MyChurch.org - Church websites 2.0

Social networking is one of the big six web 2.0 categories and we're seeing more sites targeting specific niches. The big boys on the block are of course MySpace and Facebook but beginning next week there will be a new social networking site dedicated to Christians. MyChurch.org is scheduled to launch in beta next Wednesday with the goal of being a site dedicated to social networking centered around church communities. As with any good web 2.0 social networking site, MyChurch provides all the necessary tools.

I've had the opportunity to get a sneak peek at MyChurch.org over the last week (thanks Joe) and have been impressed with the clean design, clear function, and an upgrade in tools and speed for those familiar with MySpace.

MyChurch has some broad feature areas like the blogs, podcasts, church bulletins, event calendars, photo galleries, and group areas. One of my favorite features is the ability to incorporate the syndicated feed of a non-MyChurch blog into a MyChurch blog. This is one of the more frustrating things to me about MySpace so I was happy to see the MyChurch team take care of business in this area right from the start.

Although MyChurch does not set out to replace church websites, they do hope to provide a better alternative to churches than custom or template-driven websites. It's obvious the technology is there for MyChurch to get going successfully. The next step will be to deliver some skins or layouts for churches and individuals to incorporate into their pages. Churches in particular will want to create unique images for themselves and when MyChurch begins to incorporate that into its feature set it will be even stronger. The old adage that form follows function is generally true. In this case the "function" is there with the tool set, so now it's time to move toward the "form" that will allow churches to present themselves uniquely.

The future seems bright for MyChurch and perhaps this is the beginning of the next wave of church websites as they try to connect more closely with their congregations and communities. Maybe we're seeing the beginning of church websites 2.0.


Blogging small or nothing at all?

Is it better to blog nothing when you're not sure what to say or to blog something only when you've got a specific topic/story/idea to talk about? That is my dilemma at this moment. Tomorrow I'm planning to post a review of MyChurch.org as they're about to launch their site in beta next week. In the mean time I've been struggling to determine which direction to go for my daily post. I could talk about some new YouTube information that was reported recently or an interesting interview with Steve Rubel of Micro Persuasion over on Rocketboom, but none of that really feels right tonight.

Did your mom ever tell you that "if you can't say something nice, you shouldn't say anything at all?" Mine did and I am better for it. What I've discovered, however, is that you cannot take that same mentality into blogging. Not that I'm advocating ripping people to shreds in blogs, but rather the notion that if you can't say something (or don't know what to say) you shouldn't say (blog) anything at all. I have come to believe the opposite is true.

I believe in the idea that something small is better than nothing at all when it comes to blogging. I also believe that something good regularly is better than something great rarely. The cumulative effect and ultimate success for a blog seems to be tied up as much with its regularity and consistency as its actual content. That being said, perhaps the answer to my opening question is that it's always better to say something even when you've got nothing. It feels a little strange to think that way if you're concerned (as I am) about posting good content...but for now at least I'm going to hold to this idea and see where it goes.


Web 2.0 explained for churches by Feedburner VP

Last week I heard a speech given by Rick Klau, a Vice President at Feedburner, to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). I listened to this speech because I was interested to hear what a guy who's headlong into web 2.0 vocationally (Feedburner is an RSS feed management company) was going to say to a bunch of church leaders (which is a good portion of the people reading this blog). What I found was probably the best explained overview of web 2.0 I've heard to date. There's also a lot of helpful insight and encouragement for churches to adopt some web 2.0 technologies themselves. Here's the link to the ELCA page where you can listen to the speech. It's about 75 minutes long but worth every minute of it. I recommend you prepare to take notes when you listen to this as well. Some of the gems you'll find here are things like:

  • Instant messages are huge: Two-thirds of the people under 20 years old claim instant messaging to be a primary form of communication. Business uses of IM are greatly increasing as well.
  • If you're not on MySpace.com, you're not on the Internet. There are 280,000 new people on MySpace every day.
  • Google loves links and Google loves blogs. Blogs are Google's drug of choice.
  • YouTube.com has about 100 million views a day.


