Awarded a Grant to Create a Model Online Ministry Program for UU Congregations, Districts, Clusters

August 17, 2010 at 8:06 am | Posted in Online Ministry | Leave a comment

The UUA (specifically the UUFS) has recently awarded me a grant to create an online ministry program for UU churches, districts, clusters. I will be interviewing many congregations – members and ministers – and am looking for volunteers from specific areas of the country and also from specific congregation sizes.

The work is not about creating websites for churches. This is not an exercise in technology. Online ministry is church life online. Online ministry is enabled by technology, but it is what people do (deeds) when logged in that creates a sanctuary and manifests that which is sacred between us. The model program will outline how to create and extend church life in digital realms.

The benefit to those who participate will be two-fold: They’ll gain insight on how to improve or consider improving their current church presence online. Their needs will inform the model program, which is intended to address unique needs of congregations of differing sizes  and demographics.

Specifically, ministers will learn how to extend the experience of Sunday services online and how to nourish their various ministries in ways that are not possible offline. Ministers will also learn how to easily and effectively manage the separation between their personal lives on the web and online ministry. Lay members will learn how to use an online church to help them practice our 7 principles and advance social justice actions in ways that can be exponentially more effective online than offline.

Church administrators and staff will learn how an online church can help them with daily management; capital campaigns; dissemination of information; member acquisition and retention; marketing; and the preservation of the church’s history. Additionally, districts can benefit from a shared online ministry that enables members in any congregation to benefit from events, services and activities at other district churches.

Part of the work I’m doing will be to create a prototype meta social network that would make it very easy to connect UUs anywhere while at the same time providing congregations with an online church of their own within the network. I’m not looking to move any churches off of what they currently use into this new network. The idea is to provide a flexible solution that could either replace what a church currently uses or to integrate aspects of the meta network into what it currently has.

If this program is successful, one possible outcome is for the meta network to become a lasting reality and important organizing tool for UUs worldwide.

A social network is nothing more than a collection of online tools that make it easy for large numbers of people to easily related to one another and to create content and share content. The phrase social media is what the content is. Traditionally, we know the word media to mean CDs, DVDs, video, TV, movies, MP3s, newsprint, books, magazines, newsletters — anything created and published by a relative small number of people for consumptions by an unlimited number of individuals.

Social media, however, is user (individual consumers – anyone) generated content. Generated content is content that the individuals make themselves or content that motivates and prompts them to share content they find and want to broadcast to specific groups of people or for generally availability. Social media is media that is no longer created and controlled by an elite group (media companies and governments). Social technology provides anyone with the means the means of production (digital photos, music and video) and distribution (internet, mobile applications).

In sum here’s what I’m looking for:

  • Congregations in the Northwest, West, Southwest, Midwest; New England and NY I’ve got the South covered already. I need volunteer churches with 200 or fewer attendees; with 201-600 attendees; and any church larger than 600.
  • Specific contacts: Senior Ministers, Board Chairs, Church Admin. Without strong support from the pulpit and church staffers, online ministry won’t work. To save time, I need to start conversations with the right people. Webmasters are typically not the right people for the first conversation. Remember online ministry is not about technology.
  • Contact info: Email address, mobile phone numbers — for business and off hours.
  • Participants: I won’t be able to work with everyone who applies. I will provide a brief questionnaire to those who volunteer. Based on answers provided and an initial phone conversation or email exchange, I’ll pick the participants.

Please send an email stating your interest and indicate the size of your congregation. Also tell me who the contacts is at your church if it isn’t you. Let me know what role you or the contact plays.

The model program will be written in English. The online ministry program model will assume accessibility to all and also assume that the program can be easily translated into Spanish and many other languages.

I am grateful to the ministers and congregations I’ve heard from already in North Carolina, Ohio, Maryland. Thank you for helping to spread the word by sharing the URL of this blog to those whom you think will be interested in participating in the development of this model program.

Please fill in the Sign Up Form.

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