(Rev. Walter Winters, the Director of International Ministries of the International Lutheran Laymen's League, stopped by Hong Kong at the same time LUCIA was holding a workshop. Winters was the former LUCIA treasurer until 1990 and at one time also the Director of the Philippine Lutheran Hour.) "Why do we use the Internet to communicate? What do you call this or how do you describe it? Do we use it to share information with people?" These are the questions Winters asked to the LUCIA participants of the HTML workshop in Shatin (city in the New Territories of Hong Kong) on the last night of their gathering, December 1, 1997.
He explained that the philosophy of the Internet is not an "information revolution", but rather, a "relationship revolution". Citing the example of Martin Luther changing the relationship of the people with the Pope, he said, "With the Internet you break down barriers, so everyone has access to relationships."
Through the use of e-mail you can invite people to church in a personal way or have religious discussions. Winters suggested that people often want distance from their home congregations when having a problem, thus they could talk to someone besides their own pastor through the Internet. "The television gives us information, but the Internet is for two-way communication."
Winters also talked about how to make good use of an organization's home page. Through advertising, many people could visit your site. He suggested advertising a free book and then asking if the person needs any help finding a church and so on. Holidays such as Mother's Day, provide an excellent opportunity to reach people, but make sure you are prepared with good promotion at least one month in advance. "On our home page we have a comment box. Questions come in and we try to help those people."
The next step after creating a home page and maintenance is marketing. Winters said, "Don't drive without a map! Research your audience and use statistics to help you 'drive'." You can analyze who is accessing your site or look at the past two weeks of "hits". Also, asking friends to link to your site is like free advertising. On the other hand, offering space on your own site for advertising could help cover maintenance costs. Winters talked about using banner ads, and meta tags which you can list in the HTML language of your home page to let servers know you are offering free items. This in turn would attract some visitors to your site if they performed a search for "free items".
Finally, in answering the question of what is the function of the Internet in Christian ministry, Winters offered this parable. "Like many other forms of media ministry, the Internet will just be another child in the family. Maybe it will grow up and go to college someday and another child will come along..." Another important point he made was to not discontinue radio and television programming because each media form has a different audience.
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