Friday, July 14, 2006

50 Most Influential Churches

The Church Report recently issued its annual "50 Most Influential Churches" report. Each year I find myself wondering what is it about these churches that makes them so influential. Are there things in these ministries that would be worth replicating in ours? It also makes me a bit introspective, looking at our church and ways in which we are innovative and creative. I think we have our highlight moments, but are we reaching our full potential? Are we settling for mediocre ideas or are we thinking outside of the box? Are our ministries relevant or are they simply remnants of Christianity past? What are we doing to keep our ministries fresh and alive, and are we communicating that to the community at large?

I'm a net geek, so I like to visit the sites of these churches. I've always been a fan of the think string that churches with significant web presences are most likely to be those churches that lead in their communities and/or denominations. It's a logical thought: ministries that draw people in tend to have a greater pool of resources. A greater pool of resources translates into a greater ability to invest in marketing - print, online, broadcast, etc. A greater ability to invest in marketing draws people into the ministry.

I'm always surprised when that thinking is proved wrong. Some of these churches have fabulous sites. I'm particularly fond of Oak Hills, Fellowship of the Woodlands, Calvary Chapel, New Life, and Christ Church of the Valley. However, others (who shall remain unnamed out of courtesy) are not quite as impressive to me. Is the value I place on web presence misguided or are these simply exceptions to the rule?

Of course, in the end it is God who draws people in and leads them to join the place of worship that fits them best. As church communicators, we just tell that story and offer ourselves as a tool for outreach.


Anonymous Nicole Swanson said...

Thanks, Jen, for sharing those links! I love to look at other sites and see what other churches are doing. What are thoughts you guys have on organizing your website so it has the most "un-churchy" entry points for visitors not familiar with church world? I wonder sometimes even if words like "ministries" are too foreign for people to know that's what they're looking for. I think Christ Church of the Valley's site does a great job of using very plain, easy to understand language.

3:10 PM  
Blogger jenn_anthony said...

we struggle with that on our own site. our whole church restructured under the purpose driven church model and our site is organized under those areas. while that is great for consistency in our restructure, joe seeker probably doesn't realize that he needs to look for "food pantry" under "ministry."

i think the "churchiness" depends on the primary use of the site. if the primary use is to keep members informed and connected (i.e. through announcements, online registrations, downloadable sermon notes, etc.) the churchiness is probably not a big deal. but, if its primary purpose is informing seekers, i think you're right in making the entry points unchurchy.

either way, i always try to have a search box on each page. we use for that feature.

10:13 AM  

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