Thinking Out Loud

August 21, 2016

Most Popular Church Website Tag Line

new-website-small

Years ago my wife and I noticed that the phrase, “A Different Kind of Church” was becoming so ubiquitous to the point of being meaningless. It was a decade of great ecclesiastic shuffling, books were being written at a furious pace, and church planting was the de rigeur activity for any younger pastors or leaders who wanted to keep up with the times.

Even today, the phrase will produce about 114,000 results on Google; change the word Kind to Type and you get 42,000 more. The fastest growing church network in Canada, The Meeting House boasts it is a “church for people who aren’t into church,” which will get you almost 1,500 more results.

But these days, it seems like, where I live anyway, the most popular tag line for church websites is something like,

Website Under Construction

Admittedly one was hacked, but one church signed up with a new provider only to find themselves being down for over a year. It’s up and running as of a few weeks ago.

This week we’re visiting a church that is in-between websites, and it’s frustrating not having the advance information as to what to expect, or if the regular pastor will be speaking. At least we were able to verify the service time, and get the location from Google Maps. You are referred to a Facebook page, but it seems to be more about reflecting back to the previous weekend than looking forward to the one to come.

Someone has said that in the 21st Century, if you’re not online you don’t exist. It’s true. I’m betting that internet searches now exceed word-of-mouth as the top reason people visit a church. And don’t even mention those adverts in the weekend newspaper. Waste of money.

I recently tried to contact a pastor whose church is about 45 minutes east of me, only to discover they never had a website. Not even a static, single page. That’s a major blunder as I see it.

Service industries and other commercial ventures couldn’t tolerate being down for more than a few hours. An IT guy would be called in to fix the glitch and get the thing going. So why do churches let it slide for so long before the sites become operative again?

I think a greater level of urgency and prioritizing is needed when the site goes down. Your church can’t afford to be without it.


A year ago we linked you to this related article by Derek Ouellette

If you’re not already aware of it (and don’t mind the title) check out Church Marketing Sucks

October 1, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Gospel Van

Photo: Drew Dyck

A fresh crop of October links! Mind you, they’re all dated September. But they’re new to you.

Yes! The links are still also at Parse, the blog of Leadership Journal, a division of Christianity Today. Click here to read there!

For our closing graphic we return to TwentyOneHundred Productions’ Facebook page, the gift that keeps on giving. 2100 is the media division of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.  (We poached another one from them for tomorrow…I feel like I should make a donation to my local IVCF chapter…) Click the image to link, or follow them at this page.

Books of the Bible

July 17, 2014

The Moral Quandry of Website Re-Design

Filed under: bible — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:11 am

computerIf you have any technical skills at all, there are boatloads of money to be made in convincing website owners, including a great many Christian organizations, that their website needs to be upgraded.  Sometimes this is true. Most of the time it is simply not the case that the thing needs a fresh coat of paint.

In many cases, websites are under-performing because they are simply not maintained. In other cases, designers have supplied the organization in question with a great template but no little about the mission of the company or ministry to be able to supply content. In yet other cases, consultants are using minor technical glitches to justify a total refit.

Unfortunately, in other cases, the only argument that can be made for change is that people simply want a website that looks current, or want change because every other organization they deal with has upgraded their site this year.

In the case of what is probably one of the most widely used sites among Christians, BibleGateway.com, the changes necessitate relearning a website that was comfortable and familiar.  Things that were at the top are now at the bottom. The “resources” page now consists of a number of links to product that is being sold, not coincidentally, by the site’s new owners, HarperCollins Christian Publishing.

Probably knowing the need to hedge their bets, the site has the option of reverting to the “old” Bible Gateway.

I guess the thing that bothers me most is that designers get paid big bucks to ply their HTML trade, while writers, content-producers and not-so-technically-gifted creatives work for peanuts. This happened to us literally. After not getting much direction from the author and then not hearing anything for several months, a bag of peanuts showed up in the mail. Seriously.

Christian organizations need to save their money and not be obsessed with having the best-looking site in town when website users may not even appreciate the changes. And designers need to stop bleeding organizations of the tithes and offerings they have collected from sincere donors.

Now then. Having said all that, I do have some friends who are website designers, and there are some sites out there that are hopelessly out of date. This wasn’t directed at them, but rather at the industry that revolves around change purely for the sake of change.

And yes. This blog has had the same theme since it started. I’ve looked at alternatives but there have been reasons I’ve stuck with the familiar red border and the thin serif-font lettering, also in red. Oh wait, that’s TIME Magazine. I’ll change when they do.

 

February 26, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Chocolate Pope - NBC News Photo

The link list knows no borders, so you won’t find any gloating about Canada’s Olympic hockey wins here. Click anything below and you’ll be redirected to PARSE, the blog of Leadership Journal, a ministry of Christianity Today; then click each link there.

If you’re not busy this week snapping up Son of God movie tickets, you can check out Paul Wilkinson’s other writing at Thinking Out Loud.

