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Communicate and share with a trusted network

Churches embrace social networking technology through ChMS.

By Lauren Hunter

There’s no doubt that your church members desire increased communication with their church friends, small groups, Bible studies and pastors. As more of the population joins Facebook to try and stay connected with the people they love, many church leaders are not quite sure how to leverage these new social networking tools to generate true fellowship with their congregations.

In the attempt to help church members communicate and share information, some churches decide to establish a Facebook group, a Google or Yahoo! group, or even a private social networking group on other free or paid sites. While these groups can serve a purpose, rarely does it function in ways to help the church leaders oversee the groups and work with a church’s already established means of record keeping and membership management.

Uncertain of approach

I currently serve on my church’s technology committee and can personally vouch for our church staff’s uncertainty of how to approach this conundrum; we’re unsure about using public social community tools as a formal means of communication within our church, yet our members desire a way to stay connected that supersedes methods we’re currently using.

Sure, I’m on Facebook, and many of my church friends are as well; still I would hesitate to go too far in my communications with them about personal prayer requests and small group concerns for fear of privacy. Instead, our church, like many other churches, is turning to Web-based church management software solutions (ChMS) that incorporate many of these social networking features within the safe walls of a trusted provider that we can adopt into our church family as a ministry partner.

One such provider, Church Community Builder (CCB) differs from many of the other church management software providers out there in that its framework was designed with community features built-in from the beginning, not added on as the social networking craze has taken off.

Connect with online community

“We have integrated useful social media components into our church management solutions so that a church may track member involvement and needs, while also allowing the members and church participants to connect with the church and other people through a private and secure online community,” says Steve Caton, vice president of sales and marketing for CCB.

One of the questions we’ve been asking at my church is: “What does our congregation need to stay better connected and how can we facilitate their communication needs more effectively?”

Hope Bible Church in Washington, D.C., had been asking this same question in order to better serve their 300-member congregation.

“We aspired to build an application ourselves that would better facilitate community and allow us to give access to more than 50 leaders and ministry coordinators within our church,” says Ross Levin, church administrator for Hope Bible Church. “With only two and a half paid staff members, and no facility of our own, there was no way for us to do ministry if we didn’t use some type of technology solution to keep track of everything.”

Setting up ‘Hopebook’

While setting up their new management solution, Levin was sharing the program’s functionality with his young daughter, an avid user of Facebook and currently the number one social networking application, who promptly suggested that it be called “Hopebook.”

Because Hopebook has become the church’s centralized point of communication, the church is now building community in new and exciting ways.

For more churches looking to technology to empower deeper relationships and establish firm connections, having one management system that can do it all is a wonderful, practical and feasible solution.

Lauren Hunter is a freelance writer and owner of Lauren Hunter Public Relations, Roseville, CA. [www.laurenhunter.net]

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