Transitioning to web 2.0: 'Isn't ready' isn't a problem

It's becoming increasingly apparent to me that it's going to be harder for some organizations to transition from web 1.0 to web 2.0 than others. This is really no big surprise but I've had some conversations lately that have only solidified this in my mind. Take for instance a conversation I had today with someone representing a local publishing company. The company isn't known for its creativity or technological savvy, but they've got a nice little business that fits their niche. This company is now ready to evaluate their website and the representative I spoke to today is aware of my interest and leaning toward all things web 2.0. With that in mind the representative repeatedly informed me that the organization "isn't ready for that" and just wants a few suggestions to update their site and online strategy.

In a way I agree with the representative's assessment...they aren't ready for it, but that's about where our agreement ends. The fact that they're not ready is all the more reason to help them down this road. The representative was really saying, "they're not ready for web 2.0 ideas, but they are ready for the old ideas, so let's shine them up a bit and give that to them." What is really being stated here is that the company is now ready for something that they should have done a few years ago. The next logical step following this reasoning would be that in a few years they'll be ready for the web 2.0 strategies. By then, however, there will be new technologies available and they'll again be behind the times.

Transitioning to web 2.0 strategies doesn't mean that all the good web 1.0 ideas are thrown out the window. Instead the good ideas are used as needed and the new technology enhances this for a stronger delivery. A solid web 2.0 strategy is built upon a foundation of web 1.0 strengths. To state that any organization "isn't ready" is to say they aren't ready to take advantage of easy, effective, free tools that will spread their message further and faster. I doubt the representative would go back to the president of the publishing company and say, "Hey, Mr. President, just want you to know there are some communication tools you could implement into your website that will bring you up to the front end of the technological curve, increase your exposure, and did I mention it really won't cost you much money?" That conversation won't happen yet to say the organization isn't ready is basically the same thing.

An organization that's not ready is a great candidate for web 2.0. In fact, a company that's just getting started is the absolute best candidate for web 2.0 because they can launch right now with these tools without the baggage of an established organization. If you don't believe that, just ask Scot Justice, the President of CPA for Small Business. He talked about this a little bit yesterday and is a perfect example of someone launching a new venture and taking advantage of the tools available today.


Blogging for the locals

Last week Frank asked how a pastor can promote his blog locally. He asked this in reference to this post. His question is pertinent for the local church because it exists for the people in a specific community first. I think this is a great question and he had some solid suggestions. The question was also good for me personally because it's easy to think about the broad reach (national and worldwide) rather than the more narrow one (your own community). Here are some things I have or will encourage the pastor to do:

Website: The most obvious place to link to the blog is on the front page of the church's website. I assume this is a given...but it doesn't hurt to state the obvious in case it's not obvious to someone.

Church Sign: The church is in a very good location and its new sign (attached to the side of the church in this case) will clearly communicate the church URL as well as the church name itself.

Yard Signs: My friend Dustin, pastor at Crossing Church in Louisville, told me recently about a signage campaign they did. They used yard signs kind of like the ones all the political candidates use and put them around the community with the statement: “We'll change the way you think about church.” Then they put the church's name and URL. That was it. So far it's worked well for them. They've had several individuals and families state that the signs were their first introduction to the church. You can get the signs pretty cheap too...so it was a good investment for this new congregation.

Op-ed in local newspaper: Fortunately for the pastor, he lives in a small town where the opportunities for promotion can be a little easier than a large city. That being the case I encouraged him to approach the local paper to give a weekly or semi-monthly “spiritual” editorial. The only request was that the byline will include the church URL (and now that he has a blog that should go in the byline as well). The paper agreed to this arrangement and he's supposed to start writing for them in the near future. It's amazing what you can get when you just ask.

Comments in other local blogs: There are other people in his community who blog on a number of different things. A quick search for his city in Technorati shows a little over 2,200 blogs posts alone with some relation to his community. If he will spend some time looking through them and making some comments on their sites he'll find over the next few months that he's developed a network of local bloggers...all of whom are potential church visitors (and potential bloggers about about the church as well).

