Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Church in action - a powerful force

The disaster of the floods which has swallowed up large sections of Queensland has certainly seen some unprecedented examples of people doing whatever they can to help their fellow Australians in time of need. Some people have been saying for a while that the church is starting to become an irrelevant force in Australia. Over the last 2 weeks in South East Queensland I have seen the opposite.

When the floods started wreaking their havoc over the SE corner of the State the first organisation the Govt contacted to set up evacuation centres were local churches. Across Brisbane and Ipswich churches with only a few hours notice became evacuation centres. Congregational member were quickly mobilised to provide bedding food and importantly comfort to the fleeing residents from flood affected homes. The Salvos were asked to provide catering and comfort to the big evacuation centres at RNA Showgrounds and the QE 2 sports centre at Nathan. All over the region local churches were rolling up their sleeves and serving people who thought they would never visit that church in their lifetime.

Then in areas that weren’t flood affected I saw churches begin to organise clean up teams to go and clean up flood affected communities on the other side of town. This happened well before Campbell Newman was able to organise his large volunteer army. The church was able to organise itself into teams and with help then connect with churches in the middle of the crisis and find the places in most need of assistance.
Other churches mobilised themselves into catering teams and organised sausage sizzles and tins of cakes for the volunteers.

Other churches started organising Baskets of Hope for families who were flood affected to help them restart lives in their damaged homes. Some two weeks after the floods we are still seeing churches spearheading the community recovery teams in many parts of Brisbane, Ipswich and the Lockyer Valley. In fact while sporting teams got plenty of publicity for their good works churches have continued to quietly go about helping people rebuild their lives with dignity.

I saw in these floods people from different parts of town, different congregations and styles of worship come together around their common love of Jesus and serve with out any agenda. By agenda I mean a desire to see these people come to their church. They served because that is what Jesus would do to people in a time of need.

So while the stats of bottoms on seats may show the church in decline and perhaps irrelevant to its community; in a time of crisis it was a powerful resource of buildings and people who can quickly be organised into service without asking questions. As some one asked earlier where was God in the middle of this disaster? He was right in the middle in the faces of the volunteers serving the people.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Some observations on power of social media

The floods crisis affecting Queensland over the last few weeks has shown me how valuable social media can be in informing the public and also mobilising people to a response. For us at 96five it showed again that radio is a great broadcast platform for flood information and that twitter and facebook are useful tools to compliment what we as a radio station can do. This blog is some thoughts on how I see twitter and facebook as useful and perhaps how you maybe able to harness these platforms to your ministry.


To me facebook is like a giant noticeboard. It is a great way to paste up information with some limited response from people who are part of your network. It is a notice board that also allows instant sharing of information and comments which is where it differs from a website. While anyone can view a website only ‘friends’ can view your facebook page but facebook is a lot easier to quickly up date information.


I think twitter is a valuable social tool for getting out short succinct messages or information. It is not designed for feedback or conversation but to just make statements. The lack of feedback means that unless it is from a reliable source the information can be wrong or at least misleading. This is where it differs from facebook which at least allows people the opportunity to see if a message sent has been shown to be wrong or it has been confirmed by other sources.

Pros and Cons

In my experiences Facebook and twitter are forms of social communication. What they aren’t are advertising platforms. I have yet to see any one company or church use them in a successful advertising or marketing way. They are platforms for ‘followers’ to post their thoughts but invariably those following are already consumers who are passionate at some level to your organisation. So no I don’t think they are helpful to get people to come to your church service on Sunday but they will at least let your congregation know what is happening much like a church bulletin.

Facebook is an invaluable pastoral care tool though because you do see what your congregation is ‘doing’. They may not tell you to your face but they will tell all their facebook friends. Where twitter or facebook is helpful is quick call to action stuff
Eg Mary Smith is ill and needs some help with meals for kids, or looking for some information on a topic xyz can anyone help me.

They are more flexible platforms than websites are, but again I don’t think either will replace a good website. Twitter and facebook are noticeboards not relationships either. Use them for call to actions not friendships.

Love to get your thoughts or experiences and feel free to find me on twitter and facebook too.