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Arquivo da tag: church 2.0

Top 33 Church Logos

A good logo design is…

Distinctive. Memorable. And timeless.
It is aesthetically pleasing.

It is scalable, looking good while as large as a billboard or as small as a dime. It looks good in color as well as black and white. And it is simple enough that it can be applied to a media spectrum as broad as paper to plastic and t-shirts to websites.

Most importantly, a good logo communicates the unique qualities of its brand. A great church logo in and of itself does not create great church branding. But it does give a church the foundation needed to build a solid brand.

Below are the top 33 church logos in alphabetical order. They are chosen for the reasons listed above as well as by my subjective opinion. Keep in mind, I am judging only the logo by itself and not the supporting church branding.

I’ll be keeping the list updated as I come across other church logos worth sharing in the future. For now, enjoy the eye candy.

TOP 33 CHURCH LOGOS

Access Church
Lakeland, FL

Bethel Temple
Hampton, VA

Bethel Temple Logo

Bethlehem Baptist Church
Minneapolis, MN

Bethlehem Baptist Church Logo

Christ Church
Fort Lauderdale, FL

Christ Church Hawthorn
Hawthorne, Victoria, Australia

Church on the Move
Tulsa, OK

Church on the Move Logo

Edgepoint Church
Knoxville, TN

Elim International Church
Wellington, New Zealand

Far Hills Community Church
Dayton, OH

Far Hills Community Church Logo

Four Corners Community Church
West Chester, OH

Four Corners Community Church

Granger Community Church
Granger, IN

Granger Community Church Logo

Harpeth Community Church
Franklin, TN

Harvest Church
Mobile, AL

Harvest Church Logo

Houston NW Church
Houston, TX

Houston NW Church Logo

Imago Dei Community
Portland, OR

Imago Dei Community Logo

Kaleo Church
Houston, TX

Kaleo Church Logo

Knoxville Life Church
Knoxville, TN

Knoxville Life Church Logo

Lake Hills Church
Austin, TX

Lakewood Church
Houston, TX

Lakewood Church Logo

Landmark Church
Jackson, TN

Landmark Church Logo

Mariners Church
Irvine, CA

Mariners Church Logo

Mountain Lake Church
Cumming, GA

Mountain Lake Church Logo

Northgate Free Methodist Church
Batavia, NY

Northstar Church
Frisco, TX

Northstar Church Logo

Oak Hill Church
Griffin, GA

One*
Spokane, WA

Stonebriar Community Church
Frisco, TX

Stonebriar Community Church Logo

Times Square Church
New York, NY

Valley Community Baptist Church
Avon, CT

Valley Community Baptist Church Logo

Walls Down Church
Cincinnati, OH

West Coast Life Church
Murietta, CA

West Coast Life Church Logo

Word of Grace Community Church
Sheboygan Falls, WI

Word of Grace Community Church Logo

World Overcomers Christian Church
Durham, NC

Design by Bombay Creative.

Source: CHURCH RELEVANCE

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Publicado por em 27/08/2009 em POIMENIA

 

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Top 90 Church Websites

Below you will find Church Relevance’s favorite church websites. Chosen for design, usability, and innovative ideas, we hope that these websites will also inspire you.

Alphabetical Order

Design by Bombay Creative.

Source: CHURCH RELEVANCE

 
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Publicado por em 27/08/2009 em POIMENIA

 

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Why VideoTeaching.com is the Next Big Church Model

VideoTeaching.com

Yesterday LifeChurch.tv’s Digerati team officially launched VideoTeaching.com. Consequently, the world may never be the same.

Much like the One Prayer initiative, VideoTeaching.com allows churches to hear guest speakers via free sermon video downloads. The idea behind it is that churches can have a free resource to expand their teaching team, give the pastor occasional breaks, share the load with church planters and bi-vocational pastors, and even serve as an interim “pastor” during a leadership transition.