MySpace.com: MySpace and any other social networking site inherently connects people with other people so it's worth the 30 minutes to set a profile up for the church. Once the church is on MySpace it can post each service as an “event” and any MySpace user within a 5-500 mile radius (based on the zip code) can see it. On a side note, there's a new site launching in beta next week called MyChurch.org. It's essentially going to be Facebook.com for churches. I'll have more about them later this week but I had an opportunity at an early glance into the site and it's going to be another great connection point for churches with other local churches and individuals in their communities.

Flickr.com: You can learn a lot about a community by searching Flickr.com for the city's name. I actually talked about this a while back in a post dedicated to churches using Flickr. You can find it here...but every church (or any organization for that matter) should include the city and state as tags when it creates images in Flickr because at some point everyone within Flickr will want to see what kind of pictures are posted by people around them.


Observations on video blogs (vlogs)

Frank from Strategic Digital Outreach had some good questions to my post a few days ago (check the comments). I'm planning to respond to those questions soon but want to give it some more thought so I'll follow up soon. I had some immediate responses to his questions but the more I thought about it the more questions I had for my answers...and thus I'm still chewing on it. As my friend Voddie would say, I'm going to let it marinate for a while.

Onto video blogs...
I've been a fascinated observer of the goings on at HotAir.com for the last two days. As I posted last night my friends at realVerse.com were the guest hosts for the last two days so I was curious to see what kind of response the HotAir regulars gave. The comments were overwhelmingly positive but today as I looked through the comments I noticed something new. These people pay attention...close attention...to the smallest details.

There were two particular things the commenters noticed from the episode: in an early scene in the kitchen there's a dripping faucet in the background and at the end of the episode Bethany cuts up one of her credit cards...at least we think she does. Upon closer examination she pulls out what appears to be a fake credit card or at the very least a card different from the few she just showed. So what does all this mean for you? Well, nothing if you're not a current or future video blogger...but a whole lot if you are.

Here's what I deduced from this: When you want to look like the pros, you'll be held to their standard.

The realVerse team works very hard on all they do and it's paying off. What seems to be the hard part is that they're not professional videographers, editors, or on-air personalities yet they have to look the part as much as possible. Video blog viewers bring all of their expectations of what they define as "good video." So when they see someone taking a stab at a professional looking broadcast (or vcast as the case is) they will naturally hold you to a professional standard regardless of the fact that you're just an upstart video blog. When you go this route you're competing with the mainstream media...albeit not in video delivery, but in video presentation. If, on the other hand, the video blog is just a guy staring into a camera, then all bets are off. There's not much in the mainstream to compare it to so it can be defined on its own.

It seems like it all boils down to the type of video blog you want to be. If you're going to look and feel like a newscast of some type then there's a lot of existing news from television you'll be compared to so prepare accordingly. If your video blog is going to be personal in nature (or at least look that way) or its very appearance doesn't look like something you would find on television, then there will be more forgiveness for dripping faucets in the background...but still don't expect it to go unnoticed.

On a related note, I read that Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas is going to start live video streaming of their chapel services as well as archive and podcast them. The story seems focused on the streaming aspect more than the archive and podcasting side of it. I hope that was just a misguided reporter's take on the best use of technology because the seminary will certainly get more views through the archives and podcasts. If they are willing to take it one step further they should do a quick interview with the speaker each time and they could have a nice broadcast...I mean podcast.


realVerse hosts HotAir - video blogs keep rocking!

Just want to congratulate my friends at realVerse.com. Today was the first of two days as guest host for the well known video blog on HotAir.com with Michelle Malkin. From the looks of the comments on the site it went well. Good writing Steve. Good reporting Bethany. You can see the episode here.


Three conclusions from blog day

Today was unusual for me because I was able to discuss blogs, blogging, blog strategy, blog setup, or other various blog related things for a large portion of the day. It was great!! If I had known it would be like this I would have been sure to commemorate August 22 as Blog Day on my calendar. Whether I was getting a new church pastor started on his first blog (more on them in the future), beginning to establish another blog for a pastor/author, or talking with a local PR firm about their own blogging strategy, today's secret word was definitely BLOG. With all this blog talk today I've come to a few more conclusions:

