A walled garden is a site or company that offers content only to its subscribers, who have to “come inside the wall” to get the content they want. The old AOL was like that — you had to subscribe to get access to their content. But information wants to be free, and those walled gardens that charged for access were quickly bypassed for the open internet.
Churches face a similar transition. The old church model was the walled garden. People were invited to come inside [join] to get access to all the stuff inside — pastoral care, committee participation, right to vote, name on a membership list, or whatever the “inside” stuff was. The ministry of the church was what happened inside the wall — Bible studies, small groups, worship, fellowship, decision-making, and so on. Success was measured by how many people were inside the walls at any one time.
But all that is changing. Today churches that are walled gardens are being bypassed. Open access, decentralized leadership, participation, collaboration, bridges, and networking are the new order of the day. Walled gardens struggle for survival while new, more open forms of church are emerging. Many of us are trying to at least open the garden gate, if not tear down the garden walls altogether. What’s your church doing?
How’s that for alliteration? Okay, bad header aside, I do have some interesting stuff today, techno-wise —
- Highrise — I’ve been looking for a web-based CRM (customer relationship manager) that was adaptable to church ministry, and I think I’ve found it. Check out Highrise which allows you to keep track of people, tasks, projects, and stash them all in a “case” that holds all the info on a particular individual. You can also share information among users (for multi-staff churches) and tags and categories are totally customizable. Best part: for small churches you can use it free! You can track up-to 250 contacts (members, prospects, friends) on the free version, upgradeable at anytime to a paid version. I’m on the free version now, and it’s working really well for me. Plus, Highrise is accessible from any on-line computer. Check out how this pastor uses Highrise in ministry.
- TED Talks — If you don’t know about TED Talks, you need to. Go to TED.com to see short video presentations by some of the smartest people in the world. Read the story of TED, how it started, and what they do. Then, put TED Talks on your podcasts download for some really cool and interesting stuff. One of the 2007 TED prize winners was Karen Armstrong, author of A History of God.
- Cool Tools — Started by Kevin Kelly, Cool Tools gets about a 1,000,000-hits per month. Pretty good traffic, and lots of really neat stuff. I just like looking at all the gadgets, and the occasional book that gets mentioned.
- LivingOS — For those into Open Source software, this guy, Tim, has good tips on what works for churches, plus free downloads of worship slides, and good advice on church websites. Plus, he’s a pastor in the UK.
My theory is that there is lots of good, free stuff out there that small churches can use as tools for more effective ministry. Good hunting!