Nonprofits in general, and churches in particular, tend to be late adopters of new technologies. There’s a good reason for this: we don’t usually have money to experiment with technologies that may or may not be helpful for our particular situation. Sometimes, churches and nonprofits have benefited by their delay because they could skip a technology cycle, and thereby save money.
Today, the proliferation and rapid deployment cycles of new communications technologies and platforms (websites, email newsletters, social media, texting, etc.) make it really difficult to decide where to invest precious resources in terms of getting your organization “up to date”. Some of these technologies and platforms are interrelated in terms of their effective use however, an understanding those relationships can be helpful when making decisions about technologies.
As we work with churches and nonprofits (and also many small businesses on a budget), we see a logical rational pattern in effectively utilizing newer communications technologies. This pattern is represented in what we call the “Arc of Adoption”, graphically represented on this page.
The place to start (if you haven’t already) is with a website. You might start with a static website – that is, a website whose content doesn’t change very often. A static website might say on its homepage: “Worship is at 10 AM on Sunday morning”. The next step would be to move to a dynamic website, where the content changes more frequently, usually in terms of dated material. A dynamic website might say on its homepage: “Worship is at 10 AM on Sunday morning, and this week’s sermon title is…”
After a dynamic website, generally we see organizations begin to develop either a Facebook page or an email newsletter, and then develop the other soon after. These communications channels come next because to make effective use of them depends on a dynamic website. You can certainly use either of these channels without a website, but the most effective use of a Facebook page or an email newsletter comes when you are able to put short bits of content in either of those channels, with a link back to the full content on your website.
This level of communication – dynamic website, Facebook page & email newsletter – is where most churches we work with find that they are maxed out in terms of either people resources (staff or volunteer) and/or financial resources.
Churches with additional resources of either people or finances might go on to look at blogs (generally by the senior pastor or other clergy staff), Twitter (although you will need to assess whether Twitter will actually be helpful for you), and very infrequently SMS text messaging.
I am interested in a dialogue in the comments around how your church has made decisions about new communications technologies. Did your church consider something like our Arc of Adoption? What were the limitations and/or hopes around the decisions for one technology over another? What factors play into your church’s decisions about using or not using these new technologies?