week.

http://www.facebook.com/sjcrc

Yes, it was started by a church member (not church 'official') and it was quite a while ago...so for both those reasons it was a Group instead of Page. When someone has time, we might switch it over...

I really appreciate that link about Groups vs. Pages. I hadn't come across that one before...it's a nice summary with up-to-date info about both.

[quote=tim]

My church has a Facebook group but it doesn't get used too much.[/quote]

Why do you think they opted for a "group" instead of a "page"? I think groups predated pages, so perhaps it's just a matter of when it was started.

I found a post on the Facebook blog that talks about the differences. (HERE: http://blog.facebook.com/blog.php?post=324706977130 ) I think one advantage for a group is that you can set some areas to be private if you wish, although it looks like your church's page is public. Groups can be created by anyone. Pages, on the other hand are public by definition, and should be created by "the official representatives of a public figure, business or organization." 

Anyone want to chime in about the group vs. page question?

 

[quote=tim]I also post to the CRCNA Facebook page which, of course, EVERYONE should "Like" :-) [/quote]

Thanks for promoting this thread, I appreciate the extra visibility!

My church has a Facebook group but it doesn't get used too much.

I also post to the CRCNA Facebook page which, of course, EVERYONE should "Like" :-)

Thanks so much. Great church website, too.

The more the merrier! I'll be posting up a storm there later today :)

Thanks for the link. I'm the random Californian who just "liked" your page!

We have a relatively active Facebook page at http://facebook.com/NewHopePowell. It's been quiet this week because I've been too busy to post (!), but normally I post at least once a day.

Although I post frequently, there's not a lot of two-way conversation on our page; I've tried a number of things to get people to participate more, but apparently haven't hit on the right strategy.

This sounds intriguing. From my experience everyone has a way to collaborate but is on a different platform which makes it difficult for everyone to participate without learning something new. I'm curious if Wiggio solves this. It seems that when deciding how to collaborate you need to choose between a platform that is feature-rich and one that is familiar or used by a high percentage of the group. I would usually go with the option that more people are familiar with, otherwise participation can be low. So, Facebook or email groups are becoming / staying a easy way to connect and have good involvement / participation even they they lack important features. 

I use JW Player for Flash on the church website to play the mp3 files

We at the Duncan Christian Reformed Church also use Audacity. We upload the audio files to our website: two sermons morning and evening. No archiving of sermons. Works great!

our website is located at http://www.duncancrc.org

Sharon makes an excellent point here.  For a denomination with some shrinking churches in some remote areas who struggle to find pastors who will view them as more than a stepping stone and who face budget concerns, this is a fantastic solution.  The Church of God (Anderson, IN) denomination is experimenting with this across the rural areas of northern Michigan right now - Mio, Rose City and others have the messages piped in.

Sharon also points out another astute obervation - we've often assumed through our history that the majority of pastors have the spiritual gift of public speaking.  While many do, this could really be a blessing by giving smaller or planted churches top-notch preaching as well as top-notch giftedness in other areas if they were to, say, use video messages from a gifted preacher and hire a gifted campus pastor.

posted in: Video Church

Thanks for the suggestion. I'll add something in the article about recommended ways of recording or link to some posts describing it and with tips. I see you found the forum too and discusses this. Maybe some people will be inclined to share their setup there.

There are some good devices out there for recording straight from the board, but I believe the cost increases dramatically when it records in more formats than just mp3. I'll see if I can remember them.

Some great thoughts. Thanks, Sherick! A simple line out from the sound board to any kind of digital recorder would save us the time-consuming task of having to join the disconnected chapters our audio folk create to assist listeners who like to skip forward or back within a sermon.

I am suprised there was no suggestions in the article as what hardware or software might be used to record the podcast with. Perhaps that is due to the many possible choices.  However I will mention some free things that work for our Church.  We use a linux PC running ubuntu (free OS) with Audacity as the software to record from the soundboard directly.  Audacity is free for both linux and windows PCs.  We record the whole service (our sound person does the recording as well so starting recording before service makes sure they don't forget)  save project then edit down to sermon only.  Now you can remove humming with audacity as well and export to mp3 for upload.   However I have found exporting to a wav file and then using a program called Foobar2000 (also free) produces the best sound quality small file and I tried ALOT of programs of all kinds.  Recently for personal work I was doing I had to get the Adobe sofware suite for video and sound editing.  I find that Soundbooth from Adobe does a great job of tweaking the audio for podcasting, but it is not free and quite expensive.  So I take the wav on USB jump drive from Church and run it through soundbooth at home and then use foobar2000 to make the mp3.  I have been thinking of using a good quality dedicated MP3 recorder instead of the computer, but I wonder how reliable they are as well as possibly needing to edit it and losing quality.  Editing a mp3 and resaving as a mp3 tends to degrade its quality.  If anyone has ideas on it I would like to hear them.  Here is a direct link to a recent sermon which is 41min long and about 13MB in size if you would like to hear.  feedproxy.google.com/~r/CrossroadsCrcSermons/~3/LgzOGkxSQ1E/9122010am.mp3

