The 4th Dimension and Why It Could Kill Online Ministry

by Paul on March 5, 2009

I’ve already talked about developing a 3 Dimensional Understanding of Online Community here.

Now we need to talk about the deceptive 4th Dimension in the online universe.

We need to talk about TIME.

I don’t know about you, but everyone expects everything to happen quickly online.  I’ve said, and heard others say, “One year offline is equivalent to seven years online.”  and, “The Online Universe moves at a faster pace than the offline universe.”  

To all of those who said those things – including myself – we were right and terribly wrong at the same time.  And, our terrible mistake created unrealistic expectations of how quickly ministry can happen and grow online.

And if we don’t figure out a way to correct and manage these unfortunate expectations – to put it politely in slightly panicked vernacular – we’re screwed.

Ideas spread rapidly online.  Connections happen rapidly online.  People in the online universe quickly evaluate those connections and ideas.  Good ideas and connections , if you discount the echo chamber effect, rise to the top.  Bad ideas and connections drift off in cyberspace.  

But here is the kicker:  while ideas and connections happen at breakneck speeds, relationships are made in real time.

Sure, the increased frequency of touches – text messages, cell phone calls, email, twitters, and plurks – mean that we can slightly accelerate the formation of relational bonds, but relationships still take real time.

This includes relationships with your target audience, with potential partners, and with your staff – wherever they are located.

So, if you’ve been in organizations for any length of time, you’ve probably realized that you have to manage expectations on every level.  It is your responsibility to educate people on realistic expectations for online ministry and set goals that make you stretch, but aren’t unrealistic.

If you don’t manage expectations, you probably won’t have an internet ministry for long.  And, you probably won’t be employed as an online community organizer for long. You won’t be in it long enough to see the global transformation you know can happen through online ministry.

And we can’t have that.

Sit down right now.  Take a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle.  Lable one side, “Things that Happen Rapidly Online.” and the other, “Things that Happen in Real Time.”  For the next ten minutes you need think of every aspect of your online ministry and put it in one column or the other. 

Then you need to meet with your online ministry team and run through the exercise with them.  Compare results.  Talk about implications.

Take your papers and make your 90 Day goals accordingly.  In other words, make goals for the things you know happen rapidly because of the nature of the internet and make goals for the things you know have to happen in real time.  Think through how this new understanding and these new goals are going to affect your current ministry plan and budget.

Then, suck it up and talk with your boss.  Better do it now than later.

If you want to talk with someone, you can give me a call.  I can help you bounce things around.  When I’m in the office I’m available on Skype and Tokbox.  My Skype ID is watsonpd.  My tokbox profile is here.

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