Online-offline synergy is when "offline" activities such as an outreach or a crusade are closely coordinated with a website or vice-versa. It is the intentional connecting of the online and offline worlds. It is the nexus between physical incarnation and "presence" - and information and explanation and community and forums online.
In the Philippines a Catholic charismatic ministry sends worship teams into Catholic schools - where they are often restricted from teaching about being born-again. But the worship team of fun young people heavily promotes their "Genrev" website and it is there that the kids convert to Christ are followed up in the forums and eventually come to the Tuesday night meeting. With 2 million hits a month and hundreds of conversions it is a great example of online-offline synergy.
Joepix is an major event outreach that send photographers around to do group photos for free. The photos are put on a website and the people in the photo are given a key they can use to log on - and invite friends to the website. The website presents the gospel. Non-Christians and inviting other non-Christians to a Christian website to view their photos!
Its tough to present the gospel in some Catholic schools, and nearly impossible to get it through in a five-minute photo shoot without looking really weird. The ministries above build the RELATIONSHIP off-line - and deliver the INFORMATION online.
Lets play this out a bit more, say your church sends 45 young people in a bus to Mexico for a 3 day outreach. They have a great time, make many friends and come home excited and sad. It wasn't really long enough for effective ministry - or was it?
- What if they were encouraged to make email pen-pals?
- Or gave out literature to a Spanish language Christian website?
- What if the church got some of its Hispanic members to have an evangelistic web page in Spanish with photos of the weekend and lots of friendly faces?
- Or if there were forums using PHPBB2 or similar software to answer questions?
- Or even just a blog about the weekend?
The possibilities are endless and the Mexican young people can go into a nearby Internet cafe and keep in touch with their American friends and get their questions answered about being born-again. The new converts could be effectively followed up and the seekers led to the Lord. The spiritual results could be doubled!
The Introduction is made "offline", the gospel or other Information is presented "online" and questions are answered in cyberspace and relationship are built, then the Invitation happens as the website advertises another event, and finally Inclusion happens as they become part of both the online and offline communities. Then more Introductions are made and so on...
A common mistake is to expect the website to do the initial introduction. People don't trust the internet enough for that yet. In the main they still need a smiling face. The gospel still has to be incarnated in flesh and blood. However people are very happy to find information online or be an email pen-pal with someone they already know from the real world. So do the introduction and initial relationship building offline, and leave presenting the information to the website. This also takes a lot of the pressure off the relationship.
POINTS TO PONDER:
1. How can you build relationships offline that lead to information online?
2. How can you build a website to back-up an outreach effort?
3. How can you use the Internet to answer common questions that arise during face-to-face ministry?
4. How can a website help do the evangelizing for you?
For more information about Cybermissions go to http://www.cybermissions.org/