The Internet is changing the way people communicate and stay connected. For church leaders, understanding how the Internet impacts church community is vital, but harnessing the power of the Internet to build community can be a daunting task.
That’s why I was very excited to see the work of SoChurch. The folks at SoChurch have come up with a simple way for churches to harness the power of the electronic communications their members are already using (e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, etc.). I love it because it is simple for non-technical people (like me) to use it. SoChurch creates a simple one-stop-shop for your members to find one another, be informed about events, read prayer requests, ask for volunteers, and many other things.
I recently interviewed Ben Forsberg, chief executive officer of SoChurch. I wanted him to explain in his own words why more churches should look into their services.
1. Pretend I’m a pastor or church leader. Give me a brief description of what SoChurch offers.
SoChurch is more than a social network for your church. We have designed it to be a communication solution; designed for leaders first and members second. SoChurch will help church leaders get the right messages to the right people in the ways that they are currently receiving information, whether that be on Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, or mobile phones (coming soon).
With easily adjusted settings for content moderation, approvals, member and group management, and event management, SoChurch helps church leaders consolidate their online communication and disseminates that communication to the members. Members can engage the church’s messages wherever they are online; on Facebook or Twitter, in their inbox, or on the SoChurch application itself. SoChurch can act like a social network, but has been designed to do so much more, providing real utility for leaders and easy interactions for members.
2. Why did you create SoChurch? What’s your story?
To be honest, I am not the one responsible for creating SoChurch. My partners, Jonathan Cottrell and Craig Van Korlaar, dreamed it up after some conversations about how churches need to connect better. To do that, they need to communicate better.
From a product perspective, Jonathan Cottrell and Mike Alonzo have been creating, modifying, and improving the overall vision for the application. It is a work in progress aimed at making churches better at communication, by making it simple. Jonathan and Craig approached me to come on as CEO to handle the business development side of things because of my background in communication, church leadership, and entrepreneurship. We all work well together, knowing our strengths and playing to them.
3. I’ve spoken with several pastors who simply don’t know why online social interactions and networks like Facebook are things they should take an interest in when it comes to ministry. What would you say to that?
Leveraging the medium of the day has always been important in spreading the gospel and edifying the Church. The fact is, people are consuming information online in ways and volumes never before seen. To reach people, you have to meet them where they are. Just like radio didn’t replace books and TV didn’t replace radio, social media will not replace real-world interaction, but it can serve to enhance it, if used properly.
Whatever the case, people are spending LOTS of time on social media applications and so should church leaders, if they want to be more effective at evangelism, communication, relationship, and influence.
4. A lot of churches in the U.S. have less than 100 members and there is already a sense of closely knit community. What are the benefits of SoChurch for these congregations?
I am a member of a small church, and I know first hand that just because there is good community, doesn’t mean there is great communication. With tools to help track prayer requests, to offer gifts and needs, and to see where groups and other members are located within the community, SoChurch has something to offer the small church, and at a price they can afford! In fact, our entire model is designed for the small- and medium-sized churches that want to be better at communication within their community as well as (and perhaps more importantly) outside their community.
SoChurch is full of social sharing tools and prompts—such as the ability for members to share events and posts among their own social networks—that can help the small church reach out beyond their walls.
5. Many medium-size and larger churches already have their own websites. Does SoChurch replace church websites or can they be integrated with existing websites?
For now, SoChurch can act, in a limited capacity, as a church’s website. But we realize that most churches would prefer their existing website to what SoChurch can currently offer. Most of our current customers are using SoChurch as the Community portion of their website. With aptly placed links and the custom branding that is available through SoChurch, the look and feel of your SoChurch account will be consistent with your current web presence. And not to worry, we are working on some exciting, never before seen website features that will greatly enhance our customer’s ability to have seamless interactions between the community portion of SoChurch and the forward facing website experience that will be offered. But that is down the road, and I don’t want to let too much out, just yet.