VIDEO TEACHING AS A CHURCH MODEL
But reality is the scope of how VideoTeaching.com can be used is far deeper and versatile. In fact, a church could use video sermons all the time. Many churches have likely not been planted because the church planter believes he is not eloquent enough, theologically deep enough, or seminary certified to preach. However, when free video sermons from some of the world’s best preachers are available, obviously this excuse is gone.

4 Possible Video Teaching Church Models

  1. Central Organization
    Similar to a multi-site church, this model has central leadership that oversees all locations and determines video teaching content that is the same for all campuses. Locations could either be planted by the central organization like most multi-site church campuses or passionate followers could start a location similar to LifeChurch.tv’s Church Online watch parties.
  2. Central Admin
    Similar to a denomination, this model has central leadership that oversees all locations administratively, but a campus pastor or elders determine the Video Sermon content for each location based on what that congregation’s spiritual needs are. For example, a New England location may struggle with greed while a location in Oklahoma may struggle with gluttony. While all sermon topics are important, this model allows for each campus to focus on what is most important to their spiritual walk.
  3. Central Distributor
    Similar to a standard church, this model has a central distributor of sermon content such as VideoTeaching.com, but each church is independent, self-governing, and determines its own video teaching content.
  4. Extra Church
    Similar to Sunday school and small groups, this model uses video teaching as extra doses of “church” in addition to weekend church services.

WHY CONSIDER VIDEO TEACHING?
Church conferences, authors, and blogs have been rallying for years for the Church to be like the early Church. We talk about organic explosive church growth that produces authentic disciples, but then we do little to change our methods. If we hardly change how we do church, then we can hardly expect to revolutionize the results we get.

So why don’t we change how we do church? I think it is because we are scared. We are scared of failing, and we are scared of doing something theologically wrong. Christians are notorious for boycotting anything new, including church organs and church choirs when they were first introduced. This is not to say that we should all jump on the Video Teaching band wagon like a bunch of lemmings. But I think we should ask questions.

Thinking rationally and theologically, why or why shouldn’t churches pursue the Video Teaching model of church?

I will be addressing some questions about video teaching in the weeks to come, including:

  • What size should a video teaching church be?
  • How can video teaching churches be kept spiritually accountable?
  • How does the video medium affect the message?
  • What about the development of future preachers?
  • What are the advantages of video teaching versus one or a few preachers?
  • What about video teaching children’s ministry?
  • Will video teaching create more celebrity pastors?
  • What does a multi-site video teaching house gigachurch look like?

Source: CHURCH RELEVANCE

 
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Publicado por em 27/08/2009 em POIMENIA

 

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The Near Future of the Bible

Aaron Linne

Martin Luther’s translation of the New Testament into a dialect of German was first printed in 1522. In Printing, Propaganda, and Martin Luther, historian Mark Edwards places the estimated literacy of Germany at that time at 5%. By translating the Bible and Luther’s works surrounding the Reformation, Luther not only changed the spiritual history of Germany but also led the way for his chosen dialect to become the standard German language. Luther knew the power of not only the Word of God, but of the written word made available to the masses:

We should preach the Word, but the results must be left solely to God’s good pleasure … I opposed indulgences and all the papists, but never with force. I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept, or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends Philip and Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did everything.

Martin Luther, “Sermon on Monday after Invocavit” (Luther’s Works 51:77)

Through the power of the Word and the written word, Luther changed the world by helping to spread the gospel in written form for public consumption. Words are at the center of the short history of the world since the invention of the printing press. The bestselling book in that time is the combined versions, translations, and editions of the Bible. But even as the published word continues to grow—approaching 300,000 books a year—the medium of text has entered the Digital Age joined by video and audio, forming the new language of the world: digital communication.

Leonard Sweet, a Christian futurist and prolific author, suggests that we as a society are shifting from a print, Gutenberg Printer-centric culture to an interactive, Google-centric culture. “The Bible must resonate with Googlers,” Sweet told me, “but publishers are still in the print business instead of the Scripture business. It is the churches, individuals, and small organizations that are bringing the Bible into the digital age. The most anti-social invention was the book, which helped created the very idea of an ‘I’—a power which Luther used to state his own opinions. A Google world is connectional—it leaves you ravenous for relationships.”

