The Settlement is Coming
Not sure how to do something? Two options:
1. Figure out if someone else has already done it and copy
2. Figure it out yourself
When online ministry launched ten years ago, everyone was figuring it out. The internet was old, but Web 2.0 made community possible. 2004 brought blogs, Facebook, and all these things that static websites didn't have before. It was easy for churches to get information up online (no debate), but social is dipping into the proprietary property of the church. Some went into defence and others into an offence mode.
The sandbox was big for those trying to figure out everything. Very few expectations led to vast amounts of freedom for online ministries. People took enormous risks, which I believe allowed for better success rates. Failure is essential to growth (duh). I love how Frank Wilczek says it "If you don't make mistakes, you're not working on hard enough problems. And that's a big mistake". In the beginning, online ministries were tackling huge problems for sure.
Why does this all matter for today? I don't want the risk-taking to stop as integration occurs. See it's okay if you don't know how to position your online ministry. I interviewed 100 churches recently (full study coming out soon), and 91% said they value online ministry, but struggled with how to integrate it into their overall strategy. I'm not surprised. The frontier is first the frontier than in time, and it becomes home. The first stage is discovery and second phase is the settlement. We are seeing the merging (or settlement) of online ministries into the overall strategy of churches. My friend Dave Adamson recently wrote about this "Why church online as we know it is dead … and what the Church can do about it" and said it perfectly.
What I want to emphasise as online ministry gets commercialized is to make sure we don't stop taking risks. Keep a beta frame of mind alive. Don't stop trying new things. Franchising is excellent for reaching more people, but not for creating new ideas often. I still believe online ministry is in the early stages of whatever it will become. I would hate for it to be sandboxed early on by executives. "Macro patience, micro speed" is the approach I would recommend for any church in this space.
Let's keep expanding our reality box for what is possible for online ministry.