  • Anyone seeking to have a voice or influence at any level should be blogging. Period. It's too easy not to. In the case of this new church pastor, he's able to introduce himself to his community before they ever have their first official service. He'll begin creating an impression before he ever sets foot on the stage at the church. When has it ever been that easy and cost effective (free) to do that?
  • If you blog, blog consistently. There's nothing worse than an outdated blog...and that means a blog that hasn't been updated in the last 10 days. The PR firm I mentioned above told me they have discussed blogging and other new media strategies with their clients and it wasn't received well. The firm's representative then told me they have had limited success on their own corporate blog so I checked it out and it's been over two months since their last post and they've only had nine posts all year! No wonder their clients don't buy it. I can't help but wonder what kind of negative impact this could have on potential customers. Note to self: Blogs are hungry animals that need to be fed regularly. If an animal looks malnourished the animal doesn't take the blame, its owner does.
  • Speak from the heart. Both the new church pastor and the pastor/author I met with today know exactly what they're going to say. They may not even have all the words right now but there's a message they want to communicate and when the time comes the words will be there for it. Contrast that with the PR firm. They have numerous employees contributing to their blog and the posts are all over the place from web 2.0 analysis to The Da Vinci Code. There's nothing wrong with covering a wide range of topics but in their case nobody has owned the blog's voice and it shows. With no owner there's no voice. With no owner there's no heart. With no voice and no heart there's nobody interested in anything you say.


Famster: Feature-full Family Focused Sites

I recently discovered Famster.com which calls itself a complete website for your family. After spending a half hour with it I am impressed by the vast tools built into the site. Not only does it allow a bit of front page site customization but the real strength in Famster seems to be in its depth.

I have numerous friends who have recently created blogs as they have started having children. These blogs have been serving as mini, family-focused websites. I believe this use could, in time, be the exact place where Famster will prevail. A blog has specific limitations from a website...and that's been acceptable for the non-technical families. They're just happy to be able to put some text and photos online...for now. Famster looks to shake things up a bit as it's going to give these same families the opportunity to create much more robust websites with the same ease of those blogs they're using now.

Some of Famster's features include video, a blog, scrapbook, photo sharing, recipes, and lists (which will be extra handy at Christmas time). My personal favorite feature is the "file cabinet" because it lets a user post large photo files on the site and allow family members to grab their own copy of the high resolution images at will. That sure beats the multiple emails just to send a handful of pictures to family and friends.

Famster seems to have found a niche. If you're considering starting a family blog, you might want to try Famster out first.


First Annual No Digg Day?

Emerging video blog powerhouse RealVerse, has taken a bold step...they have proclaimed Monday, August 21 as No Digg Day. In actuality, they have proposed a web 2.0 experiment for a website based solely on user-generated content. Digg.com is the leading new aggregator website...meaning they allow people to submit stories of any kind and the good ones are Dugg (voted upon) and rise to the top of the list. I first discussed it here. The concept behind No Digg Day is that if people were to quit using Digg for a day then it becomes essentially worthless. Should be interesting to see what happens. By the way, since I saw this early on I just had to Digg it...I couldn't resist. Check out the Digg here.


Web 2.0 Categories Revisited

Steve Rubel brought up a great point in response to my post about the six categories of web 2.0. His analysis is that it's difficult to lump things into "buckets" due to a potential overlap of categories for a single site or application. Just to recap, I'm calling the categories MASSVW:
S-Social Networking
S-Social Media
W-Web applications

I agree with Steve's assessment of overlap...after all, mySpace is a social networking site primarily but also incorporates video and social media. I contend, however, that it doesn't matter if there's overlap...at least not right now. For the time being, web 2.0 is something we're trying to get a handle on. Just last week I posted a link to TechCrunch's video asking the question, "What is web 2.0?"

Since we're trying to wrap our arms around this big new thing, I will continue to use the MASSVW (massive volkswagon) category approach. Thus far I'm finding it helpful for explaining what the heck web 2.0 is to someone who has little or no familiarity with it. A year from now these categories might not apply at all...but for now it seems to be helpful for furthering people's understanding of it.


Small is the new big

I've been thinking a lot lately about the differences between web 1.0 and web 2.0. I've boiled my thoughts down to something I am testing against everything I read these days. My assessment is this: web 1.0 focused on the big things like financing, hardware/software, and manpower. In web 2.0 the focus is on small things like speed, simplicity, and message.