According to a recent report by The Jordin, Edmiston Group, 88% of the revenue growth for publishing and advertising companies in the next few years will come from the digital medium. Though the Bible has had a grand run as a published-on-paper manuscript, we as Christians must consider the future of communication to help the Bible flourish in the new media available now and in the coming age, and help build the spiritual connections and relationships for which our culture is ravenous. According to Thinking About the Future by Andy Hines and Peter Bishop, “The purpose of looking to the future is to understand the possibilities ahead in order to make more informed decisions in the present.” It is important for the Bible to not be left behind as simply a sacred scroll for the historians to study, devoid of its supernatural, life-changing inspiration. If education, work, social life, and entertainment are all moving toward the convergence of digital communication, then the manuscript of our faith must not simply follow culture-at-large’s movement. The Bible must be a leader in accessibility, influence, and the power to connect humanity with something beyond itself.

The Present Digital Impact

As stated in Wendell Bell’s Foundations of Future Studies, “The potential for future development and growth exists in the present and, thus, can be investigated.” It is a clear idea that tomorrow is rooted in the seeds of today’s minds and souls. It takes steps, and work, to get from today to tomorrow. In order to discuss the actual future of the Bible, we should look at the current development around delivering the Bible digitally.

Online Bibles

When Internet design, development, and usage began to transition to “Web 2.0″—where web services and web applications were as important as the web sites themselves—one of the first online Bibles to come to prominence was eBible.com. eBible is everything you might expect from an online Bible—it has search functionality, access to your user account from any web browser, and easy connection to other study materials. According to Mark Sears, President and CEO of Godspeed Computing (eBible’s parent company), “eBible.com came out of a vision to make the Bible easier to use, understand, and share the Bible… we wanted to build a search tool that allows people to have confidence they can answer life’s questions by entering simple queries.” Other popular online Bibles include YouVersion.com, bible.logos.com, BibleGateway.com, and bible.org’s NET Bible.

Mobile Bibles

As published-on-paper books are in the beginning stages of being challenged by digital devices that deliver books, the Bible has found itself the benefactor of available digital features. Many translations have been made for new devices, including the Amazon Kindle, Sony eReader, and the iPhone. The Bible is able to take advantage of the digital benefits by creating easy navigation, integrated assets like Strong’s numbers, and connectedness to whatever commentary the publishers wish to include. YouVersion, Mantis, and Olive Tree all have popular Bible applications on the iPhone, and most publishers have released their respective translations to the various e-ink formats available. The Bible on a digital device allows the user to continue caring for and treating the Bible as a handheld book, but also lets them carry various translations and reference works in the palm of their hands instead of filling up a shelf in their personal libraries.

Community Resources

One of the biggest advantages of the online, digital world is the ability to connect two (or more) things through the simplest usage of a hyperlink. With the potential of linking together ideas, media, and other resources, the Information Age has connected the ideas of the masses with the Bible in ways that a Gutenberg world could never have imagined.

One of the first organizations to bring social media and mass commentary to the Bible was WORDsearch. “WORDsearch has been allowing users to share sermons and thoughts on the Scriptures in our Community Library since 2000,” Randy Beck, President of WORDsearch Corp. told me. “We wanted to create a place where pastors and teachers could give and receive valuable thoughts and interpretations of the Scriptures, while gaining the benefits of using the files they download inside a robust Bible software environment. As social media becomes more prevalent, and as pastors and teachers continue to look for stimulating and powerful illustrations and ideas, we are committed to providing the tools that will assist them in spreading the Word and changing lives.”

Software from companies such as WORDsearch and web services such as YouVersion, which allow users to tag individual verses with their own thoughts for public consumption, are paving the way for the Bible to be more than just a readable manuscript, but one that can be complemented by ideas and commentary from the entire world, with input from different cultures, scholars, and Christ followers.

