What is Your Church’s Front Porch? Could It Be Digital?

Anthony B. Robinson has written an excellent piece for Faith & Leadership: “Building a Front Porch.” He seeks to answer these mission critical questions:

How can church leaders create an intermediate space where people can begin to learn that church isn’t an entertainment experience?

How can churches build the front porch, creating a space where people can develop relationships before coming inside?

My computer enjoys the porch of a coffee bar in Hanalei, Hawaii.

Great questions! Robinson supplies a number of possible answers: seeker service; church meets in a coffee shop; church sponsored community fair; community projects; service ministries; mission trips. I have experienced all of these at one time or another and have seen them provide a place for guests to begin to experience church life in a less “churchy” context.

Could a church’s front porch be digital? If so, what are the upsides and the downsides? If not, why not?

When I was senior pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church, we had many front porches, including digital ones. Our church website supplied lost of information about the church, its beliefs, practices, values, etc. My blog often drew readers who were thinking about visiting the church but wanted to know more about the pastor in advance. We had just begun social media conversations. These functioned as a point of entry into community for some folks.

In my experience, a digital media front porch is especially well suited to those who are introverted, who break out into a sweat at the thought of being hugged by greeters and “fellowshipping” on a patio full of strangers. As a pastor, I often became acquainted with people who ended up coming to our church because they emailed me with their questions, pastoral needs, etc. Email was a fine “front porch.”

Of course, churches don’t have to choose between digital front porches and other options. I think all churches need several front porches in order to welcome folks into their community.

What do you think?

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  • The front porch is definitely digital media.

    But I had a strange thought in a church meeting today. We were talking about serving unchurched kids locally so their parents would have a chance to get to know the church (and so come visit, I guess).

    And I wondered why we weren’t just working harder to serve unchurched kids locally simply because we ought to be serving them?

    For me, the real question for digital media as the front porch is this: what does it look like to serve people on the front porch simply because we ought to serve them (and without having an agenda to get them inside)?

  • I think a “digital front porch” could be an initial foray into conversation or information dissemination, but it is a poor catalyst for a relationship which can meet the demands of spiritual growth. If the digital front porch is a component, there would need to be a second component that had a strategic link bridging the online encounter to a real-life relationship.

  • Scot McKnight

    I hope that computer of yours is tapping away on Ephesians!