When I was at the Internet Ministry Conference having wonderful discussions with the Internet Ministry “elite”, I found myself wondering several times if we were beginning to slowly isolate ourselves from the reality of the lives of those to whom we were trying to minister. It seemed that all of our excitement around technologies such as the iPhone, Twitter, or even podcasts, put us out of touch with the mainstream of most churches. Sure, if your church consists of mostly twenty-somethings working hi-tech jobs, then these things work. But what about the small, rural churches? What about the churches serving older congregations? I think we can get way too caught up with what works for us and is, frankly, just way cool, and forget about the fact that many, if not most, Christ-followers in America (or around the world) just don’t have the money or the time to figure out how to use these new technologies.
I believe that the key to this is understanding the people you are trying to reach, your “target user” if you will. If you are trying to decide if you should begin using a new technology at your church (or even add a new feature to your web site), you should first determine if it will even be used. For example: if you are trying to determine if your pastor should start writing a blog, first do some research to see if those in your congregation read blogs in the first place. Don’t simply ask “would you read the pastor’s blog?”, but instead ask “do you read any blogs?”.
At my church, we did this sort of research before we updated our web site, and the results were quite interesting. Perhaps the most interesting of the results were that web site viewing and email were used quite regularly by all congregation members across the board, regardless of age. This encouraged us to go ahead and spend some time and money on the web site redesign, as well as to increase the use of email as a communications vehicle. See my previous blog entry on this for more details on the survey (and a copy of the survey).
How about you? How do you make decisions about the use of technology in your church or ministry?