The Near-Future Impact

In the discipline of Futures Studies, a futurist will typically present multiple future scenarios in order to build awareness – and action – around the forthcoming possibilities. Inevitably, disregarding a massive world war or the literal second coming of Christ, the world will continue to move to a more digitally integrated world, with the various mediums becoming further tied in with one another. With that knowledge we can begin building out ideas about the impact that outside influencers will have on the Bible as an actual manuscript existing in the digital age.

For example, Dr. Peter Bishop, associate professor of Futures Studies at the University of Houston, suggests that the decline of importance on actual manuscripts will have lasting effects on the Bible:

“It comes back to the role of the written and printed word in the Digital Age. Texts don’t go away, but they may become less important as images come on more strongly. It might be, as a result, that people know the biblical texts less well than they do today or did in previous generations when that was one of the few books they owned. On the other hand, other representations might become more important, like animations or symbols that are not textual. So text stays around, but now has to share the bandwidth with other forms of communication—symbols, still images, video, music, animations, etc.”

Dr. Bishop suggests that the Bible will be less relevant to culture in the future because of its reliance on text. Simply put, people are reading less. If people are more engaged with media-centric communication, how does a generation engage with a giant block of text, regardless of the spiritual significance given to it? This is already true for many even within the Church, as the Bible is being read less and more emphasis is being placed on great teachers and thinkers. The Bible itself could become a “sacred cow” for which many are unwilling to facilitate its digital consumption and communal collaboration and instead prefer to preserve its existence as a published-on-paper manuscript. Leonard Sweet sees an opposite future, where the Bible becomes “digitally illuminated.”

“Before the Gutenberg press, a monk would spend his whole life working on a book of the Bible—copying, drawing illustrations—making a work of art likely seen only by God,” he told me. “The digitally illuminated Bible,” Sweet hopes, “goes beyond just commentaries, but will connect you with music inspired by the passage you are reading, have ancient art a click away, and let you ask questions and find answers through other people immediately within the context of what you are studying.”

When talking about the future of the Bible, there is always the concern that the Bible itself might change, not just the delivery method of the media, or the connection points surrounding it. Tim Jordan of B&H Publishing Group, producers of the Holman CSB translation, explains that for publishers, the words matter most. “Language changes in a culture; how language is delivered changes. There will be new translations and new paraphrases. But at the end of the day, the future of the Bible has to be about these words. Language changes but the Word doesn’t change.”

We must find ways to engage the life-changing Scriptures in a way that is meaningful to the culture that exists around it—this is the key for any future thinking about the Bible. Just as the Gutenberg press and the printed Bible created a print-based world, the digital revolution has created new opportunities for new relationships not only with each other but with (and between) sacred texts and secular media. The power of the Bible’s words can do great things, so let’s think about the future of delivering those words to people who so desperately need to read, hear, see, and interact with them.

Aaron Linne is a Digital Media Producer for LifeWay Christian Resources. He and his wife are small group leaders at their church, Mosaic Nashville. Aaron writes regularly on his blog at www.aaronlinne.com.

Fonte: COLLIDE MAGAZINE

 
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Publicado por em 17/08/2009 em POIMENIA

 

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Church 2.0: Does a Congregation Know More Than the Pastor?

The Journey sign.jpg
Sunday morning was bright and warm, as we walked toward the auditorium in South San Jose, Calif. Before we reached the door, we were handed a Polaroid camera and told to photograph ourselves and pass on the camera to the next person coming in. We took the photo, and went inside the building, where there was coffee, bagels and donuts.

A man was onstage in the auditorium, wearing a short-sleeved black shirt, shorts and Birkenstock sandals. There was an assortment of wooden picture frames floating above his head, and two large screens on either side of him ran a well designed PowerPoint presentation as he spoke.

Was it a high technology conference or demo? A spirited sales pitch or self-help workshop? No, this is The Journey, a nouveau reformed church that uses technology and rock music to help attract younger folks to the teachings of Jesus. And they are pushing the concept further, hoping to add Web 2.0 elements to allow parishioners to participate and help set the agenda of the church going forward.

