What Web 2.0 Means for Your Church

April 4, 2006 by

Web 2.0 is the latest rage. It’s on the cover of Newsweek and everyone is speculating if it’s the revenge of the dot com boom.

This is the beginning of an multi-part series on web. 2.0 and what it could mean for the church.

What is Web 2.0?
It depends on who you talk to, if it’s a doe-eyed techie or a jaded marketer or a way-too-early adopter. For my purposes, web 2.0 refers to the kinds of sites that build on community or offer a service. Rather than simply offering static information, web 2.0 sites offer interaction.

Sometimes examples help:

  • Flickr – a photo-sharing site where users can post their own images, form groups, comment on others’ photos, tag their images and more. It’s a photographic community and is the place to go for up-to-the-minute photos: Hurricane Katrina, the Paris riots, St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, etc.
  • MySpace – the teen community site where millions of youth wile away their afternoons, evenings and nights. Teens can do just about anything: chat, blog, comment, post photos, send messages, listen to music, play games, etc.
  • Squidoo – a lesser known site that tries to make search personal. Rather than going with an impersonal list of results, Squidoo offers what they call lenses, a single web page maintained by a self-proclaimed expert that points you to everything you need to know about a certain topic.
  • YouTube – it’s Flickr for video. And yes, it’s that simple.
  • del.icio.us – a link collecting site that lets you store and share your bookmarks.

Get the idea? As Tim O’Reilly says, “The central idea is harnessing collective intelligence.” Every one of these sites has no content on its own. They all rely on users to fill them with content. It comes down to the art of creating community.

The Web. 2.0 Attitude
But more than just community, there’s a certain attitude that comes with web 2.0.

  • Less is more.
  • Design matters.
  • Small is beautiful.
  • Mistakes happen.
  • Power to the people.
  • Do it cheap.
  • Anyone can do it.
  • It’s all about community.

If you really want to dive into the mindset, check out Getting Real, a PDF-only book from the makers of a number of successful web 2.0 applications. They talk all about building software, but their perspective could be applied to anything.

The Web 2.0 & Church
And that’s where the church comes in.

The church is essentially a community, so the ideals of web 2.0 thinking fit nicely in the context of the church. Some say web 2.0 follows the attitude of Jesus. A lot of folks are talking about the idea of Church 2.0. We’re definitely not the first or the best to consider web 2.0 and Christianity.

But what does web 2.0 look like inside the church? What happens when we apply the same web 2.0 attitudes to church marketing?

  • What if your church web site wasn’t just another place for information, but what if it was a connecting point for community?
  • What if your congregation provided the content instead of your pastor (or in addition)?
  • What if events were proposed, planned and put together by the people in the pews?
  • What if the church staff did less and the congregation did more?
  • And what if money wasn’t an issue?

Do you see where this is going? Suddenly you don’t have an overworked communications team doing all the updates. You have youth group members maintaining an online events calendar. You have a Sunday School teacher posting lesson notes on a blog and the learning suddenly happens outside of the classroom. You have older members of the congregation sharing their wisdom with younger members. You have people sharing and people connecting. Suddenly it’s not the pastor trying to do everything.

Web 2.0 is about giving power to the people. Nowhere does that have greater implications than the church.

Deflating the Balloon
Of course it’s just the latest technology. Maybe it’s not that revolutionary. Maybe those are starry-eyed visions that won’t quite come to pass.

But what if even a fraction of them did? Stick around as we continue to explore web 2.0 and see what it can mean for your church:

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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19 Responses to “What Web 2.0 Means for Your Church”

  • Drew Roberts
    April 4, 2006

    Communication lines of ministry leaders at our church has exploded through the use of a Xanga site which is used to communicate weekly service plans and schedule. Shared simplicity – it’s where’s it’s at.
    Our Xanga presence has cut back on meetings, accommodated fast-changing plans, and brought several people to the table who were not part of the planning process before.
    And, dare I say it – we have a blended service that is actually working as a result of it! Hallelujah!!!
    Bring on Web 2.0!!!

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  • Anonymous
    April 4, 2006

    Church Marketing Sucks: What Web 2.0 Means for Your Church

    Church Marketing Sucks has a nice little introduction to Web2.0 and the church.

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  • Cameron Perry
    April 4, 2006

    “Web 2.0” means different things to different groups. The community-building aspect of many of the aforementioned sites like MySpace is only a small part of the general trend. On the developer end, many would say Web 2.0 represents websites that act more and more like desktop applications than static web pages. Thus far AJAX (Asynchronous Javascript and XML) has been the predominate driving technology behind this interactivity.
    …and for the record, MySpace isn’t really a “teen site.” =)

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  • Kevin D. Hendricks
    April 4, 2006

    Thanks for the clarifications, Cameron. You’re right. Though not being a techie, I didn’t want to dive into all those technical definitions. Though maybe that will come into play as I keep writing this series.
    37signals’ approach of doing online software as opposed to installed software is a big idea. How would that apply to the church?
    And, no, MySpace isn’t a teen site. But jump on there and look who’s there. Teens. ;-) We’ll get to MySpace in a few days.

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  • D. Goodmanson
    April 4, 2006

    Amen! This is why a group of us created the Ekklesia Network of sites (Ekklesia, Sermon Cloud, and ChurchAgent) to help churches get on the 2.0 onramp! It’s exciting to hear this talk. It seems a lot of this conversation is happening but has yet reached it’s way down to the local church. What will be interesting is when the local churches start to ‘get this’.

