Heal Your Church WebSite

Teaching, rebuking, correcting & training in righteous web design.

Have you ever asked yourself: WWMuD?

The scene opens with two guys eating lunch at a Louis’s at Pawley‘s after spending an enjoyable early morning motorcycling about the bucolic Brookgreen Gardens of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. After some some small talk about whether or not the lump crab meat is as good as that found on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, the conversation turns to business where a heavy-set gentleman named Sol addresses a somewhat older and leaner biker named Bob:

S – Say Bob, I overheard you saying to someone that you increased your church membership by 500 people over the last two years? How did you do it? A massive ad campaign? Door-to-door evangelism? Offer free lunch to the first 500 visitors?

B – Nope, none of the above [in a disinterested tone].

S – [even more emphatic, leaning over the table almost knocking over Bob's drink] A sermon series? The latest LifeWay multi-medi extravaganza? A personal endorsement by Rick Warren?

B – NO! [now growling as a dog disturbed while devouring a dish of Alpo©].

S – Book burnings? Public exorcisms and excommunications? WHAT? [spitting particles of crab meat all over himself and Bob].

B – For Pete’s sake, if I tell you, will you quit ‘Spraying it instead of Saying it?!’ [forcibly stiking the front of his shirt with his napkin]

S – Yes … of course … I’m sorry … look … I’ll pick up the check it’s worth that much to m—[interrupted]

B – one word, “community” … [spelling it out in response to Sol's look of confusion] c-o-m-m-u-n-i-t-y … community, get it?

S – Yes, er, no, uh, huh?

B – [After ordering some Lobster on Sol's tab, Bob pulss out his brand-new Dell Axim™ X30, Bob quickly pulls up an online article he saved entitled "E-mail Marketing is Dead, Focus on Building Communities" and begins to read:]

“(PRWEB) July 24, 2004 –Internet Marketing Expert Chris Tinney says that online marketers need to forget about e-mail marketing and move as fast as possible to building communities. Tinney is the CEO of Business Management Services, a large Internet company that has quietly built the infrastructure for several online communities, some of which already claim more than a half a million users …”


While entirely contrived, the above script brings to light an Internet industry move to increase revenues by having their existing customers pitch their products for them. In other words, by getting together under the auspice of a motorcycle weekend, the Reverend Bob is able to tell Rabbi Sol about a method he’s found effective for enlarging his church. While the Internet thinks it has found something new under the sun, we here in the church community know this tried-and-true word-of-mouth mechanism as evangelism and/or discipleship,

Which raises the ‘burninating’ question, how did Bob employ new-fangled wizardry to an old-school solution? Simple, he sat down one day and asked himself “What Would MeetUp Do?

For those of you unaware of various trends in online communities, MeetUp.com has made a killing brining lives of similar interest together. All you need to do is register, then find local meetings of like-minded people, sign-up and bammo, next thing you know you’re at a Caribou Coffee© playing chess with a guy named Fabio … or cycling about the verdant vistas at Huntington Beach State Park after some steamed shrimp at Louis’s.

I’m bringing this up because recently, our church had a community outreach in the form of a Sports Camp for Kids. The question is, how can we translate, or should I say transmute the parents of the participants into a vibrant virtual community … who eventually get tired of chats, emails and forums and show up at your church door for the Wednesday night dinner to spit food on the smiling faces of their friends?

I’d be interested in what you have to say. I personally am looking at various software solutions, but I’d be most curious if any of you out there have already made this leap; successful or otherwise. The point here is to learn from each others good and not-so-good experiences.


  1. Not sure I understand the question. Is it how to move those folks into online community, or how to move an existing online community to face to face?

    Or all of the above?

  2. -Getting people into online communities — there has to be a reason to go online. I think the RP forums are appealing to a mostly “stay at home mom” crowd because they can connect during that little bit of free time they get during the day. Chat was a failure – because that little bit of free time happens at odd hours for everyone.

    I’m in other online communities that are succesful because they bridge geographical barriers – there just aren’t that many people in my town into old Jeeps for example, so I go online to connect with others afflicted by the bug. Extrapolate that to every hobby….

    The second part – moving from online to face to face – will happen naturally in a strong online community. I’ve seen it on every mailing list or discussion forum I’ve been part of. As people get to know each other online they will naturally tend to want to meet face to face. There’s even research in the video conferencing industry that said putting in high-tech connected conference rooms actually increased travel cost – because as people worked with each other in that mode they naturally tended to want to meet face to face.

