Prayer and church services are no longer bound by the constraints of location, time, or place. Churches around the world are joining forces with fellow members to create online communities akin to social networking sites that offer participants a ‘place’ to come together for specific information. The church groups and discussions of yesterday, traditionally reserved for once a week at a member’s house, can now be offered online in a ‘live’ discussion or group format!
Society and culture are moving at an incredibly exciting pace in the realm of online connectivity and networking habits. As the global trends surge for social networking sites, new ways of distributing information and high-speed connection availabilities to jump on the world wide web, more people’s lives are touched by the powerful force of the Internet. The farmers of yesterday are using laptops and wireless Internet to check the status of the weather, the GPS location of their next delivery, and managing their livestock inventory. Local grocery stores are offering e-mail lists and newsletters to their frequent customers as a way to continue business with the locals. And now churches are offering sermons, prayer, and hosting networking options online.
Podcasts and streaming video of specific sermons or services are also popping up online; ‘Churchcasts’ offered by Gospel.com feature an assortment of topic-specific sermons available for download each Sunday. Pastors from around the country can post their list of videos on sites such as Online-Churches.net.
Churches that offer Streaming Worship Services can also be found across multiple church search engines sites such as Churches.net and Catholic.org. From the First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, to The Moody Church in Chicago Illinois, participants simply log on to the website and download the sermon, service, or item of interest. The websites themselves are becoming high-traffic ‘hubs’ and virtual meeting places, hosting discussion forums, topic boards, and other basics such as church schedules and community news.
Books, magazine articles, and well-designed Church Locators are a growing need and are growing as a place of contact for today’s online church visitors. Prayer requests can be submitted online, serving as a self-publishing platform for announcements and gathering similar-minded individuals for group prayers.
The future shows promise for Bible study groups where both kids and adults can actively participate no matter where their location, time schedules, and church of origin. With educational and learning so easily accessible, simple steps to download a podcast or streaming video are no longer so far fetched. VirtualChurch.org offers a comprehensive site of Real Audio hymns, stories, trivia, and an easy blog-style format for the latest news. VirtualChurch.com gives visitors a chance to make tithes and offerings directly on line, and offers a one-of-a-kind individualized service. Participants walk through a series of sermons, hymns, and reference material to recreate a visit to a brick-and-mortar church from anywhere around the world.
The extensive capabilities of online networking today are picking up speed in the domain of church groups and discussion forums. Online churches are creating new ways and exciting possibilities for people to enjoy and nurture their spiritual side, without the traditional barriers and obstacles.