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  • guynameddave
    April 4, 2006

    Don Hinchcliffe who writes a lot about Web 2.0 has a nice article on Web 2.0 thinking. His third point is that data (read content) is primary, whereas design and functionality is secondary. Kevin, in your list of The Web 2.0 Attitude you missed this most-important point.

    If church people like to say that when reading Scripture three things matter, “Context, Context, and Context.” Then Web 2.0 people like to say that when reading websites (or using software) three things matter, “Content, Content, and Content.”

    Those are three good points for churches too!

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  • Nathan Colgate
    April 4, 2006

    “way-to-early-adapter” – love it! ha ha!

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  • Cameron Perry
    April 4, 2006

    This is a whole other topic in itself, but I think there are a number of ways in which the church could directly benefit from the 37signals approach to web-based software.
    One of the most significant benefits is that IT and Software deployment are no longer the church’s problem. Here you have a company offering services where your only worry is the content you put up, not the finer details of installs and upgrades on every single workstation in the building. Ultimately it comes down to a question of connectivity: Are people going to be more likely to use location-dependent applications (i.e., executed from one workstation in the office), or will they be more likely to use a location-independent application? It seems to me that location-independence will win in the long run.
    That’s the skinny of it. As I said: this really is a whole other topic in itself (which I’ll gladly expand upon)

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  • Sr. Mary Hasta
    April 4, 2006

    Latest technology? I’ve had LiveJournal since 2001!

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  • Rob Childs
    April 5, 2006

    You ideas about using the church website as a comunity portal is one I’ve been trying to get running on our own church site, we’re a small Uk based church in a small town and I’ve had very little response from the congregation. The technology is all there but there’s no ‘buy-in’ as yet. We’re a pretty active church for such a small congregation (about 30-40) yet I still the only person who posts anything on the site. The idea is probably right but perhaps the implementation is wrong, I’m not sure.

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  • Nate K
    April 5, 2006

    Web 2? What about Web 3.0? Hehe. I have mixed feelings about it all – especially when its blended together with creating usable and accessible websites. As with flash, it is a tool, and when used wisely can create a GREAT application. All of the 37signals tools are excellent. Friends of mine just created chalksite.com for teachers – its very quick and intuitive.
    Oh, and that ekklesia site looks very nice (to the above poster).
    I am excited to see what happens – especially with the use of googles applications, and now microsofts (as sad as they are). Desktop applications are moving to the web at a rapid pace, and many people are jumping on the train.
    I guess I am still waiting at the train station. I watched alot of this same hype with flash, then watched people abandon that as it just wasnt accessible in all instances.
    Good read nonetheless!

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  • Ken Yarmosh
    April 5, 2006

    Kevin, it’s funny you started this series because I just wrote about “Church 2.0” ideas the other day.
    In regards to defining “Web 2.0”, it’s a touchy subject. I don’t really like to define it per say but as I have written in the past, I believe Web 2.0 is an attempt to build the web around people instead of technology.
    I’m excited that you have initiated this discussion and hope to participate in it going forward.

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  • Sarnaa Archie
    April 6, 2006

    Web 2.0 presents opportunity to expand the walls of fellowship and community and gives us an opportunity to engage the outer community surrounding the church.
    I think it could be used as a way to engage the community into dialouge as visitors come to the site and can actually engage in dialouge with say the Pastor, the elders and the other congregants before venturing into the building for worship services. It can serve as a nice ice breaker as newcomers will feel as though they already know you…or at least get a sence of you.

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  • mobius
    April 16, 2006

    i’ve been kicking this idea around for a while, but applied to the jewish community. check out my paper on judaism + web 2.0.

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  • ben
    April 29, 2006

    YouTube has some trashy stuff on it. The online video-sharing service I find easiest and maybe a cleaner service is Vimeo I think for those venturing into sharing personal videos, this is the better option.

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  • kevin
    May 1, 2006

    YouTube may have some junk on it, but so does the rest of the Internet. Comes with the territory, I’m afraid, as is something you’ll have to address with most any web 2.0 community-driven site.
    I prefer Vimeo myself, but more because it has a much more aesthetically pleasing design. It doesn’t feel so cluttered.

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  • Church Marketing Sucks Web 2.0 Series

    Web 2.0 is yet another techno buzz term that’s popping up everywhere. Our Church Marketing Sucks blog just finished a series exploring web 2.0, sorting out the hype and figuring out what it means for churches: What Web 2.0 Means…

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  • Sarah
    February 28, 2007

    I work for a company that has been working on a way to bring the power of web 2.0 to the church. I think the church should use this technology. It is a way to stay connected and create strong communities, without the limitations of time and location.

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  • Elizabeth
    March 20, 2008

    I’ve found this site and many others like it through a wonderful Google search while looking for research for a Capstone project I’m beginning to work on for graduating with my Computer Science degree from a Baptist University. Naturally I like the idea of comparing the two things I’ve decided to devote my life to. I’ve found links to all sorts of things, and right now it’s so much to sort through, having spent very little time studying this subject prior to this project, and I was wondering if you could assist me in narrowing my search for “scholarly/academic” literature, in other words I need some Church 0.1 material in the form of books, and was wondering if there were any authors you’d recommend.
    I will most definitely using this site and many other similar ones in my research.
    Thank you,

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