Technology and the Missional Church


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Will Platnick's talk on Technology and the Church at the 2013 Upstate NY Synod Assembly.

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Technology and the Missional Church

  1. 1. Technology and the MissionalTechnology and the MissionalChurchChurchWill PlatnickDeacon, Southwest Conference
  2. 2. Workshop InfoEmail: wplatnick@gmail.comTwitter: @WillPlatnickBlog: http://www.willdurness.comView this slide deck at:
  3. 3. Hi, I’m WillDeacon for the Southwest Conference. Member of the Synod CommunicationTeam. Spouse of Pastor Becca Ehrlich, Zion Lutheran Church in Frewsburg.In my day job, I work for, the largest church you’ve never heard of.It’s a multi-site Evangelical Covenant church based out of Oklahoma that iscurrently worshipping 50,000+ per weekend across their 16 physical campusesand another 100,000 per week at Church Online.I work for “Team Digerati”, the group that focuses on Mission throughTechnology. I mainly focus on the YouVersion Bible App. My job is to keep theservers that power our free services functioning properly.In my previous life, I was the Chief Technology Officer and Operations Managerof two different multi-million dollar web hosting companies in the Albany area.
  4. 4. Topics to CoverWeb SitesSocial MediaPutting sermons online and holding online servicesFree and Non-Free Tools & Services to help manage yourchurch and empower your ministry
  5. 5. InformationSince this is a “general knowledge” workshop, I am going to be throwing a largeamount of information about a lot of things in a short amount of time. As areminder, you probably want to write down the web site where you can view thispresentation: Fischer (Director of Communications for the Upstate NY Synod) and I willbe holding online seminars and podcasts throughout the year that will go indeeper into these subjects.I am sending around a list where you can sign up for technology updates fromthe Synod, and you can indicate what you’d like to learn more about.
  6. 6. Web SitesWeb Sites
  7. 7. Web SitesWeb sites are an absolute necessity now. During my time atPrince of Peace in Clifton Park, the majority of newmembers checked out the website before coming to aservice, even if they were personally invited.Some new members came to us because they found ourwebsite in a Google search.A website is absolutely crucial for people findinginformation about your ministry.
  8. 8. OwnershipFirst thing a church needs to do is identify a person who cantake initiative to spearhead a web site.Does the person have experience or is willing to learn howto make a website?Realistically, how much time can this person spend on thewebsite?
  9. 9. Website OptionsIf the answer to both of these questions is “not a lot”, then youhave two options:Use to build a free, one page websitethat provides the most important information about yourchurch: Address, Service Times, etc..Find somebody you can pay to build your website for you ifyou have the resource of dollars.WARNING: This will still take up time because you have tosupply them with the actual written content of the website.
  10. 10. Website OptionsIf you do have a person who is willing, has an aptitude fortechnology and is willing to spend time on this importantmissional project, then consider yourself blessed!I’m going to spend some time talking about some websitedifferent options and their pro’s and con’s.
  11. 11. is a web application that I created toempower churches that are short on resources to be able tocreate a simple, one page website that provides the mostimportant information such as:Address with a link to a Google MapService TimePhone Numberetc...
  12. 12. EasyChurchSites.comThe service is free to use and has no strings attached. It’sjust something I wanted to make sure existed for theChurch.
  13. 13. EasyChurchSites.comPro’s:Good first stepFreeFastEasyNo experience necessary
  14. 14. EasyChurchSites.comCon’s:Inflexible: Can’t move content aroundAmount of content you can create is limitedCan’t make it visually look how you want it to
  15. 15. EasyChurchSites.comThe next genre of web sites are called Web Site Builders.These are services that are specifically designed to enablepeople who don’t know or want to know how to program todesign their own website.Because these services host your website and spent a lot oftime and money making their product, there is a monthly orannual fee associated with using them.
  16. 16. Web Site BuildersThese are for churches who want a good lookinginformational website, have a small to medium amount oftime and have up to $25/month or so to spend on it.Square Space ( - Powerful but easy,plans range from $8-24/month if paid annually. Attractivetemplates, mobile-friendly websites.Virb ( - Not as powerful as Square Space, butinexpensive and also offers attractive templates.