I'm very intrigued by this idea.  We recently visited a church that had several locations linked by video feed.  We were at the main (live) service, so I don't know what it felt like in the other venues.  I understand that each venue in this church has its own identity -- some use more traditional worship music, some more contemporary, some are smaller, some larger.  The things I like (in theory) about the idea: it allows for a variety of worship styles while still having the message and discussion in common; it allows for smaller communities within a very large community; it allows for greater flexibility of space.

An extension of the idea -- video (recorded) messages -- might also be used for churches that are between pastors or that struggle with quality pulpit supply during a pastor's vacation.  Could that idea also be useful in churches where a pastor's gifts are geared more toward community care than to preaching, or perhaps where they are overwhelmed with other duties?  It seems we expect an awful lot of pastors; this may be a way to play to their strengths while still offering good, solid preaching.

 

posted in: Video Church

 Personally, I do not like Intuit products. They are designed to expire in a few years causing you to reinvest the same amount to get the networking features again.  Organizations using their products better have an exit plan or have deep products!

 In a large church, exactly who is supposed to do the jumping in? and under what authority?

Usually those that are supposed to approve the project like to see a plan:  What are you going to do, how much will it cost, what will you say about us?  Are privacy concern been met?  May we see some of the proposed pages?

A Smaller church can go faster... once a volunteer has come forward to do it!

I find it rather interesting that the Acuff blog actually had more to do with judgementalism and theological bickering than "avatarism".  I fully expected it to be about Christians disregarding their beliefs altogether and becoming a online terrors.  Which happens regularly, in gaming or in communities.  Christians shurk off any "religious censorship" they would normally heed to and run amok because no one is the wiser.

The problem, in either situation, comes down to not being personal relationship.  It is easy to treat someone poorly when there is no personal give and take or, more importantly, love.  And this carries over into offline communication as well.  I'm sure many of us have known non-Christians who have been completely turned off by the faith because a Christian that they barely knew treated them with finger-wagging and condemnation rather than the love of Christ.  Which then puts up a wall for future interactions.

I've been involved in a number of internet communities in the last decade and I've always tried to approach it with authenticity of character and of faith.  Most of these communities have not been faith-based, but I've walked away from some great relationships and very positive experiences.  And, of course, I've had to put up with a number of jerks.

Our church - Heritage in Byron Center has done this in our ark/ gym ( we call it Worship in the ARK) It first was an experiment, but now has become part of our culture. Alreaqdy several community families have joined the church due to this alternative worship. It really is primarily a simulcast of the sanctuary Worship. However, we do it around tables, with coffee and an extended time of mutual greeting while the offering and other portions of worship take place in the sanctuary. We have a lay person facilitate or lead the group. We have only recently added live music. We have been pleased by how many appreciate this more relaxed atmosphere. We have a volunteer tech team and a number of roaming greeters to welcome people and make contact. It has really unleased a participation spirit in worship.

One elderly woman joined us for the last months of her life. She was so appreciative of the effort, as she felt she otherwise could not have worshipped with the congregation due to her physical condition. Many do not realize that a formal worship setting is so intimidaitng to many. We have many drop in visitors from the congregation who are impressed by the worshipful tone. Obviously the message is the same.

This is a great cost effective way to Advance our Redeemer's Kingdom - ARK

posted in: Video Church

A church I attended for a while had live video going to different 'venues' in the building and now has different video campuses around town.

A couple of things that they did that were:

  • They had the people that were going to attend the new campus meet first at the current location for several months but in a different room with live video. This prepared this congregation so it was ready and accustomed to this type of service so that when the time came to move they were just get used to the new space not the people around them and the format.
  • They had a live band and a pastor in each room. Only the sermon was on video
  • The rooms were intentionally not marketed as overflow rooms. In fact, participation (singing, litany) was the same. Over churches use the video rooms as overflow the people in these room don't participate and leave very early.

