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Reaching Your Community Online

In his 2015 book, "The Digital Cathedral: Networked Ministry in a Wireless World," Keith Anderson notes that the church of the future will be less an institution and more a networking organization. The difference is that institutions form their own gravitational pull that draws members; networks don't have a gravitational center -- each node in a network is its own small center of gravity. The change, Anderson says, means that clergy need to be networkers and network facilitators in order to be in the network where people now live their lives. That network is both real and virtual. For more on Anderson's thinking about networking, relationships and incarnation, see his series of blog posts on the New Media Project website.

Thinking about networks from a denominational perspective is the job of Suzii Paynter, the leader of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, an association of independent moderate Baptist churches founded in 1991. Paynter refers to her organization as a "denomi-network," by which she means it is a "system that allows for decisionmaking and friendships and partnerships and flexibility." In some ways, she says, "We function … like a denomination, but we are organized and we have the facility of a network."

As a young organization peopled by young clergy and judicatory personnel, the Cooperative knows how to discern new directions and act on them almost immediately, allowing them to be highly responsive to changing social and cultural conditions. By having young people in positions of authority and leadership, the Cooperative and its individual churches are uniquely attuned to the emerging culture, in which institutions are losing authority and networks are becoming increasingly common. For more on online networking for your church, see our feature articles, "Do You Tweet? Here's Why Your Church Needs to be Online," and "The Changing Face of Online Religion."

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