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.