The Orthodox Marketing Department by kellena94

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									The Orthodox Marketing Department




Having a first period class in college was bad enough. But, when the class was Russian History
during the Middle Ages with an elderly professor nearing retirement, well that was downright
torturous. Especially when the professor was a man known for his dry wit.




 




I remember sitting there one morning, bleary eyed, as he stood in front discussing the Great
Schism between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches and its effects on Eastern
Europe.




 




"So," he said at one point, "After the Schism the Western half of the Christian
Church became known as Catholic which means universal. The Eastern half went on to be
known as                                                           Orthodox which means rig
ht-believing
. What does this mean?"




 




It was early, and most of us were sophmores with a scattering of freshmen in the mix. We tried
various buzz-word laden responses, much to the merriment of the aged-professor who gently
mocked our intellectual pretentiousness about ‘geo-political' this and ‘socio-economic' that.




 




Finally he said, "It means that the Orthodox need a new marketing department."




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With a wry smile, he continued class.




 




At the time, I wasn't Orthodox. I didn't, in fact, become Orthodox until 10 years after that early
morning. However, that statement often came back to me over the years as I observed the two
Churches, East and West, in action both in the United States and Eastern Europe.




 




After 20 years of observing religion as an adult, and eight of years of life as an Orthodox
Christian, I can say one thing emphatically for sure.




 




My old professor was right. We Orthodox do need a new marketing department.




 




But, thanks be to God and the Internet, that is exactly what we are developing.




 



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The various Web-based ministries of the Orthodox Church are, in fact, our marketing
department for the 21 st Century. This is where the initial impression of Orthodoxy will be formed
for the vast majority of people living in non-Orthodox nations. Most of them will get their first
introduction to Orthodoxy from the Web, and only later (sometimes much later) in the real world.




 




Those of us in Web ministry, then, have a substantial task ahead of us. If our efforts will form
the basis of how millions of people will initially approach Orthodoxy - then we'd best get serious
about what impression our ministries are making in the minds of Web surfers all over the world.




 




In that spirit, I'd like to make a few suggestions for things that will help our Evangelism efforts
over the Internet. Because of the critical nature of parish ministry in the life of our church, my
comments will be primarily aimed at parish Webmasters. However, other ministries of our
church will find similar themes in their own work.




 




First of all, the Orthodox Church is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. This isn't a
slogan. This is simple reality. Jesus left behind only one church. This is it. In our parish
Websites, there is no reason to back away from this fact.




 




Why? Because emphasizing the universal nature of the Church means that the Orthodox Faith



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is for everyone. This isn't just the faith of the Greeks or the Russians or the Serbs, this is the
universal faith of Jesus Christ founded once and for all time and open to all who would heed the
call of the Holy Spirit. That means that those of us who build Orthodox Websites must be clear
in communicating the universality of the Church to any and all who stumble across our efforts
on the Internet




 




The fact that the Orthodox Christian Faith often has ethnic adjectives attached (Greek, Serbian,
etc.) obscures the universal nature of Orthodoxy for the non-Orthodox. It is incumbent upon us,
then, as individual parish Webmasters to make it crystal clear that an Internet user landing on
our parish Website has found the fullness of the universal church which is open to all.




 




To that end, we must include in our Web designs an invitation to come and worship at the altar
of Jesus Christ and to learn more about the fullness of the Christian Faith. It must be clear -
Orthodox communities want visitors. We want catchumens. We want to reach out.




 




On my own parish Website, here is how we worded that message:




We hope that you enjoy your visit to our website! Please feel welcome to come worship with
us! St. Stephen is conveniently
located
and easy to reach from anywhere in metropolitan Orlando.




If you would like to get more information about St. Stephen or the Orthodox Church prior to your



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visit, feel free to drop us an email .




Many parish Websites do not actively invite visitors in this manner. There is also often no
invitation to initiate contact with the parish priest. This needs to change. If a person reads your
Website, and doesn't feel welcome, then the next step of actually exploring Orthodoxy in person
may never happen.




