Can You Find Your Church?
Interesting question, don’t you think? And the answer is, of course, I can find my church. Just please don’t tell me it is right where you left it.
But what about the person who has just moved to the area and would like to come to a United Methodist Church? The answer in this case is that they probably could find your church but how will they find it?
At this point, we are a little out of my depth when it comes to mapping programs but hopefully you have friends or know some people who can help in this regard.
They could do as I have done on a number of occassions; wander around the new neighborhood until they find a church. But in today’s technological society, they are just as apt to go to the Internet and do a search there.
Someone searching for a United Methodist Church might try googling for the church but the odds are that they will get lots and lots of church information and it will be very hard to sift through it all to find your church. Think about it, how many churches are there in this country that have the same name as your church? The same could probably be said for searching for the church on Facebook.
Searching on Google and Facebook can be very difficult if you do not have something specific in mind.
But there is one search engine that provides very specific results about churches in one’s area and it is the “Find A Church” function on the UMC.org page.
Did you know that this was there? I have found that many churches are not even aware that this function exists and that their specific church is listed on it.
There are two ways to utilize this function. First, you have to go to UMC.org. On the the top of the page, just off to the left center is a tab marked “Find a church”. You can use this tab to get to the find a church page or update your church’s information.
Clicking on the find-a-church part takes you to a page where you can enter information such as street address, city, state, and zip code information or even a particular church name. This will lead to a results page.
The second way to get to this information from the first page is to enter a zip code over on the right hand side of the first page (in the slot marked “enter zip code”). This will give you all the churches with that particular zip code. There is an option to expand this search in 5-mile increments.
Now, here is the question for you to consider. If the person looking for a church finds your church by either process, what will they find when they click on the church’s name?
If a particular church doesn’t know that this page exists, not much information is going to be available. There might be a street address and perhaps a telephone. If one is lucky, there might even be an e-mail address. With the street address, there is a connection to Google maps so that one can get directions to the church.
This is where the fund begins. For one church in my area, the listed mailing address happens to be the parsonage and not the church which is about five miles away. That is the type of error that each church has to check, to make sure that street address of the church is the street address of the church.
Google maps tend to make errors, such as putting one local church on the other side of the intersection from where it actually is. Or the time that the directions from Google put me in the parking lot of an Assembly of God church one mile from my destination. My favorite one though is the one that put a Connecticut church in the middle of Kentucky.
If you have not looked at this function on the UMC.org web page, you need to do so. Is the information listed correct? (The e-mail address for a church in this area was linked to a church of basically the same name but in Indiana.)
Is the link to the web site correct and active? A person uses technology to find your church who gets wrong e-mail addresses and/or incorrect web sites is not likely to visit your church. We just through a period of many changes in this district and the pastors listed on the Find-a-church page are not entirely correct.
I cannot offer any insight into what it takes to change the information on this page. There are options for changing the information and/or adding new information but we are still doing that at our church so I am not prepared to give clues on that aspect.
But the mantra still remains the same. Once you put your presence on line, you must constantly work to insure that the information is correct and accurate. When one makes a commitment to technology, one is making a long-term and active commitment. You cannot create a web page and expect it to take care of itself. Too many seekers today are attuned to the technological nature of society; they will not consider a church that makes only a partial attempt to be technological oriented.
So can you find your church? And when you find it, what will you find?