(UMNS) The communications arm of the United Methodist Church is launching an online tool to help local churches develop Web sites and Web ministries that are helpful and inviting, and that provide opportunities for spiritual growth.
In an effort to further bring the denomination into the digital age, United Methodist Communications has created Web Ministry 101, a free online training experience that provides a local church with the basic steps to establish an Internet presence.
The introductory training provides 25 how-to steps to guide a person from the purchase of a computer to launching a church Web site.
"More people are using the Internet for information to aid in spiritual growth, learning more about Christian teachings and making connections with others who are exploring Christian faith," said the Rev. Larry Hollon, top staff executive at United Methodist Communications.
A need for new tools
The Nashville-based communications agency decided to launch a course after surveying local church Web site administrators who said such online training is needed.
"This is encouraging because it indicates a desire by United Methodists to use new tools to reach people for the Christian community and Jesus Christ," Hollon said.
He likened Web ministry to the early Wesleyan movement that took the gospel to people beyond the walls of the church building and into homes, the streets and other settings.
"We at United Methodist Communications understand that Christian community is most authentic in the company of people in local congregations. But the commission we have from Jesus is to reach out to all," Hollon said.
"The Internet provides us with the ability to reach people we might not reach in any other way and invite them into the community of faith," he said. "We need to have the tools and skills to communicate well. Web Ministry 101 provides these tools and offers a way to learn the skills."
According to the designers, the on-demand and self-directed course will enable people to complete the program on their own time schedules. The course, which requires registration, contains four 30-minute sessions with supporting guides and resources. Each "non-techie" session is available to anyone who has Internet access and a computer with sound.
The agency is tentatively planning an end-of-year roll out of Web Ministry 102, an online community for Web ministry and an online newsletter.