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"DAVID MIERS is reported to be in the top 10 cage fighters in Gosford. He has some serious dish washing skills and thinks that Elizabeth Bennet is hot. Although he thinks that his wife Rowena is hotter. David works in youth ministry for a great church. Likes to: speak in third person, watch and play soccer, eat food and surf the web. He has never watched Star Wars."

False Community

About 4 years ago I started playing with the internet and thinking about how it could be used for our youth ministry. I wondered whether it was worth it, or whether it would be a waste of time and energy. We decided that we would see what we could do with the net and how it could help our ministry. Over that period of time things have slowly evolved and there seems to be some genuine momentum created by ccecyouth's online component.

There are two things that have heightened my thinking in these areas in recent days:
#1) A number of friends have been asking me about what how we've been using online technology in our youth ministry.
#2) On the Poddy with Dave & Dan (our podcast radio show thing) has sat in the top 10 on iTunes all week (peaking at #6) and that has enabled Rhett (our youth and young adults minister) and I to start thinking "what if?" and "where to next"...

My understanding of the nature of church is such that the internet can never replace the physical gathering of God's people. E-church may keep trying to pop-up in different corners of the web, but God's people physically gathering around His word in fellowship must not be replaced.

What we do with ccecyouth.com is create a false community of sorts. It's not real - maybe it's virtual reality - but it isn't real community in the physical gathering sense. BUT I think that what we are doing when we create our online false community is help our real physical offline community.

The following are the things that we do with ccecyouth.com. Some we've been gradually developing and others are recent editions.
Associated with a day:
Monday Morning - Photoblog - this is new... but the aim is to remind people about the Friday night that has just passed. It is uploaded to blogger and then atuomatically sent out to 300+ email address (including parents) with google groups.

Wednesday Morning - Breaking News - this is basically a 'what's coming up' thing. It has been brilliant for communcation, particularly with parents.

Thursday Morning - Upload ccecyouth talkcast - this is brand new. So we have no idea how many people will download the talks. But doing them as a podcast is a lot easier to manage than having to upload to html based webpage each week.

Friday Night (late) - Record & Upload On the Poddy - the Poddy has been great in helping to build identity within our youth group. On the poddy is theirs. They might be a guest on it. They might have their fanmail read out. It's even been a tool to promote our ccecyouth via our youth group kid's iPod. I know of a whole bunch of non-Christians who are now regular listeners which opens the door to evangelistic opportunities. Having it uploaded Friday night is important because teenagers have a 48 hour window where they will ordinarily be able to find time to download On the Poddy. We currently have over 500 downloads a week. This current week we should easily go beyond 700!

Sunday Arvo(ish) - Upload Bible reading notes - I'm not sure how many download these, but all of our juniors know that they are there. We hand their daily reading notes out each week at youth group. But the teenagers know that if they're away they can download the latest notes from there.
Forum - the forum has had some 15,000 posts!! But it goes through stages. There was a period of time when 50-odd people were on there regularly. But currently there are between 10 and 20 leaders on there at least once or twice a week.

Articles - this is irregular but there has been good feedback from some teenagers. This is an area we are looking to develop in the near future.

Photos - these are really popular. They are a visual reminder of the shared experiences that we share at ccecyouth.

Games, about us, leader info, parents section, leaders section, info about camps, missions, outline of who Jesus is.
I think that we are doing some good things. We are currently working out how we can streamline things better and there are some big plans not far around the corner. Hopefully we'll be able to take it up another notch! One of the best things about the false community that is created is that it excites them for when they will physically meet again. We see them on Friday and Sunday. It means on the other days during the week they can be reminded of ccecyouth, they can be reminded of our real community and they can be reminded of Jesus who died to make that gathering happen.

Conclusion: The internet is great for passing on information and it is great to create a false community in order to enhance our real physical community. The net can never take priority over the physical gathering of God's people week-by-week in our youth group and church.

Note: Last year we had some Christian year 12s on schoolies week who google'd Central Coast Youth Group, found us and came along during their holiday!

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  • Blogger Andy M says so:
    Friday, June 02, 2006 11:35:00 am  

    why is it necessarily false community? why does church necessarily have to be a physical gathering of God's people?
    I don't necessarily disagree with you, but thinking out loud a bit.
    I personally have learnt heaps and been encouraged greatly by online Christian communities - why is that not "church" in a sense?
    I guess it's harder to really love and care for people online than in person, but not completely impossible. top

  • Anonymous CJ says so:
    Tuesday, June 06, 2006 11:32:00 am  

    Hey there.

    Randomly stumbled across your blog. It's great to hear what you guys are achieving through your youth website. We have just recently launched a youth website for our church. Only been going a few weeks, but the usage so far has been encouraging. Obviously we are in much more of an infant stage than you guys, but are looking to expand in the not too distant future! top

  • Blogger David says so:
    Wednesday, June 07, 2006 5:54:00 am  

    andy m:
    good questions to raise... i'll keep thinking and get back to you... top

  • Blogger David says so:
    Wednesday, June 07, 2006 5:56:00 am  

    g'day cj.
    good to hear from you. i know a bunch of people from st matt's and used to go there with a univeristy mission team for a couple of years. i'm guessing you stumbled here from one of their blogs.
    i'd already seen your website and there's some cool stuff on there.
    go well top