I visited the church with my friend — and fellow Jew — Heather Gold, so we could see how a church in Silicon Valley might use technology to its advantage. The experience was pretty overwhelming and perfect for the ADD (attention deficit disorder) set.

Jeff Wenke of The Journey.jpg

The pastor, Jeff Wenke (pictured here), paced the stage with the demeanor of a caffeinated startup executive. The theme of his talk was “A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words,” thus the picture frames hanging from the ceiling, and he talked about Jesus’ view of the Jewish Temple. When he explained the story of Jesus being upset with the money-lenders, he said, “Jesus, he’s just ticked off! It’s like someone turning over the concession stands at the Santa Cruz boardwalk.”

Throughout the PowerPoint sermon, Wenke paced the stage, sprinkled in slang like “kick it forward” and had contemporary music by OutKast pumped in during short breaks. He was earnest and believing and light-hearted enough to make it work, playing off the crowd’s energy with perfectly timed humor.

The Journey music.jpg

At one point, Wenke asked people to write words on Post-It notes describing what they would want in the perfect, ideal church. They did, and lined up to attach them to a mounted picture frame and board. (One of Heather’s words, “snacks,” quickly came true when she discovered the donuts.) Wenke called out some of the words, and laughed along at one note that read, “a good-looking pastor.” He explained the basics of what the word “church” actually meant (from the Greek ekklesia for “gathering of the called out,” and not a building), and explained what Jesus thought a church should be (a house of prayer and spiritual foundation).

Later, Wenke gave way to a full rock band that performed inspirational songs, with the congregation clapping and singing along to lyrics that appeared on the overhead screens. The audience was pretty young, mainly in their 20s and 30s, though there was a good portion of middle-aged and older folks as well. It was like watching Dave Matthews Band kick it in front of an adoring crowd of true believers, but the message was clearly about spirituality. The whole shebang lasted a mere hour and 15 minutes, and never lagged for entertainment or eye candy.

Vanessa Lombera from The Journey.jpg

Along with the sermon and live performance, The Journey is also having a month-long picture contest in August. The congregation is asked to capture the church in photos and upload them to a Flickr page. The Top 5 photos will be showcased in the service at the end of the month, according to Worship Pastor Vanessa Lombera (pictured here), who is in charge of the entire Sunday services, from graphics to PowerPoint to music. (UPDATE: Lombera corrects me on this, saying they use Mac presentation software KeyNote and not PowerPoint.)

Rebranding a Church

Was this the ultimate Web 2.0 incarnation of a church, if there is such a thing? Not quite. The Flickr contest and Polaroid photos were a nice start, but what would become of those Post-It notes and photos? How would those become part of the church and its direction? The grassroots/community idea behind Web 2.0 is that people are working more in collaboration, creating the media themselves and changing the top-down power structure to something more bottom-up.

It was indeed a radical notion for a church to change its traditional structure, as its roots clearly lie in a very top-down, minister-knows-all hierarchy. For a pastor to say, “My congregants know more than I do” — in an echo of Dan Gillmor’s “My readers know more than I do” — is a near heresy, because the truth and power has always come down through the hierarchy of the church. Even though the rise of Protestants helped decentralize power of the priests in Catholicism, there’s still a top-down power structure inherent in most organized religions.

Andy Gridley of The Journey.jpg

But times are changing, and attendance in organized religious services is on the downward trend. So one day, Andy Gridley (pictured here), the former Worship Pastor at The Journey, came upon the Newsweek story about Web 2.0 companies, The New Wisdom of the Web. He brought it to The Journey staff’s attention, and a plan was hatched to add more interactivity to the church services.

After the service, Heather and I talked more about the church’s vision with its two full-time employees — Wenke and Lombera — along with Gridley and Brian Fernandes, the graphics guru. We learned that The Journey was launched in the style and language — and spirit — of Silicon Valley startups. Five years ago, the initial planners for the church met in a garage. They got seed money from an angel investor of sorts, had a business plan, and spun out from the Church of the Chimes in early 2002. Unlike a startup, however, the church gives 10% of its income to charity or projects in the community.