Can you see how very different the focus is from 1.0 to 2.0? The entire game is changing. We have no need to consider financing for a website project anymore...the tools are there for little or no money...or you can just start a blog which might actually be more helpful anyway. The barriers to entry with software and hardware are minimal and manpower is one of the last issues you consider anymore.

In the web 2.0 world, all of the old worries that troubled organizations in web 1.0 are assumed to be taken care of. They are given little more than a passing thought: "Oh, I need an online presence? I'll (manpower) just start a free (financing) blog (software)." ” This is why the "little guys" are now big. They don't have payrolls or overhead or red tape or corporate agendas. Instead they have passion and understanding that the other guys just don't get. In fact, they can't get it...or not easily anyway. They're slow, controlled, and complex.

Jack Welch, the famous CEO of General Electric, had a chapter in his book Jack: Straight from the Gut called "E-Business" in which he talked about the enduring and lasting impact large, stable companies would have with ecommerce and the implementation of the Internet in their business. He essentially said that the big companies had to weather the storm of the web 1.0 bubble burst and were fine to slowly integrate new technology in their existing business models. I think Jack was right on...five years ago. The thing he couldn't have anticipated was the change in powershift to the individual. That slow adoption may well have been a good thing back then but there's no need for it now. Now, the bloggers and diggers and emerging broadcasters are the voices that will continue gaining the attention of increasing numbers of individuals...and that's big.


The Six Categories of Web 2.0

As I continue trying to get a handle on web 2.0 I have come across some category designations that have been extremely helpful for communicating what web 2.0 is. These categories have also enabled me to more quickly identify new technologies and associate them with similar types of sites and services. I have designated the six categories into the acronym MASSVW (think "massive volkswagon") to remember it more easily.


  • Mashups - sites using existing technologies for an entirely new purpose...like WikiMapia.org. It takes the functions of a wiki and overlays it with Google Maps for an entirely new kind of map. You can see ProgrammableWeb.com for more mashups.
  • Aggregators - A site or program that gathers data from multiple sources and organizes the information to present in a new, more streamlined or appropriate format. Digg.com is a top aggregator site. So is Slashdot for the more technical people. And of course our dearly beloved, Google (and any other search engine for that matter) are the mothers of all aggregators.
  • Social Networking - Websites focusing on connecting people with other people directly like MySpace.
  • Social Media - User-generated content like blogs or Flickr.
  • Video - Online television such as YouTube.
  • Web Applications - online programs that can do virtually everything your existing software programs can do. Zoho for instance can replace your Microsoft Office programs.


Next time you're in Nashville...

...be sure to visit the J. Alexander's restaurant downtown on West End Avenue. It's fairly new in town although we've had two other J. Alexander's restaurants in town for several years now. Today I had lunch at the West End location for the first time and was pleasantly surprised with both the food and decor. I'm very familiar with the White Bridge Road (west Nashville) version and basically expected the same thing. I was delighted to see that this location is taking the already good food and atmosphere to a new level. My chicken salad sandwich was one of the best I've ever had and the service was outstanding. You can check out the full menu here. So, when you find yourself ready for a great dinner on the town or a classy business lunch downtown, I highly recommend J. Alexander's. I know I'll be back.


3 Things To Remember: Receiving sales calls

This post is off topic a bit but may still hit home for you in some aspect of your work. We're all subject to receiving sales calls personally. They're the annoying calls we get during dinner and the very reason a "Do Not Call" list was ever created. In business we deal with these as well but in a few different ways. Unlike in our personal lives, professionally we may solicit sales calls in the form of RFP (request for proposal) meetings, consultant interviews, or vendor searches. Since we initiate these calls it's possible to let our guard down when we're on these calls in a way we wouldn't on a personal sales call at home. We shouldn't forget that regardless of who initiated the sales call, a salesperson's goals are the same: get your money for their product or service. Below are a three things I'm beginning to implement when I'm on the receiving end of a sales calls at the office:

