Using Technology to Build Your Church Plant (with Adrian Warnock)

Adrian Warnock is a well-known Christian leader, blogger and author. He is part of the leadership team of Jubilee Church in North London, he blogs at Patheos and has written Raised with Christ and Hope Reborn (with Tope Koleoso). In this hangout, Adrian talks us through why and how we can use technology to build our churches and church plants.


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Communication

  • The purpose of technology is making our communication better - but the regular principles of communication count.
  • Vision - We need to have a clear vision of the overall goal of what we are trying to achieve.
  • Goal - What are we trying to achieve through this particular piece of communication?
  • Audience - Think about who you are trying to reach and what you already know about them.
  • Message - What is it that you need to communicate to these people in order to reach your goal?
  • Method - How can you best get the message across to your audience?

What is Your Vision?

  • You are called first and foremost to build the local church.
“You are not called to pastor the world.” (Tope Koleoso)
  • Nothing can take the place of face-to-face discipleship.
  • Do not serve technology, force it to serve you.
  • Start small. Build up what you're doing. Assess it, and then kill it if it's not working.

How to Think About the Internet

  • Response A to the internet:
“These media tend to shorten attention spans, weaken discursive reasoning, lure people away from Scripture and prayer, disembody relationships, feed the fires of narcissism, cater to the craving for attention, fill the world with drivel, shrink the soul's capacity for greatness, and make us second-handers who comment on life when we ought to be living it. So boycott them and write books (not blogs) about the problem” (John Piper)
  • Response B to the internet:
“The other response says: Yes, there is truth in all of that, but instead of boycotting, try to fill these media with as much provocative, reasonable, Bible-saturated, prayerful, relational, Christ-exalting, truth-driven, serious, creative pointers to true greatness as you can.” (John Piper)

Internet and the Local Church

  • A massive time waster, rivalled only by TV.
  • Allows pornography into our homes.
  • Creates a sense of a global village.
  • As Christians, we should 'plunder the devil's tools'.
  • We have better access to Christian resources than at any time in the last 2000 years.
  • Yet we are the most biblically illiterate generation for centuries.
  • "...by all means that I might save some." (1 Corinthians 9:22)

Statistics to Blow Your Mind

  • Internet Users - 2.8 billion people (40% of world population, 84% of UK population)
  • Mobile Phone Users - 6.8 billion people (97% of world population). Over half of UK population own a smartphone or tablet.

Social Media Statistics

  • Twitter - 200 million active users, 400 million tweets daily, 60% tweeted from mobile devices. 15 million active users in the UK.
  • Facebook - Over a billion members worldwide. 60% of this total log in on a given day. 33 Million Brits log in at least once a month.

Social Media - So What?

  • People create intense connections with each other and organisations online.
  • Tension exists between "open" personal world of the net and desire to protect image.
  • Unofficial posts can be a major headache.
  • Online connections do lead to offline friendships.
  • Beware of the potential to become addicted.
  • Our biggest need is for real-world pastors and friends.

What can Social Media Achieve?

  • Forging connections old and new.
  • Evangelistic opportunity.
  • Opportunity for sin (e.g. affairs with old flames).
  • Sharing news and ideas.
  • Crowd sourcing.
  • Advertising events - 'Flash mobs'.
  • Campaigns and revolutions.

Internet Effects

  • "Democratisation" - Anti-authority and undermines local accountability.
  • Make sure you have a pastoral covering for your blog.
  • Old ways of 'validating' are being replaced by links from friends and Google ranking.
  • The days of a congregation being solely taught by their pastor are over.
  • There can be a divide between those that are online and those that are not.
  • One of the biggest transformations known to man. As significant as the printing press.

It's All About Leadership

  • Leadership can be defined as having followers.
  • There are two types of follower, so there are two types of leadership - influence and authority. 
  • Every leader will be more gifted at one or the other of these types of leadership.
  • Social media can help you to develop influence.

How Can We Use Technology to Evangelise?

  • Be clear what our message is and be a consistent witness (e.g. no 'flaming').
  • Don't underestimate the power of 'coming out' to friends online.
  • Join the conversion that is happening online.
  • Produce excellent resources that don't sing to the choir.
  • What we do online cannot replace face-to-face discipleship.

Principles for Our Online Life.