Pastor Wenke was open about his costs — in between bites of a quesadilla — saying his rent was up to $3,000 per month for office space, and that the church had done well financially until recently, as it sought to expand and take itself to the next level. “Are you going to do an IPO [initial public offering]?” I asked jokingly. They laughed, but actually, they had a plan not for offering stock but for doing a January “relaunch” with an updated logo, revamped website and new branding, according to Lombera, who also sang during the service.

“We’re wondering how can we do it even more or better than we have been,” Lombera said. “We’ll do it with some kind of campaign, but we don’t want to do it the same way. We want a foundational shift, we’re already doing it with some of the stuff we did today…with the Post-Its and Polaroids. And there were lines of people putting those words up [with the Post-Its]. I was in the booth, saying ‘Yeah! It works, they’re doing it!’ So we can go ahead and design it all, we have a great team. But how can we get input from 200 people in a Web 2.0 manner?”

The Emerging Church Movement

The Journey is not the first church to rebrand itself for the 21st century and reach out to younger folks — just like old media companies are striving for hip digital makeovers. There’s also The River in San Jose and Vintage Faith church in Santa Cruz, home of pastor Dan Kimball, who wrote the book, The Emerging Church. These new churches are reaching out to what they call a postmodern audience in a post-Christian world.

The blurb on Kimball’s Vintage Faith website explains how these new churches are breaking from the past. “While many of us have been inside our church offices busy preparing our sermons and keeping on a fast-paced schedule in the ministries and internal affairs of our churches, something alarming is happening on the outside,” the blurb reads. “A great transformation is happening in our own neighborhoods, schools, and colleges. What once was a Christian nation with a Judeo-Christian worldview is fast becoming an unchurched post-Christian nation.”

Web 2.0 companies such as Flickr, YouTube and Six Apart aim to empower people to shoot and share their own video and photos, and write blogs — user-generated content — that often questions and breaks from the traditional media infrastructure and norms. So too, the emerging churches are looking to break from traditional church structure, focusing less on a church as a holy edifice and more on the church within each congregant.

The Journey plans to delve even deeper into popular culture by helping launch MallChurch — yes, a church with a mall storefront that includes an Internet cafe, books and informal discussions about Jesus. The MallChurch site explains its vision in this way:

Oakridge, a Westfield Shopping Town right here in San Jose, sees 800,000 guests in a typical month. Now imagine if those 800,000 guests happened by a new kind of store.

A store that had the warmth of Starbucks, the technology of Apple, the broad appeal of Target, the resources of Border’s, the opportunity of Craigslist and the message of Jesus. Coffee, music, conversation, plasma screens, community service opportunities, books, T-shirts, CDs, interactive displays…you get the picture. Not a place to sing songs and get preached at, but a place you can connect with people and explore the possibilities of living the life Jesus made possible.

Of course, there’s a danger in this postmodern approach to people, if the spiritual becomes subsumed by secular trappings. The religious message can get watered down or people might feel like Jesus is being sprung on them like a Trojan Horse dressed up in a mall. Postmodern people are notorious for being skeptical about flashy marketing messages.

The overall question is whether people are really open to the message these new churches are bringing, and whether the congregants do have the power to influence the direction of the churches. The Journey does have myriad groups to join for congregants to get involved, including the Leadership Roundtable that includes dozens of church members who help set the direction of the church, according to Wenke.

My friend Heather has been preaching her own style of Open Source Management for tech companies, helping them include their customers in the process of planning and building products. She told The Journey higher-ups at lunch that there was still room to embrace people’s ideas within the prayer service and beyond. She noted that there are different ways to make people feel welcome in a public setting, whether it’s including their opinions during the PowerPoint presentation or giving them an open forum on the church website.

