Best Practices for Internet Ministry: Part 2

March 24, 2008 by

In this series I am previewing some preliminary results of my research into the best practices for Internet ministry. In my first post in this series, I suggested that churches and other ministries that have a deliberate planning process that includes the development of a mission statement for the web site, data collection and the development of a target user profile are the most successful. In continuing this research, I present my findings as they relate to the use of volunteers to develop a web ministry:

Internet Ministry Best Practice #2: a successful Internet ministry does not rely exclusively on volunteers to create or maintain their web site.

In my survey, I asked the respondents to identify the different groups involved in the development of their web sites. For web ministries who identified themselves as having a very successful web site, only 5% used volunteers exclusively to create it and only 20% used volunteers for some parts of the creation. This compares to an overall average of 13% and 36%, respectively. Interestingly, churches and other ministries that identified themselves as having unsuccessful web sites used volunteers exclusively for its creation over one quarter of the time (26%). Examining the data further shows that successful web ministries used their internal staff for the web site development 75% of the time compared to 50% overall and 30% for unsuccessful ministries.

Besides the numbers, the survey also asked the open-ended question: “What has been your experience using volunteers to help with your web site?” As you might expect, a wide variety of responses was received. Here’s a sample of the responses:

  • They couldn’t keep up with changes and updating. It works better having the staff do the work.
  • Haven’t used too many volunteers, but the time we did, we were thrilled with their ability and willingness to drop everything and help us.
  • Usually get great suggestions and ideas, but timeliness to implement is difficult with volunteers. Most of our time-sensitive web stuff stays with staff right now.
  • Not good. Too often people think more highly of themselves and their skills than they merit.
  • So far it has been good. Although getting them to keep their pages up to date has been tough.
  • They each have their own ideas about what they think is cool and want to help but really are way behind the times.
  • Volunteers are great, but with something as important as a website, we can’t depend on unpaid staff to be championing it.
  • They come and go and there’s no rhyme or reason to the styles they use (fonts, etc.) There is no leadership because no one knows any better. As long as ‘someone’ is doing ‘something’ to the web site, people are happy. Yet, the information is almost entirely outdated and useless. In today’s world, our web site is the equivalent of not mowing the church lawn all summer. You go there once, see the material is from last year and then don’t bother to go back because it’s more of the same.

In reviewing these responses, two trends become clear: 1) don’t rely exclusively on volunteers and 2) the volunteers you do use should be integrated into your organization and managed carefully.

What is your church’s experience using volunteers? Do you use them for any part of your web ministry?

Post By:

David Bourgeois

David is a professor at Biola University, a researcher and blogger. Dave lives with his wife, Marne, and their six children in Brea, Calif., where they have attended Evangelical Free Church of Diamond Bar for the past 15 years.
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4 Responses to “Best Practices for Internet Ministry: Part 2”

  • Jeremy Anderson
    March 24, 2008

    Wow, we’re writing the same things! As the primary web champion and a volunteer, I’m in the niche category of (soon to be) successful projects but admittedly, I’m a web professional with 15 years experience where most churches do not have a “me” to help them. I have found the comments presented to be true though, most of our other volunteers a) think to highly of themselves and b) consistently overestimate their availability and c) underestimate the effort required.
    In my professional opinion, the biggest problems are the inability of church leadership to “fire” the wrong person or at very least to reassign them; And, the lack of savvy project managers who understand web.
    Excellent post, thanks.

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  • Mark Flory
    March 24, 2008

    Well I am not sure I qualify as a volunteer so much as the volunteered.
    My church is fairly small and the budget is even smaller so we have to rely on volunteers. But I think your large point makes sense. Relying on professionals who have a monetary motivation to achieve something usually works better than people that will get to it when they can.

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  • Ben Birdsong
    March 28, 2008

    I think that the reason most churches and organizations rely so strongly on volunteers is the fact that they are free. Churches and ministries has a hard time justifying in their minds the expense of money on marketing projects such as a website. This leads them to being willing to let their website design suffer in order to save some money.

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  • Don Ibbitson
    February 5, 2011

    Maybe you’ve discussed this elsewhere but I would be curious to know of counseling ministries using internet successfully. We utilize Skype and Yugma (desktop sharing) and it allows us to minister to people all over the world. My sense is that most ministries and churches are a fair bit behind the curve in the social networking/internet technology area.

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