"Jonah Leaving the Whale" by Jan Brueghel the Elder, 1600

“Jonah Leaving the Whale” by Jan Brueghel the Elder, 1600

June 12, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Texting While Driving - Reverend Fun

Copyright © 2011 The Zondervan Corporation

Wednesday List Lynx -- two, actually

Wednesday List Lynx — two, actually

Time for another round of Christian blog and news links for the whole family. In the past we would often begin and end here with cartoons, but the whole question of fair use gets muddy sometimes, especially when humor meets illustration. I’ve studied the permissions statements of some of these and can’t reconcile what I read with what seems to be ubiquitous online. So we decided to run one, since it’s been awhile. Click the image to visit Reverend Run’s site.

I Once Was Lost Golf Ball Don’t forget to get your link suggestions in by 6:00 PM, Mondays, EST; and as always, for breaking links, you can follow me on Twitter. Look for @PaulW1lk1nson (change the letter i to a number 1).

June 9, 2012

Weekend Link List

Breaking News!

Two major staff transitions at very influential churches to report today:

  • Shane Hipps,  who only recently succeeded Rob Bell as teaching pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids will step down as soon as the church finds a permanent replacement. “I knew instantly my internal shape did not fit the role they created.  But I had to ask the question, is this something God wanted me to change about myself?  Or was I simply not tall enough for this ride?  That is a question easier posed than answered.” 
  • Tony Jones’ response: “While I can understand the Elders’ decision to move in a more conventional direction — with a pastor who does the majority of the preaching — it seems odd that this person will report to the executive director of the church. It makes you wonder: What gifted preacher would come to Mars Hill without also being able to lead the staff?”

And now on to the rest of today’s links.

  • Church break-ins are nothing new, but sixteen in one county of one state just days apart?
  • After years of being told why men hate going to church, we learn that boys hate going to Sunday School.
  • The tour bus of Sanctus Real was involved in a fire early Wednesday morning, destroying the entire bus and resulting in the band losing all of their personal belongings. 
  • Prince Charles dropped by Toronto’s Yonge Street Mission on his recent Canadian tour to hear how charities and businesses are working together to create employment opportunities for young people. (Personal note: The YSM coffee house was the first place I performed as a Christian music artist.)
  • Author and televangelist Creflo Dollar was arrested early Friday on charges involving the choking of his 15-year-old daughter. He was taken into custody at his home and charged with simple battery and cruelty to children.
  • In the last 12 months, over 17 million American adults who don’t regularly attend worship services visited the website of a local church or place of worship according to a recent study.
  • Popular teen’s and women’s author Dannah Gresh on why she’s passing on the opportunity to read Fifty Shades of Gray.
  • A military chaplains’ organization is speaking out against a lesbian ceremony held at a U.S. Army chapel in Louisiana. “While the ceremony was not a marriage, it is clear that this was in fact a marriage-like ceremony…”
  • New York City Pastor and author Tim Keller offers fellow-pastors a behind the scenes look at the ministry philosophy behind Redeemer Presbyterian.
  • Veteran Christian blogger Bill Kinnon joins a disturbing number of people who “no longer” believe in the inerrancy of scripture.
  • Your friends in youth ministry might want to know about this four-week, interactive discipleship program for new Christians.

Devotions Department: After a week at what our British friends would call “the seaside”  Stephen and Brooksyne Weber offer devotional thoughts on some older hymns inspired by the ocean.

March 3, 2012

Webcasts and Streaming and Sermons, On Line!

Normally, I don’t let my blog readers get a peek at my emails, but in preparing this for a friend this week, I thought it would be a good time to share this with everybody.  There’s never been a time in history when so much Christian teaching is available to so many people around the world.  So skip the funny videos today and take in an extra church service.  (If the listings are hard to read hit Ctrl +)

P.S. These are all fairly large churches, because they have the budget to do the video thing with technical excellence.  But little churches can have great sermons online, too.  Feel free to use the comments section to recommend things to others.


Andy Stanley

Considered one of the finest communicators in North America. Live feed from North Point Community Church in north Atlanta on Sunday at 9 and 11 AM, 2 PM, 6PM and 10PM includes worship and baptisms.

http://northpointonline.tv/ — streaming live at times as noted above
http://www.northpoint.org/messages — video server of recent series

Steven Furtick

Another young communicator whose church has really taken off in Charlotte, NC in the past five years. The reference to Sundays at 12:00, 4:00 and 8:00, refers to streaming Sunday services, because Elevation Network goes 24/7. Author of Sun Stand Still.

http://elevationnetwork.com/

Bruxy Cavey

Our first of three Canadian entries. The long-haired rock ‘n roll preacher of The Meeting House in Oakville has messages going back to 2000, though some are just audio. The media player is a small on-screen window and takes longer to buffer. Great teaching, though; you want to start at part one of a series that interests you, such as the recent 5-part series Jesus by John. Fastest growing church movement in all of Canada.

http://www.themeetinghouse.ca/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=121&Itemid=3 

Charles Price

Our second Canadian entry. The British-born pastor of The Peoples Church in Toronto is an excellent Bible teacher, as seen on CTV on Sunday mornings. Deep thoughts, straight-forward teaching, but not afraid to be controversial.

