Church_weblink_1Robert over at echurch.com is asking about creating and supporting community within churches.  He has mentioned funtionality similar to linkedin.com, as well as making other community and event functions available online.  Robert, I have the following contributions to make:

Considerations for online community for a brick and mortar church:

  • Security / PW Protection: You are going to have to determine which information will be displayed to all web site users (like event information) and which is for members only.
  • Profile Self-Management: The easiest way to keep your membership roll up to date is to allow users to create and edit their own contact information.
    • We probably need some security around which information people want shown on the extranet (for members only).  Or do we just assume that if they put it in there, it can be shown to all members?
  • Linked-In: This might be useful, but we might want to consider some extra functionality, such as:
    • when a user joins a small group or ministry, do we automatically add everyone in that group as “linked in”, or do we prompt them to do that?  Or must they do it manually as they build relationships (that’s easiest)
  • Membership: How do we add users?  How do we delete users?  In my church, membership is accomplished when you complete the first 4-hour class for new members, called Discovery 101.  So we know who are members and who are not.We use Rick Warren’s four 4-hour membership classes which cover Introduction to The Church Family (including what it means to believe, and the importance of water baptism), Introduction to Spiritual Maturity (spiritual disciplines), Discovering Your Ministry (in the church), and Discovering Your Mission (to the world).If you don’t have a concrete way of knowing who is a member, I’m not sure how you would administrate users.  If you have a class like the one mentioned, you can have them fill out a form with their name and contact info, and send them a secure invite to create their account.

    As for deleting users, I think you should just look for inactivity for the last 12 months.  If none, you should send out an email to them.  If no answer, delete them.  They can always recreate an account by calling your church admin.

  • Ministry and Small Group Membership: Not sure if this is worth the effort of maintaining – you may want to just have interests listed.  I mean, if people are involved in ministries, they can always link in to other members.  This information may be better managed by the church admin, but I also see no reason why each ministry leader couldn’t maintain event dates and such.
  • Interests: This information would be fun for users to input, and to see who else has an interest.  However, managing the list of interests will be tough.  You should maintain a pretty extensive but easy to navigate list.  You might even need categories, not sure.  I mean, in my small group alone, there are probably 100 interests, from performance music to motorcycle riding to guns and ammo!  (don’t get the wrong idea, but we do have NRA members in our church).
  • Calendar: I recommend that you do NOT rebuild a calendar application.  There must be a way to connect to Outlook and have something web enabled.

I have created an ERD below which shows what a database for such an application might look like.  However, links to the calendar from the Small Group table are left out since they are more complex.  But you get the idea.

I suggest you look at what church software already exists.  If nothing, I’d be glad to help design and write requirements for the application (that’s what I do for a living), but I’m not a programmer, so we’d need to scrape up a few good developers.  And if you want to sell such software, of course, you’d need to have a vision for continuing to update the code and support the end users.

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