Reaching The Online Generation

An Initiative of CityTeam Ministries

Five ‘Ah-Ha’ Moments When it Comes to Online Community

Posted on | January 30, 2009 |

Reaching lost communities online is my call and my passion, so I talk about reaching the Online Generation whenever I get a chance.  I’ve noticed five ‘ah-ha’ moments for people from all walks of life as I talk about what I do and the huge need for Christians to engage people online in spiritual discussions.

Communities already exist online.

People spend a lot of time and money creating communities online.  But these communities already exist.  They are already comfortable using existing social media platforms.   You just need to spend the time identifying these communities, listening to their needs, meeting those needs, and talking about Christ in the right time.

We need to plant the Gospel within these communities rather than getting them to join Christian communities.

Like I said before, people are already comfortable in their existing communities.  Do you have enough time and capital to invest in creating a tool better than Twitter, MySpace, Ning, and Facebook?  Also, if you label the community Christian, who does that community attract?  Christians.  For the most part, people who want to be a part of Christian community are already in churches.  Most people not in these communities don’t want to be part of them.  They need to see something that looks and smells a little different than their mis-conception of Church and Christ.  Unfortunately, most aren’t going to give online Christian communities a chance.  We have to enagage them where they are and where they are most comfortable.

Online communities are better identified by social tags rather than technological tags.

Twitter is not a community.  Neither is Facebook.  They are platforms that communities use to relate.  The number of followers and friends is not an indicator of the existance of community.  Rather, who are people talking to and how often?  Do they meet offline?  Do they miss each other?  Do they try to help or encourage one another?  Do they have an economy - cash or barter?  These social indicators are better suited to identify community than technological ones.

Communities exist across multiple social media platforms.

Most communities I’ve found online actually use multiple social media platforms.  They blog via Wordpress or Facebook, talk via twitter, share photos via Flickr, and videos via YouTube.  

You don’t have to be in every social media platform.  You just have to use the ones the community you want to reach are.  

You don’t have to be in every social media platform.  Instead, identify the communities and get involved in what they are involved.  If you are a youth minister, find out where your youth are.  If you want to reach Goths, go where they are.  If you want to reach Chinese people, go to Alexa.com and find out which social media sites are popular in China.  Don’t kill yourself trying to keep up with accounts in every platform.  

Bonus:  Some of your church members are already a part of online communities.  The question is, can you identify those members and help them plant the Gospel within their community?  If you can do that, you are on your way to having a significant Kingdom impact online.

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Comments

6 Responses to “Five ‘Ah-Ha’ Moments When it Comes to Online Community”

  1. Andrew Conard
    January 31st, 2009 @ 10:31 am

    I appreciate the moments that you have captured here. They are a concise articulation to some trends that I have been pondering for a while. I think that your bonus question is particularly relevant. I believe that persons that are a part of church are not unwilling to invite others to church, they are in need of tools to do so. Physically this can be done by giving invites to persons in the congregation, but much can be done to provide tools for persons to make an invitation online.

  2. Tre Lawrence
    February 2nd, 2009 @ 4:14 pm

    Good commentary…

  3. Speedlinking - February 4, 2009 « Thoughts of Resurrection
    February 4th, 2009 @ 8:04 am

    [...] I found this post to be a concise summary of some concepts that I have been pondering in recent months - Five ‘Ah-Ha’ Moments When it Comes to Online Community [...]

  4. John (Human3rror)
    February 5th, 2009 @ 9:26 am

    not sure i agree with you here dude. i think the platform conversation needs to be explained deeper, ’cause there’s not enough meat to spill me over into agreement.

    twitter is a community. it’s understood as such. a “social tag”? what’s that. and how does that work with your “across multiple platforms” spiel?

  5. Chris Arsenault (ThruFire)
    February 8th, 2009 @ 9:14 pm

    Online communities are better identified by social tags rather than technological tags.

    Paul - do you mean social interests vs the tools/technologies that support conversations about those interests?

    I’ve been online since 1982 (using bulletin board systems - BBS’s) It’s not the tools that matter, it’s the conversations of value that take place on them. Twitter is a network node variation of a chat room. Communities have a strong core of value that’s sustainable even when the tool is not present or used. BBS evolved into chat-rooms into twitter. Big whoop.

    Tools change, but the value of the human community doesn’t, nor does how we relate and label those interests change. We don’t usually define ourselves by our tools.

    Twitter supports multiple communities, and only in a very loose sense is it a single community (with itself and the human nature of the members as the only common core).

  6. Paul
    February 8th, 2009 @ 9:29 pm

    @Chris Arsenault - Yes, that is exactly what I mean. You articulated my point much better than I did.

    Blessings,
    -Paul.

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    Who is God?' was one of the top three sentences googled in 2007, according to Google Zeitgeist. According to Alexa, the top two religious websites are Muslim, with BibleGateway coming in at a close third. The Online Generation is spiritual. They are seeking. And the church is the last place they would go to find spiritual fulfillment. This site is dedicated to those walking with The Online Generation and living lives of obedience to all the commands of Jesus Christ.
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