http://www.livingtruthmedia.com/index2.php — most recent sermon; previous messages available on audio

Jon Thompson

Now we’re three-for-three for Canada.  The very focused pastor of C4, a large church in Toronto’s eastern suburbs; site uses video player.

http://www.c4church.com/media.php?pageID=5

Kyle Idleman

The host of the H20 video series and author of Not a Fan. Teaching pastor at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. Very straight-forward, easy to follow teaching. Video server available anytime.

http://www.southeastchristian.org/default.aspx?page=4140 (Indiana campus, different series)
http://www.southeastchristian.org/default.aspx?page=3476&project=123478&program=553660   (main campus)

Bill Hybels

The guy whose ‘seeker sensitive’ and contemporary services changed the way we approach church today. Bill doesn’t preach every Sunday anymore, but all their teachers are really high standard. This is a video server, with lots to choose from. “Weekend Services” are more like what Andy does, “Midweek Services” go a bit deeper.

http://media.willowcreek.org/

Greg Boyd

A Princeton theological education combined with large doses of Pentecostalism produced an always interesting and sometimes controversial pastor at Woodland Hills Church in Minneapolis.

http://whchurch.org/sermons-media/sermon-series

Pete Wilson

The super-casual Nashville pastor preaches several times at his area campuses but then on Sunday night does this thing in a downtown Music City club called Rocketown where he repeats his sermon from the morning, but then takes live chat questions after. Author of Plan B, and blogger at Without Wax.

http://campus.316networks.com/crosspoint.tv  —  Sunday night at 6:00 Central, 7:00 Eastern; but often starts a bit late
http://www.crosspoint.tv/nashville/media/ — past sermon series; video player

Craig Groeshel

Pastor of the church in the U.S. with the most satellite locations, in fact the name of the church is the name of the website, lifechurch.tv — the part of the site linked below uses a video server so you can start anytime. This links to the current series and then you select week one to start.

http://www.lifechurch.tv/watch/samson-2012/1

Rick Warren

Pastor of the 2nd largest church in the U.S. and author of Purpose Driven Church, this church streams its teaching at least ten times every single day!

http://saddleback.com/internetcampus/aboutus/servicetimes/index.html  —   schedule, then you go to the media player.

http://saddleback.com/mediacenter/home/default.aspx — media player

David Platt

Pastor of the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama. Author of Radical and originator of Secret Church (which sadly, you can’t see online, but you possibly wouldn’t want to, because each sermon is six hours long.) Video server available anytime. Very laid-back, soft-spoken teaching from a Reformed perspective.

http://www.brookhills.org/media

August 8, 2011

Counting the Online Cost

When it comes to the local church, I may critique things from time to time, but I want you to know that I’m a huge cheerleader for what can be accomplished through local assemblies and congregations.  But the fact remains: There are some things we are not doing well. When Jesus talked about “counting the cost” in Luke…

14:28(NIV) “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?

…the context seems to be financial costs and physical buildings.  (The larger context is about measuring the cost of being His disciple before jumping in.)  But today we don’t expend energy so much on capital projects and physical construction as we do on virtual construction. For local churches, the online world is a vast landscape with huge potential.

But which of you — as Jesus might say it — when starting a church blog, a church Facebook page, or a church website, sits down and counts the cost and realize that you’ve got to maintain the thing?  Why are so many church blogs, Facebook pages and websites abandoned before much time has passed?  Why is it so easy to start something, but so hard to do the relatively boring work of maintaining something?

At the right hand sidebar to this blog is a blogroll and website index that was a rather massive project.  But once it was done, the real work began.  I check those listings on a fairly regular basis; sites are dropped, blogs are added and sometimes the description you see when you hover your mouse over the link has to be rewritten because the writer’s focus has change or the description has become outdated.  It’s a chore.  It’s a pain.  But I decided going in that it was going to take some effort, but it would be worth doing well.   I encourage you to check out some of the links there.  And let me know if any of the links don’t work.

Another lifetime ago, I dabbled in what was then called electronic music.  Synthesizers and the like.  There was a rule in electronic music that I’ve learned applies to so many other things in life:

Every parameter you can control, you must control.

As a Christ-follower, I believe our commitment to excellence means that our “face” on the internet is well maintained and updated.  And that means calling your church if they’re doing a poor job of it.  (You may find you just volunteered for something, though; so be careful!)  I believe that if Jesus were restating what we know as Luke 14:28 today, he might well have used a website or a Facebook page as an example of dedication. 

At least it’s an analogy people would understand. 

…So, while we’re at this, how is your Christian life going? Is it well-tuned and humming along, or is it like a webpage or a blog that someone started and then abandoned?  Monday is a great day for rededication.

October 7, 2009

Church Mice

Filed under: cartoons — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:16 pm

Church Mice by Karl Zorowski was, I think, one of the first cartoons we used here at Thinking Out Loud.    Click anywhere on the cartoon if you want to bookmark the site.

church mice

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