NRB Reflections – What Ministries Want to Know About User-Generated Content

I was asked a few questions for my talk at NRB that were fun to answer. I thought I would blog the answers in a few posts.

User-generated content is a huge buzz topic right now. As a Christ-centered ministry, how can we take advantage of this trend without exposing ourselves to problems?

  • I don’t think you can. Frankly, there is some level of risk/exposure with any new idea. No pain no gain is the catch-phrase, but with user-generated content, this is true. And I realize it is scary that there aren’t a lot of examples of ministries doing this well, but not that many are trying either. We can move past this fear though.
  • Sometimes user-generated content isn’t a matter of reinventing everything as much as it is a matter of opening the content safe and allowing others to participate. iQuestions is a good example. They have video for all kinds of questions, with “experts” answering the questions. Well, that is great… but will it scale to tens of thousands of questions? It probably won’t. Will it catch the top 400 questions about the Christian life? Maybe. But what about all the others?Does the 16 year old girl who wants to know if French kissing is a sin have a balanced answer to the question? Not if we rely on a single or a few experts, because she doesn’t trust them. But having lots of people who have been there come in to communicate similar things says a lot to that 16 year old girl, in spite of the few people who might encourage her to mug-down (showing my age here) all she wants. I don’t mean to pick on iQuestions. I think it is a great idea. It is an example though where re-crafting your model in a way that allows users to contribute can lead to greater things.
  • When thinking about how user-generated content could impact ministry, consider your ministries mission. Then think about what it would look like for your constituents to take a more active role in your mission. I don’t mean through giving, I mean through contribution. Exodus 35 shows us that people are given things by God which they can contribute. So dream about how your ministry can open the doors to allow those you are in relationship with your ministry to contribute to your ministry. Hint: this isn’t stuffing envelopes, but involves something on your web site.
  • To answer directly the problem side of the question. You need smart people who can look down the road and anticipate the problems. These are likely consultants or people who already run large internet ministries. You need policies and terms of use statements for sure, but you also need a balanced, Christ-like approach to how you handle conflict and mediate disagreements. In all things, be like Christ. He walked among the sinners and ate dinner with the dirty. He didn’t ask people to clean up before coming to him, and neither should we.We should learn a method of encouraging people to be baptized into a new faith where they can experience freedom from the baggage they bring to the user-generated content. This is what our ministries are really on about anyway isn’t it? Sure, the conversation is taking place in ways we don’t yet fully grasp. Our values should not change… nor should our approach with people (unless of course you aren’t doing it well now). As problems with user participation come up, handle them with a thick skin, a huge heart, and a forgetful mind.Ants Providing User-Contribution

The value of user-generated content on your ministries staff and membership culture will far outweigh the pains involved in moderating the discussion and gently correcting those who are out of line. In this case, the pain is worth the gain.

Posted in Web Ministry

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