Brainstorming Church 2.0

Tonight, Peter Bowden and I went in to Boston to check out the Emergent Church service in downtown Boston (more about that in a later post). On the way back, we stopped in at Diesel Cafe in Davis Square to have a cup of coffee and talk about how we could radically rebuild Unitarian Universalist congregations.

“You’ve heard of Web 2.0?” I said. Web 2.0 is a vague term which includes things like social networking Web sites, blogs, YouTube, wikis, and so on. “Well, I want to do Church 2.0.”

Peter liked that term. “Yeah, if we even say ‘Church 2.0’ that immediately implies that all other ways of doing church are just a little bit outdated.”

So then we started brainstorming what Church 2.0 might be like.

First principle is simple: Church 2.0 is relational. It depends on building decentralized connections between people. But Church 2.0 uses a variety of modalities to build connections between people, and not just traditional Church 1.0 modalities such as Sunday morning worship services and committee meetings. It also uses new technologies to help people connect, including:

  • Streamed videocasts of worship services (for shut-ins and people who just couldn’t/wouldn’t come to church that week)
  • Podcasts of sermons you can listen to on your commute
  • Minister’s blog(s), and blogs by other religious professionals: DREs, musicians, etc. — where you can exchange ideas and comments with church staff
  • Other blogs?
  • A wiki for lay leaders, to facilitate transparent and accessible governance
  • Regular email delivered by a service like “Constant Contact,” so you can customize the kinds of email you want to get from the church
  • Maybe some kind of social networking site?
  • What else?

Not everyone is going to have good Web access (although Church 2.0 will have computers with Internet access available during social hour), and not everyone is going to want to use all the different modalities. That’s fine. The real point is that Church 2.0 doesn’t exist in just one modality — it’s not just Sunday morning worship and social hour, delivered to a relatively passive congregation by a small group of lay and professional leaders. Church 2.0 exists in a decentralized web of interactions. And the different modalities each deliver slightly different content. For example…

  • Regular Sunday morning worship with a sermon
  • Podcast with recorded sermon, reading, and one or two pieces of music from Sunday morning
  • Midweek video reflection with that week’s worship leader, a self-contained reflection that also leads in to the week’s worship service
  • Email version of the “Wayside Pulpit” delivers a quote to your email address each week, which relates to the upcoming sermon topic
  • An online sermon discussion group (forum or moderated email list)
  • Discussion group during social hour to help the preacher plan the next week’s worship service

…all of which relate to Sunday morning worship, but each of which addresses the topic of Sunday morning worship slightly differently.

We also brainstormed a little on how Church 2.0 will help congregations meet the needs of church members after peak oil. The Web site of Church 2.0 would have a map of the surrounding region, showing where church members live (click to send email, though you don’t see the email address), and where regional small groups meet (click to get contact info).

That’s about as far as our brainstorming got. Some of the ideas we came up with are crazy or impractical, no doubt about it. Some are just stupid. At this point, we’re just brainstorming. But both of us feel pretty strongly that we need to be looking at radical change in the way we do church — and that we don’t have much time to make that change happen.

Participate in the Church 2.0 discussion on the Church 2.0 wiki!

10 thoughts on “Brainstorming Church 2.0

  1. Robin

    “But both of us feel pretty strongly that we need to be looking at radical change in the way we do church — and that we don’t have much time to make that change happen.”

    Why not?

  2. James Field

    The problem I see with your Church 2.0 is that it is basically just a tweaking of a standard broadcast model with the addition of asynchronous download.

    My unfortunate experience is that most online add-ons to standard print or face to face practices rarely ever result in interactivity. Generally I see only a small number of people clustered on the younger end of the bell curve who really feel comfortable in online community. (Though with exceptions: My grandfather is the master of

  3. Administrator

    James — I think a big part of the difference between Church 1.0 and Church 2.0 will be in the way face-to-face interactions will happen — such as the suggestion that “Discussion group during social hour to help the preacher plan the next week’s worship service,” which leads to something more like the user-generated content that is the paradigm underlying blogging, whereas old-style sermon preparation is closer to the paradigm underlying broadcast TV. What I’m finding is that the way I interact and network online is very similar to the way I prefer to network and interact face-to-face. So I’m thinking that Church 2.0 represents a paradigm shift that is not technology-dependent (although it is facilitated by technology).

  4. Administrator

    Robin — Charles Gaines has done some research that shows we have lost 65,000 Unitarian Universalists since the consolidation of Unitarians and Universalists in 1961; since the population of North America has risen substantially in that time, considered as a percentage of total population the decline is even steeper. Couple that with the fact that many of our congregations are graying, to the point where we wonder where the next generation of church-goers is. I believe we’re in a grow-or-die situation. Obviously, whatever we are doing now to promote growth is not working particularly well (growth in the U.S. was about 1% last year) — so it’s time to try Church 2.0.

  5. Jamie Goodwin

    Remember the Eastern Slopes church from this past years Break Through congregations at GA?
    One thing that sticks in my head about that report is the couple that drove 45 minutes to an hour to go to worship services. They said something like “it is important enough to us to get up early enough to be there on time.” I just feel like we need to be offering something important enough, look at why what we are offering is not important enough and change that.

  6. Pingback: {gather in light} - » Daily Scribe Jamboree December 10, 2006

  7. Administrator

    Andrew — Nice post, and thanks for the pointer to it. And you were saying this back in 2005! I’m not surprised that someone else saw the obvious parallels between Web 2.0 and what some of us are trying to do with church, and I had been pretty sure someone else must have developed the term “Church 2.0” before us.

    That O’Reilly article was so important for me — it managed to encapsulate something for me that went back to the old Xanadu concept for the internet — a DIY ethic rooted in open-source, openly-shared information and knowledge. And while many of us have been applying that ethic to the internet, it really grows out of a sort of utopian (divine?) ideal of how human relationships should work.

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