    Personally I’ve taken a small number of trips to go meet the other Jeep guys that I’ve gotten to know from the Internet – and it’s always fun to meet the people behind the words, and have your assumptions all proven wrong…;)

    Online community is somewhat of a mystery to me – it’s like gardening. We can create a favorable environment – the right soil, the right fertilizer, the right plants for the region, the right water…but ultimately it takes a divine spark to get something to grow, and that growth is never gauranteed.

  3. Buildabettermousetrap.com

    You can bring a horse to water…I agree with boyink

    Flyfishing is my online community of choice, but it is a regional one. The website has communities for 5 states, but only one of them has really taken off. No one knows why.

    My gut feeling is that it takes a specialized interest (hobby/passion) to bring people in, and a core group of VERY helpful, VERY friendly, self policing, tech savy, hobby/passion experts to keep them coming back and start joining in.

    (Or one informed charismatic personality, with people commenting on that person’s “Thought of the Day”, but then that is more of a blog) :0

    That is assuming you can get a way to have people find a site at all, but it would seem to be obvious to get this word of mouth growth started from a church membership base in our case.

    I’ve proposed this type of community for our church, but alas the leadership needs to support this kind of effort as well or it’s doomed to failure. Your scenario has the support it needs to provide it with the resources to grow when the “divine spark” hits the tinder.

    There needs to be a champion(s) in-house willing to nuture the community into a flame and keep the home fires burning. It’s easy to envision a thriving online special interest community, but just like with any relationship-building, it requires a commitment and sustained effort to succeed.

    In your case the passion is the children. Many if not most parents I know devote themselves to their children, that’s why they signed them up for camp. The community you try to build needs to reach that passion in the parents. Try reaching soccer, ballet, football, baseball, and see who responds, then grow that group. just an idea, but reach the passion of helping the kids.

    On the other side online communities are a great way to help “lurkers” who need to feel they are not the only one with this problem. I think the “Celebrating Recovery” theme – http://www.celebraterecovery.com – is a great way to address the problems people face if you have a core group willing to discuss it online, letting people join and “sit in the back row” until they feel comfortable with joining in.

    Again, find a passion, and a committed group of people passionate about it.

  4. This is an area where God is really working on me. I am the pastor of a new church, but I think we need to create even safer communities online as a bridge place for those who are not yet ready to go to a church. I have two tech-savy people in my core group who might do this, but I would REALLY love some more feedback on this and perhaps some impassioned ideas of the best way to do it.

    I don’t mind at all spending a lot to advertise it. If this is our primary way of creating community, at least community sparks, then we should go for it. I just want to go well. Please offer any insight on how to “go well” in a localized community. What are the applications you would use? Would it be an open chat room with icons for each person? How could we facilitate this without starting from square one? Thanks so much. (Raleigh, NC)

  5. A message board or forum as a community builder is a great way to build traffic to a website. It keeps visitor coming back again and again.

    My website offers free Christian movies, so I frequent three forums about filmmaking. I must admit they become adicting. You return to the forum again and again to read people’s replies to your posts.

    I’ve also implemented community on my website in another way. The Swing the Sickle website (my website that features free Christian media) is maintained by three webmasters and the content is maintained by several more people who all live in different places. We use a private message board (accessible by typing the address directly into the address bar) to communicate with each other. It has proved to be very effective.

  6. Braincrumbs…

    >> You return to the forum again and again to read people’s replies to your posts.

    Offering an optional e-mail/sms/etc. notification of reply with a link to the forum is a good idea… methinks.


    >> thriving online special interest community

    Flyfishing Religion. Wonder which one would be harder to moderate? [g]

    Speaking of moderation [g], any thoughts/experiences on keeping the discussion healthy? (You can throw rotten tomatoes from the backrow, too.)

    Clearly visible and “I AGREE’ Acceptable Use policy?

    Focused special interests?


    Chat vs. forum posts: Chat requires schedule syncing, forum posts allow individual schedules.

    Take care,

    -Frank Ramage


    Yikes… got submission error after Preview:Post

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    The ‘@’ and ‘.’ in my e-mail address in text box may have been converted on Preview. Got this at bottom of page:

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