As I have been working on a web site for my church, I have started to wonder if the whole idea of having an all-encompassing web site is becoming obsolete. It seems that all the effort going into designing, developing, and maintaining a web site is a tremendous amount of work that must be re-done every two or three years. And now, with the advent of XML, where the form and content have been separated (see this video for a good explanation of what I am talking about), it seems that we should instead separate content creation from web site design.
What I mean is this: for each type of content we want to make available, we should find the appropriate tool and use it. Then we should allow those who are consuming our content to view it in any way that they would like. For example, for a church calendar, use Google calendar (my personal favorite) to manage the calendar and then make it “public”, which allows someone to integrate it into their personal calendar, bring it in to their “home page” via an RSS reader, or just view it directly.
Or take another example: each ministry wants the ability to communicate with their members. A youth pastor could use a blog as a way to keep his youth group up to date on what is going on in the ministry, complete with photos (linked from Flickr) and videos (from YouTube). The members of his group could keep up to date by subscribing to the blog via email, importing it into their Facebook profile, or just viewing the blog directly.
OK, you say, this is all fine and good, but we still need a web site! Well, yes, you do need something that is a place with your basic information and a place to direct search engines, but it should really be an aggregation of all these other tools.
One key to successful web ministry is a distributed model of updating. By allowing each ministry to update their own information, you will get the most dynamic web site possible. But the challenge to this then becomes: how do you change the culture within your organization so that each ministry is willing to do this kind of updating?
So do you agree or disagree? Could a church (or other parachurch or nonprofit) have a successful web ministry without a full-fledged web site? Or am I going out of my mind?