  17. 17. Web Site BuildersPro’s:Easy to useNot a steep learning curveHuge amount of attractive templatesSearch engined optimizedNo coding needed
  18. 18. Web Site BuildersCon’s:You are locked in to the service. If they start doing a badjob at keeping your web site up, you can’t just take yoursite and put it somewhere else that’s more reliable.Not specifically made for churches, so things like sermonpodcasting aren’t built in.
  19. 19. CMS’sThe next and final category of web sites we’ll be talkingabout today are called Content Management Systems orCMS for short.Content Management Systems are web based applicationsthat enable you to manage your day to day website withouthaving to program. They’re similar to the web site builders Imentioned, except they are more powerful, flexible and inthe right hands can create the best possible experience foryour visitors.
  20. 20. CMS ExamplesThere are 3 leaders in Content Management Systems andthey are all free:JoomlaDrupalWordPress
  21. 21. Joomla & DrupalThese are both exceptional Content Management Systems.With the right amount of time, energy and google’ing, youcan customize these CMS’s to do anything you want.The Upstate NY Synod website is a Joomla site. I setup myold church with Joomla ( tohelp their webmaster build the site.Once you know how the software works, maintaining yourweb site and adding new content is easy, but there is mostdefinitely a learning curve.
  22. 22. DrupalThe creators of the Drupal Content Management Systemhave also created a great service called Drupal Gardens( It is a website builder servicesimilar to Square Space or Virb, but built on top of theDrupal CMS.What this means is that you can start our site off at DrupalGardens using their specially made enhancements to makebuilding your website easier, and then move it to the fullDrupal should you want to start doing more advanced thingswith it.
  23. 23. WordPressWordPress started out as a blogging platform, but is easily changed into a fullcontent management system.Less of a learning curve than Drupal or Joomla.There is a HUGE amount of church’s who use WordPress as the base of theirwebsite, so if you decide to use WordPress you’ll be in good company.There are plenty of vendor’s who specialize in making WordPress themes andaddons that are specifically geared towards churches. I’ll talk more about theselater.
  24. 24. Premium WordPressTheme’sWhile WordPress comes with a huge amount of templates to choose from, you can purchase “premiumtemplates” that are geared towards churches. They often include detailed instructions and sometimes videosto help you setup your WordPress church siteThese “premium templates” don’t just control the look of your website, they also add in additionalfunctionality like podcasting sermons. - $49/year includes 7 different templates made for churches. - Hasn’t officially launched yet, but has a link to the Risen theme,which is $45 one time one of my favorites. - Links to a few premium different premium templatesGoogle “wordpress church themes” for more.
  25. 25. Series Engine WordPress plugin that is used for managingsermons. Costs $99 one-time, but is well worth it if you areusing a theme that doesn’t include a sermon manager.
  26. 26. Hosting your CMSWhile all the content management systems I just talked about are free,you need a place to host them. We call companies that provide thisservice “web hosting companies.”Usually, you’ll purchase a plan for a web hosting company that entitlesyou to a set amount of resources. You then upload your contentmanagement software to your web hosting account and run it from theirservers.In addition to hosting, these providers also give you e-mail services, soyou can have an email address like -which is a lot more professional looking than a hotmail or gmailaddress.
  27. 27. Hosting your CMSWeb Hosting Company Recommendations:DreamHost ( is one of the bigger hostingcompanies out there and offers free website hosting to any IRS501c3 nonprofit organization (that’s us!). All you have to do is signup and fax over your IRS letter, and you get yourself a $100/yearservice for free. Hard to beat that generosity!LiquidWeb ( is more expensive (starts at$15/month), but is faster and provides better tech support thanDreamHost. They are a more premium level hosting company.
  28. 28. Churchpr.esA new company, Church Press ( has started hostingWordPress sites specifically for churches.They charge a $50/setup fee, which isn’t common for web hosting, but with that$50 you get access to a sizable number of Premium church themes, many that Ialready mentioned and would cost you hundreds of dollars to buy on their own.Their goal is to package everything you need to build a WordPress site into oneservice for one price.I would definitely recommend considering these guys for hosting yourWordPress church website.
  29. 29. Pay Someone ElseWhile I haven’t used them personally, a few Pastor friendshave recommended Build a Church Website ( can custom design and help maintain your website, butyou’ll end up paying quite a bit more for it.Again, you’ll still end up spending some time on this toapprove things and provide content.
