Thursday, December 07, 2006

New Media and the Church

Web 2.0 is the buzz in all the tech/business circles. This is the big idea that most web content is being created by end users all across the globe and shared in networks. Rather than relying on the elite creatives to entertain us, now everyone can have their Andy Warhol 15 minutes of fame. Trendwatching labeled this trend as Generation C - a generation of creatives who were sharing photos, creating videos, and writing their stories online.

Now, Trendwatching's latest report is a riff on this concept -- it's called Generation C(ash): this is the idea that this legion of independent creators can earn some cash from their volunteer efforts. Now, instead of the A-list stars making all the money -- those of us and the J-list or below can get some extra jingle in our pockets for our efforts. Case in point -- you'll note that The Eagle and Child has an "Our Sponsors" section now. I was contacted out of the blue by a sponsor and asked about rates. I'd never considered selling advertising before, but why not? So I did a little sniffing around and negotiated a rate.

Now, this is where the Church comes in -- I consider this weblog an extension of my, I asked that the (very very very modest) proceeds from this advertising be sent to Covenant-First Presbyterian. It's kind of weird to blog about because it sounds like I'm tooting my horn -- but remember, this is a small (tiny, diminuitive, miniscule) sum of money. My point in telling the story is simply to show that Web 2.0 is a valid place for Churches not only to spread their message, but also to find new ways of generating funds for ministry.

From a different angle: Just yesterday, I came across Seth Godin's little document on 6 ways non-profits can use Web 2.0 for getting their message out -- again, the same subject. Seth encourages nonprofits to use YouTube, blogging, and other tools to establish an online presence that makes an impact. I while ago, I wrote a post about Blogging as the new town square. Now, in light of Seth's article, I think that needs to be modified into Web 2.0 as the new town square. And if that is the case, then it behooves us as Christians to sally forth into it in winsome and refreshingly honest ways. I made a few suggestions as to ways to do this in the Christians Engaging Web 2.0 post (almost a year ago), but as I look back at that post, I see that so much has developed since then. Social networking (such as MySpace) has exploded. In my original post, I had focused mainly on text sharing sites -- but whole new networks for sharing creative photos (such as Flickr), video (YouTube), or gaming (pick your online gaming world) compel much more traffic. It's no longer sufficient for an organization to have a web page and maybe a blog -- it needs a web presence across several different social networking sites.

Finally, As we wrestle with what it means to be a christian presence in Web 2.0, I commend to you John Schroeder's thoughts on Christian Blogging -- this is a theme that he comes back to again and again and I find his thinking to be sound, humbling, and quite honestly, convicting. Essentially, what will set apart Christians in Web 2.0 is the tone -- the evidence of the fruit of the Spirit working within us. Yes we have lots more opportunity to get our message out and to raise some funds for ministry -- but do we undercut the message by the way in which we present it? Are our words seasoned with salt and thoughtful. Does our creativity reflect truth, beauty, and goodness?

Soli Deo Gloria