The Internet has changed virtually every parameter for missional church and discipleship, replacing all the knowns to unknowns. But, on the other hand, it has created remarkable opportunities for churches. The question is how to navigate the unknowns to capitalize on the opportunities. Church Leaders are resolved that they must transform their strategies, processes, and technology infrastructure to succeed in this new world. The question is how?
What transformation is not
It may be helpful to define what change is not: transformation is not taking an existing brick and mortar church and moving it online. For most churches, this is, of course, a step along the way, in much the same way that Y2K preparations forced a beneficial overhaul of antiquated legacy systems.
Initially, churches looked at the Internet as a way of publishing information about themselves — a kind of static presentation of their mission and services. Then churches began transacting information over the Internet. But even at this stage, the Internet was regarded merely as new a communication and information channel.
The real opportunity of the Internet is not just maintaining your current environment but opening up new avenues of discipleship. And this requires a new way of looking at opportunities, reinventing processes and applying technology that is far different from what churches are accustomed to doing today.
It is also important to note that executing the wrong transformation strategy can be just as disastrous as not transforming at all. Rather than looking at how the Internet could change their mission, many churches settled on looking at how the Internet could support their existing mission model. While they were defending their territories (they thought), churches who are embracing the fourth industrial revolutionComputer are using the Internet to bypass the traditional discipleship channels and go after the lost congregation especially the millennials. In focusing on protecting their status quo, many traditional established churches lost their touch with the congregation, cutting deep into their numbers.
This is a typical mistake church make when they contemplate their e-Church transformation strategies. They don’t so much reinvent themselves as defend the “self” they already are.
When you’re driving down a perfectly straight road, it is reasonably safe to navigate by looking in the rear-view mirror. However, trying to formulate an e-Church strategy based on historical discipleship practices is more like driving down a winding road with hairpin curves. If you decide to judge the way ahead by the road behind, you’ll most likely end up in a ditch.
Don’t predict the endpoint
Another common mistake that churches make when they go into an e-Church transformation project is to start with the idea that they should be transforming themselves into a portal, a missional exchange or some other “hot” e-Church model you see being advertised. This is as ill-advised as looking at transformation as a way of preserving a church’s existing models and simply extending them to the Internet.
Successful discipleship transformation strategies should make few or no assumptions about what the endpoint should be. The less a church pre-determines the parameter, the more likely it is that they will truly transform their church into something much more significant than even they can envision.
The Internet can dramatically change the administrative side of your mission by introducing self-service, easy access to data, personal ownership of transactions, eliminating paperwork, and streamlining the membership process. The Internet improves efficiency.
How your ministers can extend internally focused methods to include organizations outside your church. The Internet improves how you manage your “supply chain,” increases the service level of your ministers, and builds loyalty among your congregation. The Internet enhances collaboration and your discipleship relationships. . . . How easy-access to church information enables the ministerial team to have leverage timely, relevant, unfiltered information. The Internet improves decision-making.
. . . And lastly, how organizations can be more agile when they centralize IT operations and shared business functions. The Internet reduces your cost of operations allowing your computing infrastructure to reach further – even globally, at lower prices.