Yesterday I listened to a webinar put on by Drew Goodmanson and Cynthia Ware on the State of the Church Online. You can read an excellent review of the research findings that they presented over here and the slides from the presentation are here.
These guys are doing a really good work. I personally believe that this research and the motivation behind it is edifying, reverent and inspired. God’s timing is perfect. Churches are undoubtedly trying to make some sense of all this social networking, private community tools and online technology. And they have nothing to guide them.
Kevin does an excellent job of pulling out the conclusions that have been reached. He points out:
One thing that stands out to me when I look at those key findings is the overwhelming awareness in the church market of Facebook yet very little brand awareness of comparable tools designed specifically for churches. You might chalk this disconnect up to ineffective marketing strategies but I believe it points to a more crucial issue which is: churches aren’t approaching social media strategically.
Kevin goes onto to point out that:
Churches dive headlong into social media (primarily on Facebook and more and more on Twitter), investing their time and their churches reputation without a solid sense of how exactly their efforts are going to redeem lives and bring glory to God.
Let’s also take into consideration the top 5 requested features/functionality sought in church/Christian social networks:
- Ability to find, register and/or get details for events.
- Ability to post prayer requests or needs.
- Ability to find serving opportunities at the church based on interest of gifts
- Ability to join and interact with home/bible study groups.
- Integration with existing church website.
Here’s my conclusion so far: The respondents are NOT looking for another social networking tool!
In fact, there are so many instances where churches are looking to use social networking for communications, logistics, planning, etc. when that’s not at all what social networking is intended for. It’s intended to “network”. Facebook is definitely not the best way to connect your members and groups. When you’re in a church and are involved in various ministries and groups you don’t need to network with these folks, you need take care of the business of being a member. You need to plan, share a calendar, get reminders, have discussions and generally be accessible to each other. Technology and the internet is perfect for that! It’s not about social networking. It’s about giving the groups in your church and other organizations a place for them to connect, share information, share ideas, plan, and again, be accessible to each other. This takes the burden off the administrators of the organization, by empowering the groups to connect and get things done on their own accord! What they want is a private, groups communication tool.
The Phase 2 of this research and its findings will be a very powerful step forward in helping churhes sort through the options of online private community and group communications tools (of which MemberHub is one, of course). We are looking forward to that research that will be available in the fall.