Sunday, March 1, 2009

Nice to greet you; thanks for stopping by...

How long has it been since you visited Plymouth Creek’s website? If you said, “In the past week,” then your name is Kimberly. For the rest of us, it’s probably been awhile, right?

Well, don’t worry, it’s still there. Kimberly updates it often, with announcements, building usage info, worship leader schedules. So I’m probably wrong, and some of y’all do check the website to stay informed and connected. I really should do a better job myself; more than once, I’ve asked Kimberly a question, and she’s responded, “It’s on the website, which you should know.” And I should.

The other important thing our website does is introduce the church to visitors. That’s how many people visit churches nowadays. Rather than walk into the Sunday service of a church you commute past, you go home and plug the church’s name into Google. Then you peruse the website, looking at programs, theology, staff, and a general sense of the community’s people. It’s a good plan, I believe, because if you want a Disciples community with deep devotion to Mark Twain that practices yoga during the service, then Plymouth Creek is (probably) not the place for you (but who knows…). Our website reflects that, i.e., we can proclaim our story effectively on the web as much as Sunday morning. Indeed, if we are committed to radical Christian hospitality, we have a responsibility to treat our website with as much care as our time and resources allow. Because most churches probably have more electronic visitors in a given month than Sunday morning seekers. Therefore, the same care and attention we provide to people face-to-face should apply to the web.

So Kimberly and I have been working on a website redesign for the past few months. If we could provide a cup of coffee during an e-visit, we’d do that too. We’ve done what all good church planners do- we looked for what works at other churches, and stole their good ideas. Forgive me, borrowed and adapted. Currently, there’s a clear and creative concept in our minds, beginning to take form on Kimberly’s computer. Of course, with other weekly responsibilities, it’s been hard to focus on this redesign (there’s a lesson in that about pushing hospitality to the back burner). So we recommitted ourselves to a new deadline, Easter, and will work every Monday morning until then exclusively on the website. Which means, to guard webmaster Kimberly’s time, I’ll be answering phones Monday mornings during Lent. After all, while I can imagine all sorts of good ideas that could go on the website, Kimberly’s the technician with code-writing brilliance, and apparently, certain things aren’t as easy to put on the internet as they are to write on paper. But what’s there already is, as I’m excitedly telling anyone who asks, “the best small church website in existence.” By the way, if you have programming skills and want to help Kimberly with either construction or upkeep of the site, please let us know.

I write of this, besides to keep you informed and solicit ideas about what you’d like to see on the site (call me on Monday morning with your thoughts), to reignite your thinking about hospitality. The website has done it for me. It took me awhile, but I get it now, that we need to treat the possibility of electronic visitors as a great opportunity- to show our love for one another, to celebrate our dynamic sense of mission and courageous stewardship, to invite all who would to come to the open Table of Jesus in our midst. As we craft that e-hospitality, it should impact the hospitality we provide to any who walk through our doors, be they parents of Child Care children, members and visitors of Thy Word, young women in Brownie troops and especially those who come to worship with Plymouth Creek. Because, by claiming radical hospitality as a practice of this church on the web, we will be held accountable to that value and vision. When someone walks into that door, they may have been asked by our website to expect a welcoming, loving, mission-oriented, spiritually curious, theologically diverse group of believers. And I think we can, and do, live up to it. That’s why it’s the ‘best small church website in existence,’ because y’all make it so. In all things,

Grace and Peace,


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