Thursday, August 5, 2010

District Websites: Asleep at the Wheel?

Perhaps one reason more parishioners don’t know what’s going on in our synod is because no one tells them. I stopped by the website of all 35 Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod districts, and found that at least nine of them made no mention of the recent LCMS convention (which ended on July 17). Another six districts had nothing other than a link to the LCMS website convention page. It seems that the districts ought to be interested in keeping the people in their care informed about major events in the synod, and there is no event more major than the national convention.

In their “News” section, the Iowa East District doesn’t report on the national convention, but they do report on their district convention – the one held in 2006. To their credit, they also have a blog that reported on the convention, although they never note the election of Rev. Matthew Harrison as President. A couple of districts linked to the Red Chair videos that featured their District President, but not much else.

I was annoyed by Ohio District President Terry Cripe’s comments, but maybe you’ll have a different reaction. Southeastern District President Jon Diefenthaler, in his post titled "Remaining Ablaze!," seemed most excited about the continuation of Ablaze!, and “the fact that two out the three congregations that received special recognition for their participation in the Ablaze! fundraising effort were from the SED.” Sorry, but I really don’t share his enthusiasm.

Mid-South District President Kenneth Lampe and Minnesota North District President Donald Fondau both gave decent one page overviews of the convention. The best review in my book was that of Rocky Mountain District President Randy Golter, whose four page review was insightful and pastoral – exactly what you’d expect from a District President.

Overall, the district website tour was a bust. With most sites offering very little information on the convention, it’s disappointing that momentous restructuring changes and the election of a new President were largely a non-event judging from the district website reactions. District Presidents, as well as the parish pastors out there in the trenches, should be encouraged to keep their parishioners informed on synod news. An informed laity goes a long way in fostering unity and making sure the synod’s doctrine remains on solid ground.

photo credit: Watt_Dabney


Rev. John Frahm said...

I've looked a few that haven't been updated for months or even years. I think it points to the generation gap with district presidents. Though I was disappointed with the response of President Golter.

Anonymous said...

A rather revealing scenario. As significant as this convention was, it's a bit surprising and disappointing to hear about the relative lack of interest by the DP's in communicating. Perhaps they're a bit slow in doing that. It's a shame that district websites aren't current. You need a webmeister who sticks with thing, and a DP who bird-dogs it. I'm not sure I'd agree with "bust" but "lukewarm" might work.

Thanks for the covereage, Scott. Nice to see you have so much time on your hands.


Ted said...

Interestingly enough I never heard anything out of the local church about the convention either.

Karl said...

Thanks Scott for the info. Perhaps the DPs are waiting for Sep 11 to pass before they make any comments. After all, GK is still their ES until then. We really need to get the DPs out from under Synod's thumb and back to representing their districts TO Synod, rather than "Synod in this place." We need to continue to pray for them (the DPs).

Anonymous said...

Hmmm...I too, am underwhelmed by President Golter's response. GK not being re-elected is a surprise? Really?

Anonymous said...

Ummmmm, what is the purpose of a district website, anyway? Not updating a website is an easy way to encourage visitors never to return! What is the purpose of a district? Isn't there a duplication of efforts done at the circuit level versus the district level versus the National level? Who should be doing what?

I have a big problem with LCMS churches not advertising Lutheran podcasting websites. I found out about Stand-Firm and other confessional websites via several intense google searches for the 2010 LCMS convention. This is excellent missions stuff (are you listening, Matt Harrison), so why don't most Lutherans know these websites exist?

Regarding Lutheran radio, the only advertisement I have ever seen was a short advertising blurb in the church bulletin about "The Lutheran Hour," which would air on AM radio at 5:30 am on a Saturday morning. Bah! Was this program meant for old people who are early risers? If it cannot be synched to an ipod or iphone, then most people won't bother.

As a lifelong LCMS layman who has been a member of at least 3 LCMS churches, I never knew that wonderful programs such as Issues, Etc. and Pirate Christian Radio even existed. Listening to ON-demand archives any time I want is wonderful!

LCMS has the theology, the excellent schools, the seminaries, the websites, the podcasts, etc. but they are poorly advertised. How many Lutheran (and non-Lutheran) laymen know how wonderful they are? Shame. How can the sleeping giant awaken?

Anonymous said...

I have also seen some poorly designed LCMS websites. Some websites look like they were designed by a third grader. If the website in question is not firefox/safari friendly, and if it is not MacIntosh and Ipod and Iphone friendly, then many website visitors will not take the website seriously.

Paul McCain said...

Interesting thoughts, by and large, the staff of most LCMS districts, or, the decision makers, in most district offices, are 50+ year olds and,I intend no disrespect, particularly since I'm 48 myself, but most of "us" simply do not get new media, so I would not read TOO much into what is, or is not, on district web sites. I suspect/expect that most of the time, persons who set up a web site for a district and then hand it off do not realize they are doing this for people who fundamentally don't understand how new media work.

Scott Diekmann said...

I agree that older DP's are less likely to be "web savy" Pastor McCain. I've got you beat by five years, being age 53. I really dislike having to deal with html, but I force myself to use it, and taught myself to use it, in service to the Gospel. While I wouldn't expect anybody else to do that, it doesn't seem beyond the pale of reasonableness to expect a District President to recognize the internet as a viable form of communication, and direct that it be used. Your point is well taken though that it is one thing to set up a website, but quite a different set of circumstances to keep it up to date.