Book review: Web-empowered ministry by Mark M. Stephenson

Posted Apr 03, 2012 | New Media Project

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By Kenetha J. Stanton


Web-empowered ministry: Connecting with people through websites, social media, and more covers a wide range of useful information for churches or ministries that are considering developing an online presence. The book includes everything from general advice about how to set up an effective team to the technical details that will make your website more user-friendly. All of this information is provided in an easy-to-read style that keeps the information from becoming overwhelming.

The author, Mark M. Stephenson, is the Director of CyberMinistry and Technology of Ginghamsburg Church in Tipp City, Ohio, where he helped start the church’s website in 1997. The website has grown into a worldwide ministry offering a variety of ways to engage the more than 50,000 users who visit each month.

Many of the tips and insights he shares throughout the book are based on his personal experience with this ministry as it has grown and developed over time. This helps to keep his information grounded in the real world of ministry and the challenges involved. One of the strengths of this book is that the emphasis stays on the importance of the ministry first. All advice, techniques, and tips are given in the context of how they support the church’s ministry. This is true whether he’s talking in terms of the best way to use volunteer help to keep the website updated or the use of specific technology tools to ensure that the message is best communicated to the people it’s meant to serve.

The primary focus of the book is on building a church website. He offers options that range from a simple website for smaller churches with fewer resources to more extensive interaction options for larger churches that have more money and people to keep it running. Various social media outlets are also covered, in addition to options for creating social networking possibilities within the website itself through discussion boards and forums.

Technical details include definition of frequently used terms, explanations of hosting plans and server options, programming options, audio and video help, how to work with images, and much more. He also provides a wealth of information about how to identify, train, and coordinate volunteers to create an effective team to keep a site or social network updated. There is a list of 70 tips at the end of the book that are a great reference point for making sure your ministry is staying on track.

He is also the director of the Web-Empowered Church ministry, which offers software, consulting support, and workshops to churches and ministries around the world. This does become evident in the book as he points out how his software can solve various issues for the user, but this is done so in a way that does not detract from the overall value of the book by becoming a book-length sales pitch.

Overall, this is very helpful book for churches that may be just starting to develop an Internet presence, for those who may be taking on a leadership role in a web ministry, or for those who are working to update or overhaul an existing ministry. The information it shares is helpful to beginners in this area, but it will still be helpful to people who have been working online for awhile. Its focus on the ministry aspects of the work makes this a valuable resource, and it keeps the focus on being a part of God’s work in this world.

Kenetha J. Stanton, the research and administrative assistant for the New Media Project, is also a trained librarian.

The New Media Project is a research project helping religious leaders become theologically savvy about technology. To request permission to repost this content, please contact newmediaproject@cts.edu.

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