Connecting people to people

This was posted here:

A friend of mine linked me to this article:
where the website is

One thing that is interesting there, is that on the second page near the top of the second column, 39 percent of people said that the feature they wanted most from their church website (which I’m assuming they don’t already have) is “connect with other members”. Personally this is one of my pet peeves about church websites. They all seem to be “online brochures”. Either boring understated brochures such as church in the UK or really big flashy brochures as they tend to be in the US but brochures non-the less*. I’ve seen lots of good use of advanced web technologies to connect people with the paster/leader/vicar such as sermons, blogs etc. But very little for new comers to a site to connect with actual people in the church.

The article talked about people requesting the ability to pray online. When I set up a youth website the online prayer board became the most successful aspect of our site. We had a fairly large group of 14-18s (about 90 ish) and at that age it was invaluable having an ability to post anonymous prayers (though moderated) at any point in the week, exactly when you needed it. Around exam time there were plenty of posts at early hours of the morning! (though perhaps advice on the uselessness of late night-day-before-exam revision was needed :S). This fits with a feature that actually connects people with other people in the church (rather then just the pastor, or just a brochure).

We’re planning on creating a drupal church distribution / work with install profiles (yes I know, another one! I’ve heard of plenty of other attempts). We’d be aiming it at the UK market which I feel will need to be less flashy then then the idea outlined by Geeks and God. Currently working with a couple of churches including one church that wants to find novel ways of connecting a congregation with its overseas mission partners.

However one worry I have despite this research is that of control. The Church is famously lead by people who like control over stuff generally. It’s also famously very involved with its own image. Many times I’ve watched American comedy programs where they show a clichéd Christian anti-abortionist teenage that might also be head of an abstinence society in their school. They then show this person having sex to point out some kind of hypocrisy. Whilst this is sometimes similar to the Pharisee and teachers of the law Jesus attacked, the reality is that this shouldn’t be shocking. Christians are Christians because they KNOW they are sinners! So it shouldn’t be shocking when Christians are found sinning as that is what they are. If anything those that feel they don’t need Jesus ought to be morally superior to us admitted sinners! (I realise this is an over simplification 😛 CS Lewis’ Mere Christianity deals with this topic better then me.

However, the reality is if a church leader allows new comers and people outside the church to connect with the human beings inside the church. Not only will they have less control, they are allowing people to connect with a sea of sinners. Will this be a problem? Will it be embarrassing to come across a church prayer wall and find the inevitable prayers of those addicted to internet pornography and trying to over come it?

So there are a couple of questions. Will people find it difficult allowing the lack of control that comes from connecting people to other real people?

If people do find this difficult is this something that we’d want to fight (As in fight for people to connect to real people despite the problems of control)?

I post it here because if there is ever a piece of software that will successfully connect humans with humans on a smaller scale, I feel like Drupal is the only way, much more then bespoke systems (even if they are open-source)

*I’m British and I don’t mean that as an attack. I quite like boring understated stuff. I heard an interested documentary about the American view of the famous British show Countdown. They couldn’t understand why we’d have a actual personal Carol Volderman literally picking the numbers on some card rather then computerising everything.

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