  30. 30. My Personal AdviceIf you have someone who has some time to spend on making your website andyou have a budget of $15-$30/month, I would recommend WordPress and apremium theme over anything else.Make sure your address, service times and phone numbers are updatedfrequently and appear as close to the top of the page as possible.Link to your Facebook Page if you have one (if you don’t get one right away) andput it close to the top of your page.If you’re going to have a News section of your website you HAVE to keep itupdated. Failing to do this makes your church look dead. It’s better not to have anews section at all if you can’t commit to keeping things up to date.
  31. 31. Domain NamesNo matter what option you pick to use with your website, you’ll needa domain name.Domain name is something like, or’s a name that is easy to remember that you point to your website,which as far as the Internet knows is just a set of #’s ( nobody wants to remember,I recommend, I’ve been with them foryears and they’ve been awesome.No matter what, I recommend avoiding GoDaddy at all costs.
  33. 33. Why social media?We are called to share the love of Christ with all the world.It’s important that we shine that love that Christ has shownus as often as possible, utilizing all means possible.A very common story is that church’s are now getting newmembers because they saw a friend of theirs talk about theirchurch on Facebook.As the Church, we need to cultivate that enthusiasm thatcauses people to talk about their faith openly.
  34. 34. Social Media FALLACIESSocial Media will make you relevant - The reality isthat if you are not relevant in your local context, it isdoubtful that you will be relevant online. The technologydoes not make you relevant, but it can make relevantmessages more effective in reaching a greater potentialaudience.Social Media is Free - Remember High SchoolEconomics? There is a huge “opportunity cost.” It’simpossible to utilize social media without a great timeinvestment.
  35. 35. Social Media ServiceSocial Media ServiceOverviewOverview
  36. 36. FacebookOver 1.1 BILLION users from all over the world.This is the network EVERY CHURCH needs to be on. If youspend time anywhere, this is where you’re going to bespending your time. All your target demographics are onFacebook.People post status updates, photos, videos and links.Vast majority of information is delivered through the “NewsFeed” (more on that later)
  37. 37. TwitterOver 500 million usersWho’s on Twitter: Large cross-section, but generally the mostresponsive to your message are young adults (18-35)People post “tweets” which are 140 characters of text. Sometimesit can contain links to web sites, photos or videos.You’d be surprised what can be expressed in 140 characters orless.Let’s talk hashtags.
  38. 38. LinkedIn225 million usersThe “professional” social network. More “networking” than “socialnetworking.”Probably not a place where you’re going to evangelize, but it can helpmake important connections with other clergy and lay-leaders.Generally a safe place to “friend” congregation members, will let yousee what they do and point them towards a ministry that matchestheir gifts.
  39. 39. YouTube2nd most popular search engine behind GoogleAny ministry that creates video content needs to have it onYouTube, in addition to anywhere else they want it.Upload videos with good content and creative titles. Tag thevideos appropriately.How to make a viral video - are no guarantees on a video going viral!
  40. 40. YouTubeSome users don’t upload videos to YouTube because when itends, there might be a link to a video with...let’s just saynon-Christian content.In my eyes, that makes it even more important that weupload inspiring, creative and interesting content to fight forthe attention of what people are “used” to seeing.
  41. 41. PinterestPinterest is about 50 million users strong. It is the fastest growingsocial network.• What’s interesting about Pinterest is that it’s the only social networkdominated by women. As such, it’s a great place to work for doingwomen’s ministry.• Users “pin” photos and videos to boards. Very visual, everything is apicture. - Neal does an amazing job atpinning great content dealing with the Church and Technology.
  43. 43. ELCA Concerns• The synod has asked me to include some content about thedangers of Facebook and social networking.• The Conflict and Healing Team will be holding workshopsgoing much more in-depth on these subjects.• Please send any questions regarding this topic to PastorTimothy Madsen of the Conflict and Healing Team,
  44. 44. ELCA Concerns• Rule #1 - There’s no such thing as privacy. Facebook privacy controlscan be very confusing. There’s even been failures in the system in thepast where you could even read instant messages between people. Ifthere’s even one single person you wouldn’t want to read it, don’twrite it.• Rule #2 - Don’t be inappropriate or intimate with anybody you’re notsupposed to. The ELCA is treating these reports as professionalmisconduct.
