Check out my interview with Pastor Rick Isbell at New Church Memphis, TN.
1. Can you give me some background about the church and how long you have been there?
Our most recent history, which has kind of been the reason we re-launched the website, is because we are two old churches that merged into one new church. The original churches were 55 and 84 years old. We combined our ministries, resources, and all of that good stuff into one campus, and then we used the second campus to launch an African American church called Holy Calling Fellowship. The merge happened three years ago, and then we planted Holy Calling two years ago.
2. How are you using your website to increase member involvement?
Since we launched our new website, we’ve already seen greatly increased traffic. We have really tried to highlight the site during our worship services, which has allowed us to teach people how to use the tools that are there – like the prayer wall. Back in January, we did a survey called Transformational Church, which is a church-wide survey that all of our members filled out, and then 25 of our members went to a retreat to analyze the results. Through this, one of the most important things we found out is that we didn’t know what the community wanted us to pray about. We tried to come up with ideas for how to fix that, but none of them seemed practical on an ongoing basis – until we found the prayer wall. We felt like the prayer wall was our ticket to quickly get prayer needs out in our community, so this was the number one drawing for us to build the new site. Just the other day, we did a demo in our worship service so our members could see how it works and how easy it is. I showed them how their prayer requests instantly come to my cell phone and proved it right there in service. It really created a good buzz and excitement. It’s real time stuff – which is great because in the past, they would submit a prayer request and it wouldn’t appear in the prayer bulletin until a week later!
Now that the site’s up and running, in addition to the prayer wall, we also use it to announce events through the calendar and to post our newsletters and media. The e-vite tool has been fun for our folks, too.
3. How has the use of technology helped you reach out to the community?
Our main goal with the site is to utilize it to pray for our community. When you go to the home page, one of our rotating flash images points to the prayer wall as well as one of the hot buttons and a nav bar option – so there are three options for them to hit “prayer.” We do this purposefully because we want to be able to reach out to our community and know what to pray for. Also, just this last week, we went to Sam’s and got a box of blank business cards and made up several hundred cards that have the e-invite graphic on them with a big caption that says, “We want to pray for you.” We gave each member three business cards and asked them to give them away to people in the community – whether it’s a waitress or a mailman or whoever it might be. It’s not a magical number, but instead of giving them a big stack that they’ll throw in the back of their car, three seems to be doable. We hope we’ll be able to really drive people to the prayer wall and make a difference in people’s lives.