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Creating a sense of community around a website

A community is a group of like-minded people. You are probably part of several different communities – the town/village where you live, the place where you work or study, a group of friends with whom you play sport or other hobby activity, and your church fellowship.

A community of people usually has most of these characteristics:

A virtual online community shares most of these characteristics except the last. Time and location are no longer relevant. And because you are online, you can share as much or little of yourself as you wish, without being judged.

The Web’s unique properties – a pull medium with interactive two-way capability – gives the opportunity for this sense of belonging and relationship which is a deep human need. Two-way relationship is increasingly a key part of the so-called Web 2.0 – the mature web.

Community online within evangelism

Some evangelistic websites lend themselves to creating this sense of community. The Gospel most easily flows when there are shared interests and relationships. A single 'cut and run' exposure to the Gospel is not usually effective. To echo one large church’ ethos, an evangelistic website should be ‘la safe place for a dangerous message’, and should ‘create space for non-believers to come and investigate the radical claims of Christ at their own pace.’

To have a sense of community, a website needs to be welcoming and non-condemning. It must meet people where they are, and demonstrate an understanding of their feelings and problems. They must feel that they somehow ‘belong’ to the site, and can also offer their own feedback and opinions as well as receive advice. In other words, the website must also be sticky and encourage return visits.

Belonging

Options which help visitors to feel that they belong:
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