  • Clarity: Seek clarity for every question you have. Sales people want to close a deal. That is their goal. That is their prize. In doing so they may say things they don't even understand but think it's what you want to hear. I've heard salespeople talk continually until they feel like they've sufficiently given an answer to my question or at the very least redirected me away from the original question. Let's remember that it's not our job to interpret some kind of meaning among the barrage of words that may be thrown at us. If it's not clear the first time keep asking questions until it is clear...in fact, just ask the same question again as if the first time you asked it never happened. You'll know very soon if they have a clue what they're talking about.
  • Proof: This is simple, get everything they say in writing before you make any decisions. You just don't want to hear one thing on a call and then find out later that it wasn't quite as good as they said it was. If the salesperson says you're going to get 10 different services when you go with them, ask for an email or letter as a follow up to restate those 10 things. If you're talking prices, get something written to you after the call to verify the number you heard. If they claim to be among the top five companies in their industry, ask them where you can verify that.
  • Passion: Great sales people have passion for their product or service. This is a good thing because if you work with them you're going to want that, but don't mistake a person's passion for knowledge. It's easy to be lulled into believing everything a passionate personality may say...that's what makes them captivating. Listen as much to what they say as you do how they say it. A passionate person can be passionately wrong.


What is Web 2.0? Watch the movie.

There's a short (24 minute) documentary on Techcrunch.com that simply seeks to find an answer to the question "what is web 2.0?" The questions follow these five areas:

  1. What is Web 2.0?
  2. Are we in a bubble?
  3. What are the business models that will work on the web today?
  4. What is the role of publishers in a user generated world?
  5. How important and how big is the early adopter crowd?
The comparisons between web 2.0 and web 1.0 were interesting. Though there was no consensus as to the long-term impact on business these new and emerging technologies will have, the general sense seems to be that there's something bigger and more stable this time around. Check it out...it's worth 24 minutes...especially if you're trying to use any new web technologies for your business or organization.


5 Websites You'll Want to Discover

I'm a big fan of the magazine Business 2.0. I've been reading it for a few years now and this most recent issue had an article called "Web 2.0 Around The World" that was outstanding. Not only was the article presented well so you could get a lot of information about new websites quickly, but some of these sites are just dang cool for a variety of reasons. Here are my top five sites from the 23 in the article:

  • Zoho Writer (zohowriter.com): Zoho Writer is basically an online version of Microsoft Word. In fact, the creators of Zoho Writer have an entire suite of online products you can register for and use for free (there are a few with subscriptions as well). I really like this because we continue to see the migration of applications that reside only online rather than your computer which is great for people who want to be able to access the same information everywhere they go. I played around with the site for a few minutes and it seems very intuitive. I think the tough road ahead of Zoho and other companies like this will be getting people to switch from their desktop applications to these web applications. I also like this because we pay so much money to get Microsoft Office that these guys and some others like Open Office are great (free) alternatives with little to no sacrifice in productivity.
  • Dabble DB (dabbledb.com): Just like Zoho products above, Dabble DB is a web application, but this one is specifically geared toward spreadsheets and databases. The sheer ability for teams to collaborate using this product makes it noteworthy but the inclusion of RSS takes it a step further as the next generation of spreadsheets. My buddy Jason is a spreadsheet freak...I'm anxious to get his feedback on this site.
  • Netvibes (netvibes.com): I'm not a huge fan of personalized homepages but Netvibes could get me interested again. They make it super easy to put your page together and customize your homepage just the way you like it. If you're into a hompage tailored to your interests, Netvibes seems like a great way to go.
  • Quintura (quintura.com): Let me begin this part by saying I'm a Google guy...I mean I don't search the Internet with anything else except Google...but I tried this Quintura search software (a free download) and was pretty impressed. Just when I didn't think you could do much else to search engines they created a "tag cloud" for searching which basically means they recognize that words or phrases can go in a number of directions so instead of listing everything in order by most popular like every other search engine, you see a bunch of other words related to that word and simply click on the one that best applies to the search you're trying to find. I'm a visual person so this application was very cool for me to see the directions I can go with my search. I don't think I'll convert from Google entirely, but there will no doubt be occasions when Quintura will be my search tool of choice.
  • Habbo Hotel (habbohotel.com): Habbo Hotel is another social networking site that is already attracting droves of teenagers. Habbo Hotel is the younger, cartoonier, less technical version of Second Life with a dash of mySpace. It was very easy to set up and begin to get around but I've got to admit, I still don't really get all of this...but I put Habbo Hotel in my top 5 because I know there's something to this stuff...and just because I don't get it doesn't invalidate it. I expect we'll hear more about both Habbo Hotel and its emerging Korean rival Cyworld in the coming months.


