In the movie Field of Dreams, a struggling Iowan farmer, Ray Kinsella, begins to hear voices, advising him "If you build it, he will come." Thinking this was sound advice, he plows under a corn field and builds a baseball diamond. And he waits. And he waits some more. His financial situation only gets worse and no one comes.
Next, the voice urges Ray to find Terence Mann, who had written about the golden age of baseball. Eventually, the 2 of them seek out someone who had been a player, but left the game and became a doctor. The story continues and expands and, finally, people are lining up to see the baseball diamond and the games being played. And, 'he' comes - I won't spoil it for you, if you haven't seen the movie.
While this may have made a successful movie plot, applying it to your church website is not a good practice, nor is it how we were instructed to go about sharing the word of God -
Matthew 28:19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
Is your church website your 'Field of Dreams'? Are there voices telling you to build a website or Facebook page? Have you built it and hope they come? Who will come? Why will they come? Will they stay? What will they do next? How would that impact your church? The Church?
In attempts to help the non-technical grasp the technology of the Internet, we often hear parables in the style of "the kingdom of heaven is like ...". Some of them go like this -
- Your church website is like your welcome mat.
- Your website is like a window into your church.
- Your church website is like a billboard.
Really? If your website is like any of these, no wonder no one is coming!
Let's just stay with the parables, shall we? As you drive to work or to go shopping, how many times have you been compelled to pull over and go into a home or business because they had this awesome welcome mat? Even if I am standing at your threshold, the welcome mat has little influence on my decision to enter.
Walking past a well-dressed shop window may get you to slow down, and maybe even walk into the shop. But, the unspoken message is "all the good stuff is inside, you'll have to come in."
Billboards have a very short time to get their message across before you've passed it, very similar to a web page. The billboard needs to communicate that message very quickly and clearly, and also have a memorable next step. In the past few years, I have started to see more electronic billboards, but that hasn't changed how people view them, it just allows the advertising company to sell more ads and change them easily. Maybe one of the most effective use of billboards was how Burma-Shave used a progression of several billboards spaced out along the roadside. But, overall, billboards are not interactive and are very shallow
Your website can certainly emulate any of the above, it just shouldn't.
All these comparisons also are representative of the Field of Dreams way of thinking. Instead of going out and seeking, instead of spilling out from inside the walls of the church and into the streets, and instead of investing time and effort into having conversations, we sit back and keep stocking our electronic brochure rack, waiting for someone else to seek us, waiting for someone to knock on our door, waiting for someone to ask us about our God and our faith.
During this coming week, will you examine the role you have chosen for your church website? Are you employing Field of Dream tactics, or do you have a comprehensive strategy for your ministry? How will your approach and strategy change in the coming weeks and months?
We'd love to hear about your struggles and successes - share them with us and each other.