 




We must make potential Orthodox Christians feel welcome and wanted in order to even get
them to visit. After they arrive, then we must do the same for them in-person, but that is another
topic.




 




Parish Web ministries are in a unique position to dispel myths about Orthodoxy. Obviously, the
biggest myth has already been addressed above - the idea that Orthodoxy is somehow an
ethnic thing rather than the universal Christian Church. Emphasizing the universality of the
Church can dispel that myth nicely, but many myths remain to be tackled besides that one.




 




Given the Protestant background of so many potential converts to Orthodoxy, architects of
parish Websites should also consider emphasizing the following in their designs:




 


  1. Bible readings - The idea exists among many Protestants that the Orthodox Church
does not emphasize the scriptures. This is, of course, a wrong assumption. An easy way to



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dispel this is by putting the daily scripture readings of the Orthodox Church on your Website.
The mere presence of daily Bible readings re-assures the hesitant Protestant of the centrality of
the scriptures in the life of the Orthodox Church.

   2. Sermons and Classes - Protestants are focused on sermons. The sermon, of course, is
the basis of their very worship. The image of Orthodoxy within Protestantism is one of
"smells and bells"
with little teaching or education. That isn't true at all, but most Orthodox Websites do little to
dispel that erroneous notion. Most parish sites don't publish sermons, nor do they publish class
notes either. The impression is given that the Orthodox don't value Christian education. If your
parish Website doesn't publish sermons, then consider starting. The more educational material
you have on your site, the easier it will be to present the fullness of the Orthodox Faith.

    3. Pictures, pictures, and more pictures - Protestants often have the impression that
Orthodox parishes are                                                     foreign. The thinking is,
"The people there aren't like me, I won't be welcome." There are some deeply ethnic
parishes which do fit this stereotype but they are increasingly rare. Most parishes within
Orthodoxy (                                                                                   especia
lly                                                                                              in
the South), are full of all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds. Nothing communicates
this better than having tons of pictures of smiling parishioners on your site. This goes back to
the universality of the Church. If your parish includes people of all different ethnic and national
origins, then
showing
people that is worth a lot more than simply
telling
them that.

    4. Prayer - Orthodox people pray. In fact, serious Orthodox Christians pray way more than
most of their Protestant counterparts. Protestants, however, don't associate Orthodoxy with
prayer
. Include articles on prayer and suggested prayers on your Website. The centrality of prayer to
the life of an Orthodox Christian can not be emphasized enough.




 




Of course, including many of these design elements in your site will not only make your parish
more approachable, but also build up resources for your own parishioners. This is the classic
win-win. Orthodox Christians need all of the above just as much, if not more, than potential
converts. By providing them, a Webmaster is helping everyone.




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As a side note, my company often builds Websites for Protestant organizations (assuming they
meet certain criteria). My partners are Protestant, so we take this development business on a
regular basis. When a new Protestant ministry is getting started, it often commissions a Website
before it even holds its first meeting.




 




To provide an example, we are working on the Website for a new ministry for young urbanites.
The ministry will officially launch over a month after the end date of the Web project.




 




The Website will be up and running for a month before the ministry even officially opens its
doors.




 




That shows the level of commitment and the focus of Protestant evangelists on using
technology to spread their message in a cost-effective manner.




 




There is no reason why the Orthodox Church can not, with a similar focus, do an even better
job. We are, after all, offering the world a superior message.




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The local parish is the fullness of the faith. Our altars are pure, our Faith is holy, and our hearts
are being transformed. The world needs to hear what we have to say, but to get through to
those around us we need to get serious about communicating our message where it counts
most.




 




And that is at the local parish level, where those of us who are the new marketing arm of the
Orthodox Church need to get busy effectively communicating our message of hope in Jesus
Christ to a lost and sick world.




Glen Chancy is CIO for corfun.com and publisher of Orthodox Biz . You can contact him her
e                                                                                       .

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