3 Uses for Wi-Fi in Church

Last week I talked about the general benefits of incorporating Wi-Fi in multiple settings. I think Wi-Fi also has its place in church. Below are three uses for Wi-Fi in church to build on my post last week.

  • Blog during church services: Wi-Fi in your church would allow you to let people blog during the services. Crazy you say? Consider this, people from your church are telling other people about your church anyway (at least we hope they are) and what a great way to get church members to give your church free content to use on your website while giving prospective visitors an idea of what the church is all about. Set up a blogroll to your member's blogs on the church website and see what happens. Obviously you want to keep an eye on what's being said especially if you're linking to it from your church's site, but if you set the vision for this so that members see the outreach potential you could see some real benefit. If you do this be sure to contact the local paper and/or television news station also...churches and technology will almost always interest them.
  • Community hot spot: Open the church (or specific parts of it) to the community. Let them know this is a Wi-Fi hot spot and have volunteers available to begin building relationships with the new guests. This would be great for churches specifically trying to establish a college or young adult ministry and will be especially attractive if Wi-Fi is scarce in your community.
  • Staff meetings and appointments: This may be the most obvious benefit...or at least it seems that way to me...arm the staff with laptops so they can work from any spot in the church as they need to. It would be helpful for impromptu meetings or informal gatherings with members where Internet access could be necessary. I have actually seen Wi-Fi used well for this specific purpose at Community Bible Church in San Antonio. When they built a new building about two years ago they added Wi-Fi for the benefit of the staff and after having visited with them on several occassions, it's been extremely useful for meetings that can happen anywhere in the church.


MicroExplosion is back...from vacation!

If you've been wondering where MicroExplosion has been for the last week or so I've been on vacation. Thanks for your concern...both of you. It's always great to get away with the family for a while. I was able to see my mom, brother, and his wife and daughters at Lake Keowee in South Carolina. When they left my wife, daughter, and I stayed behind at Backwater Landing and had a great time. Thanks to the Williams family for letting us stay in their excellent lake house for a few days.

One thing I hate about being away from home for several days is that I feel like I miss the local newsworthy events. I don't know if this was an especially newsworthy week, but there were three things that caught my attention. I've put them into three categories below: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The Good (from bad): While we were away the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition bus pulled into our town and started building a new house for a family whose home was destroyed during the tornado we had back in April. The bigger tragedy was that the mother of two small boys was paralyzed when she saved the lives of her sons during the destruction of the home. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition has been a favorite show for quite a while and I'm glad to see them do this for our local hero.

The Bad (with good): A teenager named Nathan Johnson was killed in a car wreck on Friday (story here). I know his father personally and his older brother is an intern at my church, Long Hollow Baptist. I may be a little strange in situations like this because my first question is never “Why God” but “How God?” I wonder how God is going to use this event for His glory rather than why it happened. A death like this is a tragic occurrence to which I can only trust God's sovereignty. I found out yesterday that 25 people received salvation at the funeral...another occurrence to which I can only trust God's sovereignty...and perhaps the beginning of how God will use this young man's life and death for His glory.

The Ugly (getting uglier): Last Sunday the pastor of Bellevue Community Church, David Foster, was officially let go. The news reports say he was asked to leave the church property by a Nashville police officer and that there has been a lot going on behind the scenes between he and the church elders for quite a while. This story wouldn't have been a big deal to me beyond a general interest in churches except for the fact that I know several former BCC church employees. Seems like this has been a long time coming from what I've heard from people who would know. Any time a pastor leaves a church there's the potential for it to get ugly. In this case you have two sides saying the exact opposite...which means it's definitely going to get ugly. I suspect it's only going to get uglier with the combination of local news interest, damaged ego, and a man accustomed to a platform and attention. Here's the latest headline from this story.