The costs for the equipment for doing a service like this are dramatically less than the past. Also the difficulty of setting it up has followed the same trend.

posted in: Video Church

I'm not an online gamer at all, but I do once in a rare while check out "comments" that appear with an article or blog.    I'm often "yucked out" by what I read....    OK, I'm on this side of 60 (yrs, not mph) but still.....   some things are just over the top no matter what age you are.    SO - I found this post by Angela to be a really helpful perspective.   There IS a way to engage on the web and not be stampeded by other peoples' behavior - I mean stampeded into being like them, or stampeded off the web.   Thanks so much for this! 

 

Duane, great questions. Most of these questions will be answered in part ii that's coming out soon!

Interesting article.  I've used Salesforce at our company a few years ago, but not that extensively.  How would I sign up for the free version you're describing?  Is it the "Force.com Free" described on their web site or is there another version?

What about reports like directories, or membership reports such as what the denomination asks for every year, have you been able to extract that type of information?

My husband and I have been playing games and communicating on the internet before it was even cool (over 17 years). We are actually customers of Blizzard as we play one of their games and run a guild (a group of like-minded people working together in the game). We too have noticed that people seem to think that because no one knows who you really are its ok to do and say whatever they want. Our guild is a family guild that is Rated G, where kids are welcome and safe from the vulgarity in other parts of the game. When new members join quite a few of them (sadly a lot of the young teens) are shocked that we enforce a no swearing, flaming, or taking the Lord's name in vain policy. There is a certain 3 letter acronym om* that we do not allow and it blows their mind, even the Christian kids are confused why we don't allow it. The seem to think that acronyms aren't "really swearing" and so they are ok. As aguilla1 stated earlier, we teach our members to think before they type.
I was actually hoping Blizzard would follow thru with that threat as it might really clean up or at least inhibit some of the nastier things about the gaming world. As someone who plays an MMORPG (Massively multiplayer online role-playing game) I have witnessed a lot of that behavior. I admit that even I do act differently online than in real life. I hold true to my values as a Christian, but I am much more outgoing online. In real life I'm fairly shy and prefer not to lead things if I can avoid it. Online I am the Co-Founder of our guild and end up training people, leading events, and policing our chat and when necessary punishing people who rule break. I have had to counsel teenagers in our guild when they were having problems at home, a young girl who was considering killing herself, adult friends who's teens are out of control or who were considering divorce and we have even befriended a few veterans who try to escape their PTSD online. I joke around a lot more online and have an easy time making friends, not something I do easily in real life.
In the last couple years my leadership skills and online character has started seeping into my real life. My husband and I are going to be leading a new SMall Group this fall, I have many many more "real" friends now then I did before, and we are both involved in or leading committee's at church now. So while I do agree that there are some HUGE dangers to be had in the online world and the anonymity it provides, I think I can also hold myself and my husband up as examples of some of the benefits. Being anonymous allowed me to grow into a better leader and to gain self-confidence I never could have in the real world alone and luckily we have been able to translate these new found skills into our lives.
I think that if more Christians were to live their faith in their online interactions that we could use the web as yet another tool to bring people to Jesus and even someone who lives in a tiny town of 500 people (me) can reach out to people all over the globe!

Thanks for the great post, Dave. So far, the Network has had over 1,100 comments and, of those, only 2 have been pulled (both because the person disclosed too much personal information, not because they were mean).

Maybe the "My Church" feature helps as it encourages people to identify their congregational affiliation. Or that people know CRC bingo can get them identified in a jiffy.

Whatever the reason, it hasn't been much of an issue for The Network as for some other sites. I guess grace is not only preached, but practiced in the CRC. It's been nice to see.

Think before you write Should I write this or not? is still a valid thought on-line as it was before when there was time to do it before you could answer. Now we have to be more deliberate.

Motivated by the poor level of discourse on the Internet, I wrote up a 'Bill of Rights' for people who write on religious topics online. http://www.giffmex.org/blog/?p=80.

To be fair, though, a big part of the problem is that in my experience, churches are not safe places for people to be vulnerable, share freely their doubts and frustrations, and work through their differences. There are so many taboo topics and taboo ways of expressing oneself, and so people feel stifled. We seem to be more concerned with appearances and status and politeness than we are with 'speaking the truth in love'. For this reason, feelings get bottled up in church, and come to expression on the Internet under the cover of anonymity. And many of the people speaking their mind are the people who felt repressed in our churches. So I think we owe it to people to be patient with the excesses of both Christian and non-Christian 'jerks' online, while still pushing everyone toward excellence and charity.

