Monday, October 20, 2008

Some Advice, Please

Now that I am more or less healthy, I am making some decisions about my ministry at my church. One decision I made was to let go and let God. The LOLs (not laughing out loud by any means) are too resistant to change and have too many supporters for radical change to occur. (Actually, I'm not sure that it is the LOLs that are resistant to change, but their supporters.) I am focusing much of my time on preaching and I am getting better. I had fallen into a spell of IMHO awful preaching (though parishioners say it was not awful). Improved preaching means more time in prayer, reflection and study. I'm also trying to be more diligent in visitation, though my proposed visitation schedule is trashed because I believe a parishioner is dying and I'm trying to visit her at least every other day. She has no children, though lots of friends and other family.

And so I move on to considering more modern means of communication. The Alban Institute magazine this quarter is devoted to web means of communication. Our new moderator has said (I hope I am quoting accurately) that about 40 per cent of his pastoral care is by email. Our congregation as it presently is, is not tech savvy. In fact, there are session members without email (drives me crazy). In rural Michigan, I could understand, but this is urban Memphis for Pete's sake. So, I am thinking about redoing our web site which is has not been updated since March, I think. Our previous "webmaster" resigned. I would like to take on the task for a couple of reasons. I think it would be fun. The web site would reflect my sensibilities. I wouldn't have to tell someone their design stank. I'm thinking more of a static site at first, with mostly the calendar. (We have dropped our newsletter because no one wants to do it. We do one quarterly with a monthly calendar available on the web and in hard copy in the narthex.) I'm also thinking of a blog that is openly "mine" and considers more theological/biblical reflections, perhaps looking towards the lectionary passage for Sunday. I'm also thinking of a listserv for the congregation to spread news. The leaves out a lot of members. We could also do a Face Book page (I don't have a Face Book page, because I don't have any friends that I know of on Face Book).

So, given our demographics, we are older (shoot, elderly) like most PCUSA congregations, in a city, two blocks from the University of Memphis. We do have young people: recent college grads who still attend, a youth group of six kids, a young couple has begun attending with two sons. We have about three young families who also attend sporadically. Most of the members are connected by long membership and friendship.

So, I would see the website and my blog as mostly outreach, a presence on the web. The listserv would be great if enough people were interested, but I don't know whether we have that many folks. (We could also do a devotional on the listserv is anyone wanted to do it) The blog could be open to other members too. So, whaddaya think?

6 comments:

Songbird said...

It's never a bad idea to focus more on preaching. The more I read and write in preparation, the better it is, and that seems to have a positive effect on everything else.
You have at least two friends on Facebook I know of: me and Cheesehead! But if you're not in a youth-predominant environment church, I'm not sure how important it is as a ministry tool. (It's also a wicked time suck.)
I'm just starting a draft of a blog for the church I'm serving, because the current website is very difficult to maintain, and the church members who were doing it departed with the old pastor. The main thing is to keep it simple. At Small Church I did a weekly announcement page, occasional posts about denominational or seasonal things, and posted my sermon weekly. At least it gave us a presence.
Love the LOLs idea...

cheesehead said...

You have others. Friends I mean. At least one with whom you are in a study group. Just sayin...

John Shuck said...

I began with my last congregation and do with my current congregation since I started here, sending out a weekly email about news of the church. What is up this week as well as thoughts and links. Virtually everyone has email (even my mother at 85) has it. Even though folks aren't web savvy, they rely on my weekly e-news.

I include a prayer corner on it, a weekly day to day schedule.

My suggestion is to start there. The only reason I suggest it is that is how I started. You could add your blog as an additional resource for news, your thoughts, whatever.

Finally, the web page is crucial for newcomers. I don't even do local shopping without going on the internet.

You can start a webpage in about five minutes.

The webpage I maintain for my PFLAG chapter is a cheapo that I update on-line. I go through Yahoo. It is easy to do. www.pflagtricities.org

It's fun and worth it. I have gained a lot of visitors and members because of the web presence.

Good luck!

Muthah+ said...

Perodically I have to stop and go back to spending time in prayer and writing sermons. It is a discipline that will allow you opportunities to try new things for your sermons and allow your preaching to grow.

Usually I preach extemporaneously but after a while I have to go back to writing a text so that my sermonizing doesn't get sloppy. Preaching from a "prepared heart" rather than a prepared text is great but it takes discipline to do it.

LutheranChik said...

We have a significant technological divide in our congregation...the under-60's and more affluent in the congo have come to depend on our church website, while most of the poorer and/or older members don't own a computer and frankly don't even want to touch one. One of our struggles is making sure that our information is accessible to everyone.

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