  45. 45. Friend Requests• Think through your general policy about “friending” congregants. Is itbetter to wait until they request you to add them, rather than reachout to friend members of the congregation on your own? This appliesespecially to the youth of your parish or ministry setting. For exampleone of your young members is on Facebook chatting with their friendsabout doing something reckless or illegal on the weekend. Do youhave a responsibility to inform the parents. How would you handletheir complaint: “You knew about this and did nothing?” On the otherside, how would you handle the youth coming up to you and sayin“you narc’d on me.”
  46. 46. Boundaries• Have you thought through what you’re going to do whenyou leave a call? Are you planning to “unfriend” formerparishioners? Are you prepared to put up a boundarybetween yourself and your former parishioners so thatthe one who follows you in ministry will have a chance toestablish him/herself? Have you thought through how thisis different than leaving your church and not worshippingthere anymore after you leave a call?
  48. 48. Start with Facebook• If I were a bettin’ man, I’d bet that most people here havestarted to use Facebook in their personal lives, am I right?• Because of that, I’m not going to spend a TON of timetalking about logistics of using Facebook since most peoplehere get the general concepts.• It will give you, by far, the biggest return on investment.
  49. 49. Churches on Facebook• Hillsong Church -• -• Luther Memorial Lutheran Church -
  50. 50. Basic FB Stuff• Profile - This is what you get when you sign up for Facebook.Everybody on Facebook HAS to have one of these and it has to bepersonal for you, NOT your church.• Page - This is what you will end up creating for your church by goingto - A Facebook Page issetup for businesses, organizations, brands and celebrities.• Groups - These are used mostly for communication and discussionpurposes. Some churches are starting to use private Facebook groupsto power communication between their prayer teams.
  51. 51. The News feed• When going to blogs or websites, you usually get to whatyou’re looking for by going to directly to someone’s page.• This is NOT the case with Facebook.• The majority of people rely on the Facebook News Feed toread updates because they have hundreds of friends andthey can’t go to everybody’s page because it would take waytoo much time.
  52. 52. The News Feed• Knowing a little bit about how the News Feed works isCRUCIAL to success.• There are currently two ways the News Feed operates: TopStories or Most Recent. There is a small arrow in the topright corner of the news feed that allows you to select whichone you’d like.• If you select Most Recent and go to Facebook every day,you’ll usually stay on the Most Recent view, but not always.
  53. 53. The News Feed• Most people get their news feed in the “Top News” view,which means Facebook uses some algorithm to determinewhat gets shown. They don’t tell us precisely how it works,but part of it is based on popularity, which in Facebooktranslates to likes, shares and comments.• So, most of your church members will not visit the church’sFacebook page itself, so your job is to make sure the contentyou are posting as the church is getting in the news feed asmuch as possible. This means you need the help of others.
  54. 54. Assemble a Team• Social media can take a fair amount of time, so having ateam is usually better than one person.• Not everybody on the team has to be the one making theFacebook posts, but it’s helpful to have a core group ofpeople who make it their job to share, like and comment.This is especially important when getting started.• Every like, comment and share is one step closer toimproving the likelihood of your content getting in front ofeyeballs.
  55. 55. Ask for it• In order to make sure your content is seen, you need to askfor it.• At church, get up and mention the Facebook page regularlyand encourage everybody to Like the page, like the posts andto share anything the church posts that strikes a cord.Explain why it’s important to our job as Christians to spreadthe Good News through any method possible.• In your posts, ask people to like or share. Many will do it,and it’s not “chintzy” or in poor taste.
  56. 56. What to Post• Now that you know how what you post will get seen, now youhave to figure out what you’re going to post.• I break it down, perhaps too simply, into two categories:Inspiration and Action.• Inspiration posts are links to scripture, photos and other articlesmeant to increase the faith of members of your congregation.• Action posts are announcements about things that arehappening that you want to encourage people to be a part of.
  57. 57. When/How Often• Not an easy question to answer, you’ll have to experiment.There are some rough guidelines.• You should post somewhere between 1 and 4 times per day.• Experiment with the times that you post to see whatdifference it makes to the popularity of your post.• Buffer - is a great tool that canautomatically post for you at set times.
  58. 58. Questions on SocialQuestions on SocialMedia?Media?
  59. 59. Online church servicesOnline church services
  60. 60. Putting sermons online• This is effective for reaching beyond your walls and helpingthe people who can’t make it to church hear your sermon.• Step #1 - Record it. This is one of the biggest steps and thelogistics of this are unfortunately beyond the scope of thistalk.• The path many churches are taking is that they are startingout simply putting their sermons online without much orany editing and as they get more serious about reachingoutside of their walls, start to allocate more resources tovideo production.