Sorry, I mis-spoke when I said "tab." It's actually a link on the Main Page of the Church and Web section, under "Topics." Hope it helps!

Mavis

Mavis,
Where is this "Social Media" tab of which you speak?

I appreciated it. But you're right, some folks were a bit inappropriate at times.

Thought I'd post a quick update...

We did open up live chat for the Synod webcast this year and, by and large, I think it went well. I winced a couple of times when I saw comments that were more about the person speaking than what they were saying. But those were by far the exception and nobody had to be booted.

For the rest, I think real-time chat helped make watching Synod a more social experience. People connected, discussed real issues, debated some, and also had a bit of fun. The viewership numbers were up, overall, although there's no way to tell how much of that is because of the real-time chat vs. the subject matter of each Synod.

Any other reactions to this year's Synod webcast? Things you liked, didn't like? Suggestions for next year?

No worries, I just didn't want you both to miss the good stuff out there!

Yes our congregation is moving to more e-communication, upgrading our website, networking on FB, et al. I feel better connected the other six days of the week and can get and receive encouragement and send out same.
I use this logic: God created everything and just like evangelists used the telegraph to bring people to tent revivals, and like churches used the telephone to improve communications, now we can use the internet to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the whole earth.

Thanks for pointing that out - I certainly didn't mean to repeat topics. I obviously didn't look hard enough before posting. :-)

There are several articles and discussions about social media on the network. If you click on the "Social Media" tab you'll see a list.

I think this is a great idea and I would love to hear more about it. I think by sharing ideas and plans in our own communities, we could encourage others to use our ideas and share their own in our celebration of Christ and our church

Dave, I get these Twitter adds all the time from crazy fly-by-night companies that search for a word that's in my tweet and from people locally that want me to buy something from them. (ie, North Dakota tourism started following me when I ripped the North Dakota tourism commercial....I mean, come on, North Dakota?) I get similar adds on MySpace Music, etc. from bands I don't like.

Any how, I find them more annoying than helpful....like the Twitter version of spam or junkmail. Don't we run the risk of becoming a simple nuisance or looking like the desperate kid in high school who asked out all the girls hoping to get one date?

Totally, what Nick said.
And Tim should tweet about this on behalf of the CRC especially Nick's comments about how excellent a tweeter he is. :-)

I agree with everything Nick said. In fact, it's such a good comment I think I'll tweet about it
:-)

I agree! That combination of discipline, good writing, and the right choice of subject matter would be so important. Another reason we haven't started tweeting yet!

Having the church send tweets does indeed have a lot of potential, especially when it comes to making connections and keeping the church a presence in people's lives throughout the week. But institutional tweeting also requires a lot of care. I would venture to say that the most important task in institutional tweeting is choosing the right "tweeter."

The job requires ruthless consistency. My personal tweeting is very inconsistent: sometimes multiple times a day, sometimes once every few weeks, sometimes about important things, sometimes about trivial matters, sometimes specifically personal, sometimes very impersonal and general.

It seems that if someone is going to tweet on behalf of the church, such irregularity should be avoided. We want the church to be consistent in the integrity of preaching, and so we require trained preachers. We want the church to be consistent in the administration of pastoral care, and so we often divide the congregation into households under the care of specific elders. We want the church to be consistent in the presentation of the church's life in the bulletin announcements, and so we usually appoint one qualified person to be the final editor and printer of the bulletins. Similarly, we should aim for consistency by appointing someone who is careful and "professional" about their tweeting on behalf of the church.

In this regard, the CRC has found an excellent institutional tweeter (is it Tim Postuma?). Very consistent, professional, and impersonal/formal, but still warm and friendly. The inconsistent and overly personal tweeting by some tweeters for other organizations (I'll refrain from naming names) in my eyes damages the credibility of the institution. (I've seen institutional tweets directed at specific individuals who are friends of the tweeter and tweets that seem to be based on the tweeter's individual interests and opinions, rather than the institution's interests and official positions.)

All that is to say, if you do have your church start tweeting, appoint the tweeter carefully!

Good thoughts, Dave. I like the idea of twittering for my church, but I already have a kind of hard time figuring out what to put on the church's Facebook status, let alone what to tweet. Do you tweet on behalf of your church, or just personally, and it includes churches?

Hey, Dave, you beat Mashable to the punch! Some good points made in their article and comment stream:
http://mashable.com/2010/06/09/microsoft-office-web-apps/

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