The Internet revolution is just beginning. Yes, I know that the Internet had its fortieth “birthday” this year, but I believe that we are just now in the beginning stages of an inflection point in history, one which is being driven by the Internet and associated technologies. As Christians, we must be at the forefront of this revolution. It is imperative that we understand fully how we can utilize these tools, and utilize them well. But the Internet is so new for many of us, that understanding even how to get started is overwhelming – yet alone understanding how to do it well.
I have been studying this problem for the past three years. My first project was to research and understand what the most successful online ministries had in common. In the fall of 2008, I released my research report on “Best Practices in Internet Ministry” at the Internet Ministry Conference in Grand Rapids, MI. This research project included data from over 300 ministries with a wide variety of backgrounds and ministry functions. You can access a full copy of that report on my web site here (PDF). A shorter summary was printed in the Fall issue of CLA’s Outcomes magazine here.
I am now very pleased to be part of a team that is working to answer the question “What does it mean to be excellent online?” This project’s goal is to develop a framework for excellence that will help ministries understand how to go about planning, implementing, and evaluating their online presence. Some of this work will draw from my best practices research, but this time we will dig deeper, looking at several components that make up excellence. This important work will be presented as part of the “Ministry Internet and Technology Summit” at the CLA 2010 conference in San Diego next April.
So how do we go about determining “excellence”? Our team, which consists of Drew Goodmanson, Kevin Ring, and myself, has begun by seeking insights from the minds behind some of the most successful web ministries, including: Brad Abare (Center for Church Communications), Eric Celerier (Top Chritien/GodRev), Joseph Krejcir (Into Thy Word), DJ Turner (Denver Seminary), Matt Perman (What’s Best Next/Desiring God), Tony Whitaker (Internet Evangelism Coalition), to name a few. These interviews have led us to the beginnings of a framework of excellence. From there we will be conducting a survey of several hundred ministries to help us understand further what the current state of online ministry is and exactly how excellence can be achieved. So if you get a survey from us, please help us out by filling it out!
We realize that this is really just a first step towards truly understanding online excellence. Our findings will be just the starting point. But we hope that by providing a framework to help ministries work towards achieving excellence and pointing out the examples of excellence that we have found, we can encourage all ministries to strive to be excellent themselves. Stay tuned to this blog for summaries of our interviews, progress reports on this project and insights into what we are finding.