So the back is a bit more tolerable today and the show must go on. Like the Christmas thirteen years ago when I preached and led worship with partial facial paralysis from Bell's Palsy. No, I hope it's better that that. But note any typos or eccentric grammar in the comments.
This is a make up from yesterday, and I was going to write about outreach and -- lo, and behold -- there's a new UUA blog about social networking, New Media for Unitarian Universalists written by Shelby Meyerhoff. Check that first. (I intend to review it, when I'm feeling better.) You might also notice I'm using the same theme -- SimpleX -- on this blog as that blog, but I've not yet read the articles so I'm sure there's going to be some duplication and probably some contradiction.
I've been reading about church starts for years and talking to others about them even longer. There were some things you just did when you got started, like getting a post office box and paying for a business phone line so you could pay for a tiny one-line listing in the Yellow Pages. These were sunk costs and unavoidable. Today, getting a Google account for the new church is the new unavoidable service -- at least at first when money and expertise is thin -- and between Gmail and Google Voice, you can do without the old post office and business line. But at least they're free of charge. (What about mail, if there's no fixed meeting address? I'd say "email me and I'll send you my home address.") By homesteading on Google, you can also create a web site, share documents, create online forms, follow your web traffic, create libraries from public domain books, receive donations and many other things besides. Again, free of charge and that's not inconsiderable.
But I'll confess some uneasiness. Google's rising monopoly on information bothers me. But in practical terms it would be difficult to reproduce the services they provide even with paid vendors and impossible to do for free. But if you got that Internet domain like I suggested on day 1, you'll start to have a way out.
I would also get an account with Delicious (to store and share favorite web links), Facebook (for its super-wide social networking base) and Twitter (for short-format notices). And I'd get at least two accounts: one for the church as an institution and at least one for the point person or leadership team. This allows the personal and congregational writing to be distinct because sooner or later some participant will want to hand over responsibilities or even leave the church. And I'd get those accounts with names that match as much as possible because once they're gone they're gone.
I'd use Delicious to gather resources for a leadership team, to share with a study group or both. But the use is largely internal. I'd use Facebook to attract newcomers and to give them a sense of your ministry. I'd use Twitter -- indeed, follow me as bitb -- to give short notices to people already connected to the congregation for announcements.
And here's the kicker. While these technologies make communication easier and the service may be free of charge, there are opportunity costs. Bloggers know this already. The time you use to send tweets or Facebook updates is time not used for other projects, so it may make sense for your new congregation to have one person who makes this his or her mission -- and recognize it as a vital and central ministry.
All for now --