  • Avoid self-promotion (see Proverbs 27:2). Use whatever voice God gives you online to honour him and direct readers to others. It's all about Jesus, NOT you. But social media are personal, so don't hide who you are.
  • Be a city on a hill (see Matthew 5:14-16). Humility does not require that we hide ourselves.
  • Beware the power of the keyboard (see Proverbs 18:21 and James 3:1-2).
  • Don't say too much (see Proverbs 10:19, Proverbs 29:20, Proverbs 18:13, Proverbs 18:6 and Proverbs 15:1). The internet captures careless words forever.
  • Don't say too little (see Proverbs 25:11, Proverbs 12:8, Proverbs 12:25, Proverbs 15:23 and Proverbs 22:11).
  • Don't cast your pearls before swine (see Proverbs 23:9,  Proverbs 26:4-5 and Proverbs 9:8). Don't EVER use the internet to rebuke a charater flaw - do it face to face instead. Discussing doctrine publicly is fine, but do it with grace.
  • "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." (Matthew 7:12) 

Consider Your Audience

  • Contextualise EVERYTHING.
  • In a rural church, a church's own building may become well known and function as a community centre. Tight-knit social circles mean word of mouth works. Community is a strong value, even among non-Christians.
  • In a city church, there are few truly high profile buildings. Consider buildings that people already attend, such as cinemas and theatres. Word of mouth is still important, but people live next to a church for years and never know about it. Many want anonymity initially.

Reaching People You Already Know

  • The best methods are face to face, phone calls and text messages.
  • Text Messages - Almost 100% of people own mobiles and most text messages will be read. These messages are highly personal and trusted. You can include weblinks in texts. Disadavantages are that it is harder to reach new people through text until they give you their number, and you can't send graphics as easily.

Tips For Texts

  • Don't text too often.
  • Beware of misinterpretation.
  • Don't ignore incoming texts.
  • Have different groups for regular and special events.
  • You could use auto-sign up where people can text a certain number to sign up for your texts.
  • Add an unsubscribe message to some texts.
  • Adrian Warnock would recommend a tool called Text Local to send texts to a list. It is quite cheap and you can set up a charities account.

What About Email?

  • Open rates may be under 40%.
  • Click rates may be under 5%.
  • Watch out for spam filters and Google tabs.
  • Use alongside other channels.
  • Adrian Warnock recommends using Mailchimp, Highrise and Wufoo to manage your church database.
  • Don't ignore incoming emails.

Reaching People Who Know Members

  • The best methods are word of mouth, social media and your church website.
  • Give members tools to use - leaflets and messages to share.
  • Encourage them by other methods.

Reaching People Who Live Locally

  • The best methods are publicity, your website and social media.
  • Ensure that your website is easily updated. WordPress is good for this.
  • Register with Google Places and other directories.

Reaching Distant Friends Who Could Recommend Locals

  • The best methods are social media and your website.

Joined-Up Communication

  • All of your communication should have one look, one message, one voice and one purpose.
  • You should, however, use many different channels for your communication.

Publicity

  • You can use leafleting, newspapers, buses and billboards.
  • Through it all, there should be a unified personality.
  • Your publicity can facilitate personal invitations.
  • Your publicity should reflect both the current reality of your situation and your future aspirations.

Your Church Website

  • Avoid totally outsourcing if possible.
  • Ensure you can easily update it (use WordPress plus a template). You should be updating your website frequently.
  • Be truthful in the image that you portray.
  • Think about what kinds of people you are trying to attract, and those that you are not.
  • Your website is your church's online home. Make the front page attractive and interesting.

Using Media on Your Site

  • Most church websites have MP3s
  • Consider using video to stand out.
  • Having audio or video sermons available will allow catch-up for kids workers and those on holiday.
  • Some will use them to 'preview' the church.
  • People are able to build a relationship with the church prior to attending.
  • You can use your recorded sermon to expand your influence. But remember to preach to your people, not to the world.
  • Don't host the files on your own website. Use services like Soundcloud (for audio), Feedburner (for an iTunes podcast) and Vimeo or YouTube for video.
  • If the lighting is good, then a smartphone will suffice for recording video.
  • Consider getting a church mobile app.

