a story to help understand internet ministry

A church wanted to start a new bus ministry that would help transport children and adults to their church for worship and various other church events. They just needed a bus. A wonderful donor heard their God dream and offered to pay 100 percent for a brand new bus. Wow! They had a free bus ministry. Praise God! Now the church's ministry could expand to reach many more people to introduce them to Jesus and to help them grow in Christ.

Getting started was harder than expected, though. They quickly learned they needed to make a lot of decisions about the new bus they would order. What size should they get? What should the seat spacing be? Individual seats or bench seats? Seat belts? Automatic or manual transmission? Air Conditioning? Backup camera? Type of doors? There were more choices than they ever dreamed they would need to make just to configure a simple bus. This was all very new to them. They tried to research the decisions, but were still unsure what the right decisions should be. Then there was the paint color scheme. They could choose from existing schemes provided by the bus manufacturer or design their own (which was a lot of work). And they needed to decide on the words and logo to be painted on the sides. Choosing the appearance of the bus was really tough.

Finally, they ordered the bus and the donor immediately paid for it. It took awhile, but the bus arrived and it was absolutely beautiful! Excitement was in the air at the dedication ceremony where they dedicated the bus to ministry and contemplated how many people would be reached with the new bus.

Even with the bus in their possession, creating the bus ministry was also much more difficult and time consuming than expected. They needed a driver with a special license. They needed a mechanic to keep the bus maintained and in working order. They needed people to clean the bus. And they needed someone to schedule the bus pickups. They learned that a lot of different people were required to make a bus ministry work. And unfortunately, most of the people had not done this before. It was all new and some of it was difficult; and they made mistakes. Some of the mistakes were costly and embarrassing like the time they forgot to pick up a large group of senior citizens on a hot summer day or when the cleaning person bleached out the front passenger seat with some kind of new cleaner.

As the bus ministry continued there were many challenges along the way and it never seemed to get any easier because there was always the new challenge awaiting just ahead. The pickup schedule needed to be kept up-to-date and it always seemed to be changing for various reasons. There were fights on the bus between a few kids. As a result, the church needed to add an extra person just to monitor and control the kids. One day the bus broke down and a bunch of people from the church with minivans had to transport the people back home. People called the church complaining about arrival delays and mix ups. The bus driver got sick and was hospitalized so they had to quickly find an alternate driver. And no sooner did they get a new driver, the alternate driver backed the bus into a pole. After the pole accident, the church's insurance company dramatically raised their insurance rates. And we all know about the increased cost of fuel!

Ultimately, the "free" bus was not free from the huge effort needed to create a bus ministry. It started out slow, but the result was a ministry that went beyond what the church could ever have imagined. Many lives were touched. Families were restored. People were saved. People grew in Christ. The bus was free, but the ministry was plain-old hard work. But they kept at it because they were committed to expand their ministry impact in this world. As they did, God blessed their efforts.

Like the bus, the Web-Empowered Church software, documentation, training, and support are all free. But like every other ministry in the church that reaches people, it is not easy. There are unfamiliar things you will need to learn. You will have to make tough choices. You will need to build a team to make the ministry happen. And things will go very wrong at times. For example, the website will go off-line or a volunteer will make a mistake that is embarrassing to the church. But that is how real ministry goes. We do the hard work because we want to expand our ministry impact.

Building a simple informational website is not too difficult. It is like specifying and receiving the free bus and leaving it parked in front of the church just to advertise the church. That has some value, but you need to drive the bus to make real ministry happen. A web ministry needs to have its content updated consistently and it needs interactive ministry features in order to do real ministry. The internet offers many new opportunities for connecting with more people so you can expand your ministry impact. I encourage you to do the hard work of creating a real internet ministry. And unlike the bus ministry story, you will not be alone in the process because WEC has a large community of Christians who are working together to web-empower churches and ministries. If you keep working at it, they can help you deal with any issues you have along the way. Together, we can web-empower your church or ministry.

Blessed to Serve with You.
Mark Stephenson