Last night, Phyllis and I were in a "Newcomers" meeting at the church of which we've become a part. It's a pretty unique church in it's philosophy of ministry – turning seekers into servants – and it actually meets in a multiplex movie theater. The theater begins selling tickets and showing the movies at 11:30, so we're in and out for two services beginning at 8:30. When you come in, you're assaulted by popcorn smells and huge posters of the current movies that are playing. (Recently we met in the theater playing "Zombieland" daily except when we were there, and a few months before the children's church met in the "Drag Me to Hell" theater. Irony.)
But we were at the Newcomer Café last night and I found it interesting to hear the new folks explain how they came to the church and what they found "attractive" after they came. The majority of the newbies came because they found the church in the internet. That's right, they moved to town, Googled "churches" and came to the one in the Rave Theater. One couple with two small children did begin attending because they saw the portable sign on the road between the Starbucks and the new Buffalo Wings place. And since they were late for the Lutheran church said, "We can make it on time here," so they wheeled in and stayed.
But I'm pretty amazed at how many people found the church through the internet. They found the church through Google!
Now our church has a rocking interactive website complete with audio messages, etc. But it is a true sign of the times, that developing a website for churches is important. And tell the truth, most church websites are outdated and pretty – can I say this out loud? – crappy. They don't tell much and because they don't get many hits are low on the Google search totem poll. One of the leaders whipped out her iPhone and right in the meeting Googled churches in our fair city and sure enough, number one in the search was our very church.
Churches don't have great websites mainly because they're expensive, not just to set up, but to maintain and keep current. But I'm just saying, if you want to let people find you, do a good website.
Of course a good way to get people to a church meeting is to actually be out among people. Like at work or school or Starbucks and develop a relationship and invite them. One newbie had actually done that, inviting a young Catholic classmate (who sat behind me yesterday morning and cried during worship) to come with her. She kept saying last night, "It was just awesome. I've never been in anything like this before."
Also, there is a neat article here regarding the amazing impact of social networking, both online and otherwise.
I'm convinced that although we attempt to think linear with things happening in 1-2-3's, real life happens in "systems." Networks develop into tribes which develop systems that interact with each other. Somehow we're all just learning and getting our heads around the idea that life and church and community's not just about cause-and-effect proceeding like a line of dominoes painstakingly set up and then tapped by a finger, it's about complicated relationships that intertwine and become networks and systems.
The universe is made up of interacting individuals, families, social groups who cause things to happen. Influence is important. According to the article, it seems to work with obesity and other "norms" for networks. When we as salt and light truly influence for good, it goes beyond where we are for at least four degrees, too.
Also, this weekend I read Donald Miller's latest book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. Pages 189-206 are some of the best marriage advice I've ever read. Don (whom I think is still single) is transparent and profound as he explores in these two chapters the mystery of human relationships. I read these chapters out loud to Phyllis and Jane last night. The hardback price is worth it for just these seventeen pages alone.
I wish I wrote as well as Donald…