Thursday, February 20, 2014

UMC.org: How About Some Evangelism?

The mission of The United Methodist Church is to make disciplines of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Ok. So far, so good.

One would expect, then, the public website of the UMC to serve this end of making disciples. As I look at the UMC.org website, though, I see the following:

A headline called, “What can a horse teach a pastor?”

There is a picture of Bishop Carcano being arrested.

There is a story on firewood ministry. (Hey, I have to give kudos to this guy.)

There is a story on Black History Month.

There is, in the upper right hand corner, our logo, along with the “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors” advertising slogan, surely the greatest evangelistic tool since the invention of the altar call. First tab to the left: “Who We Are,” under which one finds “Church Structure,” “Administration,” “History,” and “Agencies.”

Now, in light of our mission, I find myself befuddled. I think to myself, perhaps the purpose of our public website is to serve as a kind of reference tool that helps insiders to the tradition learn more about our inner workings and denominational news. If that is the case, I would like to offer a friendly suggestion.

Perhaps the public website should take a more evangelistic approach. How about, right up front, a link to the testimonies of people who have accepted Christ and known his transforming power? How about a link to a video called something like, “Why Should I Choose Jesus?” Or perhaps a video, or at least a page, called something like, “Why Does Christ Make A Difference?” Perhaps one could have the option to chat or have a video call with a pastor. Maybe it would be helpful to have something on the basics of Christian belief.


I’m certainly no marketing expert, but it does seem to me that if we wish our public internet presence to be consistent with our mission, these types of changes would be in order.

15 comments:

  1. but then we would lose all of our mainline street cred...

    ReplyDelete
  2. We cannot evangelize when we have yet to be evangelized.

    ReplyDelete
  3. First of all, let me just say that I've been through the church web design process before. Also, I think all of your criticisms are valid and I agree with them.

    Yet, the failings of the website to evangelize have nothing to do with the fact that "we have yet to be evangelized"; rather, the people who designed the website had to determine the primary purpose of for the site, and based on the design they chose, evangelizing was not as high a priority on their to do list as, say, creating a news portal for UMC related news stories (i.e. public relations).

    To complicate things even more, the UMC website (and even more so at http://www.umcom.org/ which is an absolute nightmare) is what happens when a committee (usually consisting of people who are not professional web designers) makes a website. They lose focus on the forrest because they're focusing so much on the trees (specifically the trees they are in charge of or have a vested interest in).

    I would also guess that they were working with web designers who design more than just church websites. In the same way that you can't run a church exactly like you would a secular for-profit business, you can't build a church website like you would for an international secular non-profit. Heifer International's website (which used to look a lot more like umc.org before it's most recent redesign--and yes, you need to redesign/update your organization's website on at least an annual basis) has the same type of PR stories about their organization and the work they do on their website.

    Rather, you need to get someone/a team who knows the organization, knows the purpose of the organization, and can design a website that lives fully into accomplishing that purpose, while also servicing the needs of the entire organization. It was a hard thing to successfully accomplish for a single church's website, so I can only imagine how impossible it would be to successfully accomplish this for an international organization overburdened by bureaucracy like the UMC.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am sure that this is correct, Nathan. I've no doubt that designing a denominational website is very difficult.

      Delete
  4. As a faithful United Methodist, I went to the new website when I saw the announcement. And thought, "So what?" I know how hard it is to create engaging websites, and I'm betting a bundle of money was spent on this one, but even as one who wanted to like it and want to recommend it to others, I could not. I suspect the real problem is that we honestly don't know what a "disciple of Jesus Christ" looks like, so there is nothing to work with here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, it's different in design than the old website, but the content is really the same.

      Delete
  5. Isn't telling the story of th Church alive and at work in the world Evangelism? Isn't the heart of relational evangelism sharing how God works in, through, and on our lives? Isn't directing folks outside of United Methodism to ministries and Churches were the Holy Spirit can transform hearts and minds evangelism? I agree that links to tools and educational materials related to evangelism should be prominent and available to Methodists seeking to grow evangelism ministries. But, the site itself, especially the landing page, is a powerful evangelistic tool.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Who is the website for? I would imagine it is for United Methodists, who are presumably Christians. If so, then why would we expect the website to be an evangelistic tool? If we are relying on our denominational website to evangelize, then I wonder if we are the ones who need a little help with what it means to be a disciple. It seems to me that discipleship is a much larger concept than "evangelism." Perhaps we could ask, what do these stories communicate about discipleship? Do they teach us something about what it means to follow Jesus? Could it be that knowing something about Black History could make us better followers of Jesus?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. David, I wouldn't suggest that we rely on our website to evangelize, but that the website contribute more directly to the church's overall evangelistic mission. I think you're right that it's a website for insiders, rather than outsiders, and I suppose that's what I'm taking issue with. And, yes, knowing something about Black history could help to make us better followers of Jesus.

      Delete
  7. Good point! Would love to see a web site like that. And a UM publishing house with a direction like that. A whole UM organization with a purpose like that. We need more "Where the rubber meets the road"-thinking people like you on our publication and new media boards/committees. This must be the work of the folks that were gathered together a couple of years ago. I offered to be a part but I'm not sure what it takes. Would be interesting to research online and see who is serving on the advisory board that was behind this new project.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah... Not sure how one gets a voice in things like this.

      Delete
  8. Don't feel too badly, our mission is: To make Christlike Disciples in the Nations. www.nazarene.org
    and I couldn't find anything (certainly not easily) that would help me figure out of to actually become a Christlike Disciple.

    ReplyDelete