ReligionLink, a site that helps journalists cover religious issues, has a fascinating background page on emerging churches. Under the heading, “Why It Matters,” is this passage:

Participants in emerging church may help reshape faith groups’ relationship to their communities and to traditional church structures. That, in turn, can affect the way churches participate in addressing social problems and public issues.

So maybe the idea of bringing Web 2.0 thinking into these re-imagined, postmodern churches is more than just cutting and pasting a cliche from the tech world. Maybe The Journey can open up its PowerPoint presentation in a limited wiki where congregants could edit it before that Sunday’s service. Perhaps the audience could take turns on the microphone singing or sharing their own personal stories. If managed deftly, the possibilities are endless.

What do you think? Can the ideas of citizen journalism and Web 2.0 translate to new non-traditional churches and synagogues? Do you see overlaps there, and what ideas do you have for a church to reach people in new, empowering ways? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

[All photos by Mark Glaser, taken with the PPC-6700 cameraphone.]

Fonte: MEDIASHIFT

 
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Publicado por em 15/08/2009 em POIMENIA

 

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Religious Evangelists Spread Faith through Social Media

Recently, Cardinal Sean Brady of Ireland called on Irish Catholics to spread positive prayers via Twitter, texting or email.

It’s nothing new to see religious leaders using new media to try to energize their congregations or for religious adherents to use Internet technology to connect with others of similar faith. (Mark Glaser has written previously about Church 2.0 — the use of web 2.0 concepts to reorganize the traditionally hierarchical way that worship is conducted.) In a world where technology can connect you to friends and relatives on the other side of the planet, it’s not much of a stretch to imagine it’s also good for connecting communities of faith.

But for many religions, outreach and evangelism are an equally important part of the puzzle — and it’s here that web technology would seem to have less to offer. Social media is built on networks of friends with common interests. It’s easier than ever to communicate with more people online, but I wondered how effectively new media could be used to proselytize to people outside the faith.

Online outreach

There are many websites that try to harness Internet connections for missionary work, explaining how churches could use online video and Twitter feeds to catch web surfers’ attention. Andrea Useem’s Congregational Resources explains and demystifies social networking for religious leaders, while Carlos Whittaker blogs about his faith and social media at Ragamuffinsoul. Sites like these emphasize that one big obstacle to Internet evangelism is that the Internet is, at heart, a pull medium — meaning it’s often more difficult to reach a reluctant audience using the web than it is using older media such as television or radio. So while static webpages might be good for drawing in people already curious about a religion’s tenants, actually getting the attention of someone who wasn’t… that was a little more tricky without coming across as spam. That is, until the advent of social media, and its accompanying ability to build relationships online.

white.jpg

Rev. Michael White

“Creating a web site is perhaps the most basic way to use the Internet for evangelism,” agreed Rev. Michael White, a United Methodist pastor and author of Digital Evangelism: You Can Do It, Too!. He noted that newer social networking sites offered more opportunities for outreach because they could better enable conversation than a static page.

“People of faith can use such social media as Twitter, YouTube, blogs, etc. to reach out both to ‘seekers’ (those looking for more information about religious faith) and believers alike to share the tenets of their faith, encourage deepening one’s religious faith, answering questions of doubt, and much more,” he said.

More worrying to many people of faith hoping to testify online, though, was the possibility that communicating through a computer screen could make it difficult to effectively connect with others, that the passion of their words would get lost in the translation to words on a screen.

“I think Internet communication can be both authentic and effective as a face-to-face connection, but it’s debatable whether it is as effective as a face-to-face conversation,” said White. “I believe the ability to read nonverbal language and vocal tone during verbal conversation makes a face-to-face connection more effective for evangelism than an email, an IM, a real-time chat in a chat room, or a blog, or even Facebook. Even with emoticons, it’s still possible to misunderstand another’s tone… Because I am a very straightforward person when it comes to stating my strongly held convictions, I have had to apologize more than once to someone who mistook my tone in an email as sterner than I intended.”

