Greg Lipps is the spare-time webmaster for Brandywine Community Church in Greenfield, Indiana (US). The site is a clear demonstration of how to create a church site which can reach into the community.
I have been a ‘computer geek’ for the past 15 years; however, it wasn’t until 1999 that God impressed on me the need to use my ‘geek-ness’ for the glory of His kingdom. My full-time job is leading a team of Information Technology development personnel for a major U.S. telecommunications company. My passion is to use my IT skills to further the kingdom of Jesus Christ. I am now the ‘head geek’ for the website ministry at Brandywine Community Church.
When I began this ministry I hadn’t much experience with web-based development, but God is faithful and brought people into my path that had the knowledge and experience and who were patient enough to allow me to learn from them.
The story of Brandywine is in itself a testimony about the power of God. We are an inter-denominational church who has come together to spread the gospel of Jesus in our community of some 18,000 people. From a group of 11 people who began meeting in the cafeteria of a local school, the church has grown to over 900 in attendance. Brandywine is about to embark on its first-ever building project on 40 acres of ground we recently purchased, debt free. We have experienced this remarkable growth because we have stayed true to the gospel and have made the focus of everything we do ‘to reach out to the lost of our community in a down-to-earth, practical, and loving manner’.
Not traditionalWe wanted our Internet presence to be more than the ‘traditional’ church website. I began meeting with our Pastor of Ministry and others in the church to develop a vision of what Brandywine.org would be. I came across the Web Evangelism Bulletin while searching for ideas on how to build a church website. We decided to incorporate many of the suggestions presented there. Working with volunteers, we developed the first draft.
Our foremost goal was to develop a site that said to the un-churched, ‘this is a cool place where I could fit in,’ and that would encourage them to come and see what we are all about. In addition to using the site to publicize the church, our goals are: to provide an opportunity to for someone to make a decision for Christ, present information on practical ways to live out the Christian life, and to encourage the spread of the Gospel throughout the world.
To maximize the site’s effectiveness, we took lessons from secular websites. For example, we incorporated a subscription email newsletter and performed search engine optimization tasks to get a higher ‘hit rate’ from people who might be searching the Internet for a church, or just looking for answers to questions about life.
Reaching newcomersGod blessed this effort more than we had imagined. We often hear reports of newcomers to the church who said that they found us first online. In addition, we have received emails from people who have made first-time decisions for Jesus as a result of information presented on the site. Our email newsletter provides a way for people in the church to reflect on the Pastor’s message and to stay abreast of all the activities going on. It also serves as a way to instantly share needs with those who have signed up. People from around the world have become aware of the site because of our association with the >Web Evangelism Bulletin and because of our relationship with Saddleback Church and the Purpose Driven Life series.
Today, there are typically one to six volunteers involved in the site development at any given time. We are blessed with some talented authors who contribute articles and stories. We involve our youth in the development of their own site and provide opportunities for adults to learn web development. We strive to keep the content fresh by regularly soliciting content from members of the church, and by incorporating new content and technology ideas from other sites. We recently added a Spanish section to the site because of the increasing number of Hispanics who have become a part of our community.
Our ‘next big thing’ is to provide an opportunity for members of the church to share needs and blessings by establishing an online membership clearing-house where people can list skills and resources that they are willing to share, and those with needs can make them known. To do this, we will be utilizing an e-commerce design similar to eBay (BCC-bay?).
I can’t help but be amazed at the way that God has worked in my life to bring His vision to fruition. However, it should not surprise anyone that God works through those who are willing to serve, even a geek like me!
Ethos and questions – Pastor Matt Wickham discusses the ethos and impact of the site. Plus discussion questions on the site for you to consider.