Special Report: WWW.GOD - Churches on the Net

Posted by: Judd Davis - bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - It's one of the first things somebody will ask you when you move to Alabama.  Where do you go to church? There are plenty of options and churches are always reaching out to the public in different ways. Now many churches are using technology to update current members and recruit new ones.

"A lot of military members that move here don't have time to go visit 7 or 8 churches," Pastor Lawrence Phipps from Vaughn Forest Baptist Church said.   "So before they even get here they'll go on-line and see which churches look right for them."  And churches are taking notice.  Many web sites have audio podcasts or video webcasts of their services.  Some churches send out messages on Twitter and others will add you as a Facebook friend.

If all the Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube doesn't make sense to you, you're not alone.   But for now it's here to stay.    "Anytime a church fails to go where the people are, they're missing an opportunity," said Pastor Jeff Skinner from Eagle Pointe Church of the Nazarene.

Churches like Freewill Missionary Baptist Church realize the importance of recruiting younger folks to grow the church, and they know social networking and the web is a great way to do it.  "When it comes to messages on Facebook or Twitter, anyone with a computer or high tech phone can pull it up," said Kevin Johnson at Freewill Missionary Baptist Church.   "This is a fast paced world and we all need to slow down, but people with iPods and stuff like that can get the message when they want to get it."   But Johnson and other local church leaders agree, this is just a small part of what the church has to offer and they really want you in the building.  "My goal, however I can use the technology to bring them in to hear my pastor, I'll do it."

But times are changing.   In the past pastors and church leaders might try to get out and visit as many members as possible.   But with churches so big, and people so busy, it's not always easy to do.  "In the past a pastor might go out an visit," Pastor Skinner said.   "But with both parents working, running kids to and from practice, that's tough to do.   So using Twitter and Facebook is an easy way to stay connected when you can't meet face to face."

Even when churches do use YouTube and Facebook, there are some things some pastors stay away from.   "There are some arenas I've chosen not to jump into like the blogosphere," Pastor Phipps said.   "It's so hard to tell what's fact and fiction and I don't want to be just another voice out there.   I'm not doing it now, but I may one day."

It's kind of like a high tech fast food menu.  Some churches will take an order of Facebook but hold the Blog, while others might be up for some Twitter with a side of YouTube.   There are endless ways for churches to reach out, and many of them are taking advantage of the social networking sites, but they all agree on one point, the best religious experience will come when you get that personal connection in the church itself.

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