Building relationships

White noted that a simple website may be a good starting point to draw in curious visitors, but they are rarely enough to win converts by themselves. Missionaries have long understood that personal relationships are the key to winning hearts and minds. You’re less likely to listen to a stranger than to a friend, after all.

In reaching outside the faith community, John Saddington, Senior Editor at ChurchCrunch and Web Creative Director at North Point Community Church explained the strategy of creating value.

saddington.gif

John Saddington

“For a long time, missionaries have been doing this,” he said, “Instead of just going somewhere and saying, ‘I’m a Christian, now convert!,’ they’ll try to create something of value to the community. Maybe they’ll start businesses or help out with farming, depending on the community. Eventually they’ll start attracting people because they have something of value to give. And as they establish relationships with people in the community, the hope is that this may eventually lead to conversations. We take the same approach.”

Saddington distributes free WordPress themes for download from his site. He said that every month thousands of visitors download his themes but that ultimately he hoped that a few of those people enticed by the prospect of free downloads might be interested enough to stick around to hear what he had to say.

Saddington explained that many people don’t see the web’s potential in evangelism because of a fundamental confusion about what evangelism is. While many see it as only the act of actively going out to recruit new converts, Saddington explained that it also referred simply to the sharing of personal stories of faith, both with fellow believers as well as non-believers. Whether that led to conversions or not, he said, was ultimately out of the evangelist’s hands — but the important thing was for people called to testify to find a way to open a dialogue.

“One of the nice things about social media is that it establishes a two-way conversation,” he said, “Historically, evangelism gets a bad rap because it looks like someone beating someone else over the head with a Bible. Instead of blaring our faith into people’s faces, we can use blogs and social media to dialogue. For example, with a blog, people can comment and start a dialogue. Social media has enabled us to tell stories faster and more effectively.”

Online conversations enabled by blogging tools can even be a more effective starting point than face-to-face speaking. Although everyone I spoke with agreed that it was no substitute for meeting in person, people were sometimes more open to speaking honestly about sensitive topics like their spiritual beliefs when they felt protected behind a screen (a situation that could be both less intimidating for the evangelist and less threatening for the evangelee).

“I’ve found that people are more willing to engage and communicate online than looking you straight in the eye,” said Anthony Coppedge, author of The Reason Your Church Must Twitter. “It takes a barrier out. It’s sometimes hard to look someone in the eye and say something but they can still type it. In that way, you can build very real and very strong relationships online.”

Religious vs secular social media

There exist religious-themed alternatives to most social media specifically targeting people of faith — Tangle.com provides a Christian alternative to YouTube, while Saddington’s pet project Gospelr is a Christian-themed Twitter analogue. While they may be good for uniting the faithful, some are skeptical of services that allow believers to segregate themselves from the wider world. Saddington said that both secular and religious services had their uses, but that people should keep in mind that they were unlikely to spread their faith if they confined themselves to online communities that consisted only of fellow believers.

“There’s no outreach when you’re talking to the already converted,” agreed Coppedge. He said that religious social media might be useful for parents worried about their children being exposed to inappropriate content on MySpace or Facebook, but saw little use for them otherwise.

“The focus should always be on building community,” he said, “If you limit yourself to only Christian communities, that’s not wise. Some people are afraid of using this technology, but you have to remember that technology is not inherently good or evil. It’s all in how you use it.”

“I had a pastor ask me a month ago, ‘Can you still have a real relationship online?'” he continued, “If you mean, can I get a hug, then the answer is no. You can type bracket hug, of course, but that’s not the same. But if you mean, can I engage with people? Can I build community? Then the answer is yes, as long as you’re willing to be open and honest.”

Mike Rosen-Molina is a Northern California freelance reporter and an associate editor for MediaShift. A graduate of the University of California at Berkeley schools of journalism and law, he has worked as an editor for the Fairfield Daily Republic and as a managing editor for JURIST legal news services.

Fonte: MEDIASHIFT

 
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Publicado por em 14/08/2009 em POIMENIA

 

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