Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Virtual Reality

This is the first post in a new blog dedicated to all topics either directly or peripherally related to technology and churches.  If you have any questions or would like to see particular topics touched on, please send email to me at rich@hawksci.com.  By the way, in case you're wondering about "hawksci.com" in my email address - it's the domain name I used at the small business I ran for 20 years before entering ministry.  I wrote software that is used by chemical & pharmaceutical companies in new drug development.  After 20 years it's hard to change email addresses.

Anyway, in my experience too many churches are worried about the "what" and "why" of technology before they put their real house in order.  What your church looks like on the Web is "virtual reality."  It's an image, a facade - and if your actual reality bears no resemblance to what people see on the Web, your Web presence will be a detriment.  Sure, we all know that pictures on a travel site are better than the reality - but there's a line between flattering and fraud, and you don't want to cross that line.

The bottom line is that if your church isn't set up to be attractive to visitors, don't attract visitors until it is

But if this makes you feel defeated, don't feel that way.  Not everyone is interested in everything a church might offer, so all you really need is one thing to be your hook to draw people in, and you should focus everything around that one thing.  How do you know what your real strengths and weaknesses are?  I find it pretty easy.  When you see a visitor come through your doors, what are you proud to show off?  That's your strength.  What do you hope isn't noticed or asked about?  That's your weakness.

Right now, you may have lousy worship music, but your one thing could be a youth group.  You may have no kids, but your one thing could be an incredible ministry to seniors.
If you don't have the one thing yet, find it.  Personally, I think you'll find it among whatever people you have, because I believe that God sends people to our churches for a reason - and I believe that someone God has already sent your way was sent to you with the gifts and skills your church needs to get that one thing going.

So find that one thing and make it excellent.  Not just adequate, excellent.  When you have that one thing, you're ready to take on the world.  You have the cornerstone of your media strategy.  You know what search terms you'll enter into Google AdWords so people find you.  You know what pictures you'll feature on your Web site.  And until you have at least that one thing (more is better), you actually don't want people to find you.

The virtual reality of your online image has to rest on a foundation of what people will find when they show up on your doorstep.  A technology strategy is always rooted in asking "what" you want to accomplish and "why" you want to accomplish it.