Advice for Churches Joining the Online Community

Advice for Churches Joining the Online Community

At 07:50 PM 2/23/96 -0600, Cliff Day ( wrote:
> ...
>Our church board of trustees decided to formalize things last week by 
>establishing an Internet Committee and appointing me as its chairperson.
>Before our new committee proceeds further,  I thought I would make contact
>with you.  We are open to any advice you might be willing to provide our
>fledgling committee.  Specifically, have any lists of "do's and don'ts" or
>"lessons learned" been compiled, based on other UU church's good and bad 
>experiences with going on-line? 

Hello Cliff!

Congratulations on having an internet committee. Seems like a good idea to help the church deal with new technology. Here are a few random thoughts about churches going online.

  1. Remember that many people of the congregation will *not* be on-line. By creating a group of people who are communicating electronically, you exclude those without computers and/or email access. This process of exclusion can be very subtle so attention needs to be paid to making online information available in other timely ways to include the whole congregation. This is especially true for web page information.

  2. Remember that much of what travels electronically, especially to news groups and lists, is like publishing it in the newspaper. If someone gets on ecc-l or uus-l (two UU discussion groups with large readership) and mentions an internal issue of your congregation - the whole world instantly knows about it. This makes ministers especially very vulnerable. Members and friends of your congregation should be alerted about discussing internal matters in a public forum.

  3. Electronic mail can be an excellent way for committees to share their work, minutes to be distributed, and articles submitted to the newsletter.

  4. Ministers may find that they get email from their congregation on personal concerns that the individual wouldn't have spoken about directly but feel more comfortable sending email. The minister may get more feedback from sermons and good discussions may result.

  5. If you have seasonal members of your congregation who leave for a part of the year then return, they can keep in touch with what is happening in the congregation much more easily. I post my sermons on my web page so my members far away can keep up with my thinking and reflections.

  6. The opportunities for youth ministry electronically are very good especially with kids who are away at school. If you have a campus near by, you will find reaching out to these kids easier using the internet.

  7. People who use email need to learn to be cautious about what they say. The immediacy of just banging out a message on the screen then sending it in a split second can sometimes cause one to be too reactionary in one's writing and send something ill considered. If your emotions get engaged, it might be worth pausing a moment before sending the message until the mind is clearer.

  8. Email messages like letters are forever. They can be kept and archived for future reference unlike face to face or telephone conversation. This can be good if one is clear in one's writing or it can be harmful if one hasn't carefully considered what has been written.

These are a few thoughts I have about what I have learned. Like anything else, email and the internet has its good and bad points. I'd be interested in your experience with the net as your committee evolves - so be sure to share it with!

(published 3/96 in First Days Record, 420 Willa Road Newark, Delaware 19711)