Tuesday, August 10, 2010

(empo-tymshft) Is your church prepared to use new media?

Connie Reece recently wrote a post entitled Does Your Church Use New Media?. Reece concentrated on two issues - the types of churchgoers who are more apt to use new media, and the parishoner-facing tools (web pages, text messaging, etc.) that are used to interact with people who prefer these methods.

But I'd like to take a step back and look at some of the underlying infrastructure that churches use.

If you've been a member of a particular church for any length of time, you probably have a church directory or two stashed away. The front of the book probably has pictures of various activities going on in your church. The middle of the book has posed pictures of all of the families of the church (although some churches realize that not everyone is part of a multi-member family). The back part of the book includes the address portion, which may look something like this:

JONES, John and Jane
James, Janelle
123 Main St.
Ontario, CA 91761
(909) 555-2626

Twenty or thirty years ago, this is all that you'd have to store about your church members. But things have been changing over the years. Perhaps Janelle's last name isn't Jones. Perhaps Jane's last name isn't Jones.

But the bigger change is the assumption that you can reach the entire family via a single phone number. Some families have a dozen or more phone numbers - the home phone (if the family still has one), personal cell numbers, work numbers, other assorted numbers (I have a Google Voice number), and so forth.

Of course, that assumes that the phone is the best way to reach a person. Families with a dozen phone numbers probably have a dozen e-mail addresses - assuming, of course, that people even read their e-mail. Perhaps you need to text a particular family member, or send that person a message via Facebook or MySpace.

So perhaps there are three dozen or more contact avenues for any particular family. But how many of those do you want to list in a church directory? In my opinion, the primary purpose of a church directory is to allow spammers to hawk stuff to you. A church can take every precaution that it wants, and print whatever message they want to on the directory, but some spammer is going to get a hold of your church directory and put you on a mailing list for inspirational items at an amazing value.

It's essential that the church directory, and the church attendance card/form, and the underlying church software support the myriad of contact options, as well as the particular privacy settings. I admit that I am not familiar with church software, and I assume that some churches have...um...evolved to meet these new needs. Or at least I hope so.

I wouldn't want Connie's pastor to contact her via fax machine.
blog comments powered by Disqus