  61. 61. Resources• Many churches use a service called Vimeo( to upload and store their videos.They offer a free version, but I recommend the cheap$60/year Vimeo Plus plan which removes ads and enableslots of nice features.• Churches that are doing audio podcasts can look to servicessuch as to handle their podcasting.• Embedded sermon videos on your Facebook page get greatexposure.
  62. 62. Online Services• More churches are starting to try and wrap their headsaround the concept of holding an entire service online.• They are still considered’s definitely not foreverybody and isn’t designed to be for everybody.• They can be live or taped.• I figure it might be helpful to describe what this looks like,since many people here have never been to an onlineworship service.
  63. 63. Church Online• is considered the pioneer of online services. We have ateam and a service called the Church Online team.• We don’t consider this to be the future of the Church, the future is inour churches as they are now. This is just a different delivery vehiclefor the Gospel.• We get around 100,000K visitors per week and most of that trafficcomes in through advertisements.• During the week, we hold over 40 services staffed by hundreds ofscreened and trained volunteers.
  64. 64. Church Online• does something fairly unique that other churches aren’t doing...weare taking out Google Adwords during our service times on addiction keywords,such as those about porn.• This is unique and I am not advocating that everybody do it, it definitely haspro’s and con’s.• Pro’s: We have seen countless #’s of people enter into a relationship with Christwho may otherwise not have because God brought them to Church Online.• Con’s: We end up with a large number of foreign people who clicked on our linklooking for porn and think they’re in a sex chat room. We constantly have towork on striking a balance between the needs of reaching EVERYBODY with theGospel and taking care of the needs of our church members.
  65. 65. Tools to Hold OnlineServices• Church Online Platform - took the application they wrote for Church Online andgives it away for all churches for free. Just bring your own video fromservices such as Lightcast or build your own streaming service (moreon that later). Vimeo can be used for promo videos, but you need aservice that at least simulates a live experience to work best with theplatform.• Media Social - - These guys do a greatjob too, but their service costs around $100/month with a $500 setupfee but includes a video service.
  66. 66. Lightcast Media• This is the video provider Church Online uses. Plans start at$75/month. I love these guys!
  67. 67. Build Your Own• I will be publishing a guide shortly on using Amazon’s CloudComputing services and a media server called Wowza tostream Church events for practically nothing, usually lessthan a few dollars per event.• It’s going to require a fairly technical person to administerthis solution, but the guide will be as concise as possible.
  68. 68. Live Broadcasting• When broadcasting your entire service, you have to beespecially careful about making sure you have all thelicenses required for any music you use in your service.• Popular providers have included UStream and Livestream inthe past. But thanks to Google extending their benefits tonon-profits, we can now sign up for YouTube NonProfit tostream our live events for free! Check out
  69. 69. Other Great ToolsOther Great Tools
  70. 70. YouVersion Live•• Create interactive sermon notes withlinks to scripture!• Register your church, and when they goin the App and go to Live, it uses the GPSto find churches near you, they can clickand pull up your notes.
  71. 71.
  72. 72.
  73. 73. Church Community Builder• As churches grow from a small family-based model whereeverybody knows everybody and everything and the samepeople do everything all the time, they realize they need helpkeeping track and managing various aspects of theirministry, and this is where Church Management Systemscome in.• The best product out there for small to medium sizechurches is
  74. 74. WuFoo• - This service provides a free planfor creating online forms easily.
  75. 75. Email Communication• These tools make sending mass e-mails a much nicerexperience. In addition to higher delivery rates, you’ll beable to get metrics on how many people are actually openingyour e-mails.• is my favorite provider and has greatfeatures on their free plan.• Church Community Builder users should look, which features tight integration with CCB.
  76. 76. Google Apps for Non-Profits•• Free!• Collaborate on Documents• Great email service at• YouTube for Non-Profits that I mentioned earlier, allowing you to have morecontrol over your videos and stream live events for free.• Google Plus hangouts lets you hold free multi-person audio AND videoconferences, even bridging someone in who only has a phone.
  77. 77. Great Resources••• and
  78. 78. Q&AQ&A
  79. 79. Thanks!Thanks!