2017 has been an interesting year with many changes. With those changes come lessons your church can learn from. This is a collection of the most important several topics. I covered some in previous articles. But I wanted to highlight them due to their recent real-world impacts. These stories have affected the audiences you serve. Be aware and let them know you are trying to be proactive.
I used to write my yearly review article in July, the anniversary of this blog. That was disrupted in 2016 with my break from writing. So I am moving this article to a traditional end of the calendar year spot. These are trends from the past year and a half that affected church communications.
More Zero UI
Voice command interfaces continue to grow, and this last Christmas shopping season proved it. Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and now Google Home have invaded our spaces. The price point of these devices has come down to under $50. The big question is how prepared is your website to serve that data. I mentioned this in articles on the semantic web, and zero UI. The bottom line is to make sure web services can parse your data. The most important are hours of operation and your location & contact information.
Voice-activated devices may be convenient. Yet privacy concerns have always surrounded them. This is due to the fact that these devices that are always listening to us. No, you do not have any control over those devices. But you do control the privacy of your members' information. Treat your collected data with the utmost care. Be cautious of what pictures and video you post online. And do not assume having contact information is permission to send texts and/or emails. Worry about their privacy as if it were your own. For more details, see last week's article on avoiding privacy disasters.
Speaking of the golden rule, we come to harassment. Recently, many high-profile careers were ruined by allegations of harassment. Your church may have dealt with this. But how you handle these situations is important. Social media is a minefield for this topic. It can be a space where harassment occurs. Or a scandal can break there with variations of the truth. My advice to you is to be as transparent as possible both on your website and social media. You do not want to exacerbate the situation with too many details. Yet, you do not want to seem like you are hiding behind the church doors. Lastly, be vigilant for any social media bullying. Anything that occurs on your pages can and should be your responsibility.
This technology is quite far off in the distance. But the possibilities grow as more churches get native applications. Shortly after my 2015 review article, a mobile game showed us this could be true. Pokémon Go is a location-based game that allows for augmented reality. Instead of collecting imaginary creatures, imagine a web app directs you to the room where your child has Sunday School. Consider sitting on a bus and seeing your church listed as an attraction at the next stop. These and other ideas will change our view of how devices interact with the real world. But know that just like zero UI, the foundation for augmented reality is good data. Start now and you will not be left behind in the future.
As with all my "year in review" articles, this is a time for reflection. Please consider the various topics I mentioned above. They all relate to your digital ministries. Start laying the foundation to solve these upcoming problems. It may be something as simple as a policy letter. Or it may be a few months of exploration. Either way, invest in your church's future. It is the best way to prevent your team from feeling outdated next year.
Photo courtesy of Jaures Villani