Saturday, June 29, 2013

Things Churches Could do Without

What if a church eliminated all of its centralized communication functions, beyond its webpage? No newsletters, paper or electronic, no advertisements.

The congregation relied entirely on members' social media and live word of mouth to spread the word about activities, events and ideas.  They would need a webpage to refer people to, but the responsibility for the presence of the church in the community would lie with the congregation.  Internal communication integrated with external communication.  Every person "U-vangelizing" in their personal network.


7 comments:

Steve Cook said...

Well, first of all, enormous resistance from the folks who, in the name of community, want the church to continue as "Communication Central" for their group of friends and cohorts. These are the same people that resist giving up weekly spoken announcements and "J and C" because, "How else will we know?" A large percentage of these folks are older, wouldn't know a Facebook page from Patti Page, and aren't interested in learning. There will a lot of loud complaints from this group (usually well entrenched and often well-moneyed)while those who want a change (younger, busy with kids, perhaps) seem to keep quiet. The leader of this charge (if a minister) will face never-ending resistance. (Can you tell I've been there?)

UUpdater said...

There are other benefits as well. One typical task for a church is to compile a newsletter. But more and more information is moving to micro formats (text, Twitter, Facebook) and so why compile? Make sure the events, info etc has an RSS feed and people can subscribe for updates via email if they want. The building of newsletters seems dated and detrimental. Why should someone have to worry about their item being buried as the sixth item? Switch to micro.

Frustrated UU Office Administrator said...

The problem is most people do not take personal responsibility to stay informed. I hear a constant refrain of "I didn't know about it" despite events appearing on not only the website, but in the email newsletter, the order of service, and on Facebook and Twitter as well. "Oh, but I don't use *insert email/form of social media" here is also common.

Steve Cook said...

Complete agreement with "Frustrated." It's really laziness, isn't it? Much easier to ask the minister (at 10:27 on Sunday) to make a verbal announcement because you couldn't get the e-mail to the administrator on Thursday or Friday for inclusion in the order of worship. The same people (or their spiritual descendants) who, in 1954, didn't read the bi-weekly, printed newsletter mailed to their homes will be the same people who don't read the e-mail blast/website/Facebook page/Twitterfeed/order of worship and then complain that they weren't informed. It was ever thus.

Yet Tom's question remains: what can we do without? I will list J and C in worship, verbal announcements (except for a very few) and print newsletters (except for the elderly.) Of course, there will need to be some way or ways to replace the function of those using modern tools and the like.

Tom Schade said...

Steve and Frustrated: We have to turn that lack of responsibility around. Make it their responsibility to not only be informed but to inform others.

People organize flash mobs with social media. We have all followed news events from around the world with social media. It can't be that communities of less than a 1000 people, (in many cases less than 100) people can't keep each other informed about a church they all belong to through social media. IF THEY WANT TO KNOW. If they don't want to know, then it doesn't much matter what form of communication they choose to ignore.

Martin said...

While I have a (slow) Internet connection and no church nearby, other people have a church to go to but no Internet connection. Granted, UUs tend to be middle class and middle class people tend to have Internet, cell phones, etc. However, lower class people often don't, and eliminating their ability to know what's going on at all might keep them away from UU entirely.

Tom Schade said...

Smart phone penetration is about 61% -- 75% in the 18-24 range down to 42% in the over 55 set (and that doubled in the last year.) There are additional folks who have computers at home, but not smartphones.

The issue of communication inside a church congregation, though, is not a technical issue. People have testified here that people who don't want to know will ignore even in-person announcements, paper newsletters, billboards, and skywriting. And they will blame the church when they get find themselves not knowing something that they should have known.

Part of our church covenant SHOULD be taking an active role in keeping informed and keeping other people informed about congregational activities. It's the passivity about communication that must be challenged -- that it is the work of the church office, or some other volunteer somewhere else.

Congregations are networks. Networks pass around information -- that's what makes them a network. Otherwise, they are just a mailing list.