Making Google Your Friend

  • A high ranking for 'church yourtown' is very important.
  • Use keywords in your text and title, add written content to the site, and try to get external links.
  • Do not pay for SEO.
  • Have a blog, news section or podcast feed.
  • Use Google Places and other directories.
  • Link to some other churches.

Blogs

  • A blog is a regularly updated website (you don't have to use the word 'blog').
  • Shortened from 'Web Log'.
  • Your potential audience is the entire internet community.
  • People can subscribe by a reader or email.
  • Post headlines to Twitter and Facebook.
  • A blog can really help with Google rankings.
  • A comments box is optional and dangerous. Consider Disqus.

Facebook

  • For keeping in touch with the people you know.
  • Reconnecting with old friends.
  • There are groups, fan pages and events - all of these are a necessary pain in the neck.
  • Sharing photos (you may also wish to consider Instagram).
  • Happy Birthday messages.
  • Can find local people and connect with or advertise to them.
  • Problems can include excessive showing off, too much negativity, Facebook is named in 30% of UK divorces, posts are not seen by all friends.
  • Facebook publicity can be targeted by geography and/or keywords in user profiles. You can 'boost' a certain post. There is a minimum weekly spend and it will be billed to a credit card. You can use it to support a Facebook pages that you have set up, or your website.

Twitter

  • For following people you wish you knew.
  • "What's happening?" in 140 characters.
  • Often "What are you thinking", or "What have you found that is interesting?"
  • Sentences change lives.
  • Many Tweets include links to external websites.
  • Limited promotional opportunities, but 'viral' spread.

Twitter Tips

  • Join now as an individual.
  • Follow a good mix of people (Christian leaders, local MP/Mayor, people who retweet or post things you like).
  • Use keywords and hashtags to find local people.
  • Follow people back. Use lists to manage those that you follow.
  • Follow Adrian Warnock and Broadcast.
  • Interact and give back.

Q&A

1. What is a good first step for someone just starting to use technology in their church, and how do we assess its impact?
  • Know yourself and be realistic. If you decide to blog, you don't need to commit to doing it every week - but you should set yourself some frequency to do it.
  • Twitter is probably a better place to start. There is a quick reward, but limit the amount of time you spend on it.
  • A good way to assess the impact things are having is to ask visitors to the church how they found out about you.
2. What should be the focus of the opening page of the website of a church plant?
  • It may be the only page of the site that people who are thinking of coming to the church plant look at.
  • It should be appealing. Graphics are good (possibly rotating graphics on a slider). There should be a bit of text with the church name, location and a short description.
  • After the front page, then next page to pay attention to is an about page with a few paragraphs - just these two pages make a good start to the website.
3. How do you use social media for events?
  • Photos are very good.
  • Post little comments about the event that friends may share with other friends.
  • You can use Facebook events to invite people to things (or Eventbrite is another option).
  • Sending texts is a very good way of getting people to come to events.
4. How do we encourage Bible-reading in an increasingly illiterate culture?
  • We are a people of the book.
  • Sometimes when we display Bible verses on the screen in our services, people (even leaders) don't bring Bibles with them. What is this modelling to people?
  • Telling Bible stories, videos and preaching can all be helpful in this.
  • Bible apps on devices have their place, but they can be very distracting when it comes to quiet times - we shouldn't throw out the books.
  • It starts with how much we, as leaders, read the Bible.
5. Have you had any experience of Facebook advertising?
  • The big question to ask is what return you get on your investment.
  • It might be worth giving it a try for a big event and seeing what happens.
  • When Adrian Warnock tried it, it didn't work that well. He has found that advertising on buses has brought better results.
6. Why is any of this relevant for a small church in an area where lots of people don't speak English as their first language?
  • Contextualise it for your own setting.
  • Look for people in your area who are not Christians but are tweeting, and use it to learn about what is going on in your area.
7. In what ways can LinkedIn be useful in church contexts?
  • It could be useful for something like a 'GPs meetup' or other meetings relating to specific industries or jobs.
  • It may also be useful for fundraising for social action projects.

Recommended Resources

In this hangout, Adrian refers to the following blog posts.

Adrian has also written the following books.

Note - If you buy any of these books using the affiliate links above, Broadcast will receive a commission from Amazon to help more churches get planted, at no additional cost to you.