The City is a software platform designed specifically for churches. It functions as an intranet but it is clearly a Facebook clone. When you join The City at the church you attend, you are required to set up a profile (e.g. picture, about, groups, friends). My church started using The City this year, so per their request I joined.
I hate The City.
I think The City would be fine as an internal communication and coordination platform for church staff and senior leaders. These folks need to have coordinated conversations in order to accomplish church business, and those conversations do not need to be public. If you have a large church staff and leadership team, an intranet could be a very useful management tool.
But I think it is a disaster for the congregation because it masquerades as a social media platform. I think people that use The City need to keep in mind that the norms of behavior are patterned off the king of social media platforms, Facebook. Facebook was created by a guy in a Harvard dorm room that wanted to help his friends connect with women. As these Facebook norms (e.g. friends, groups) have migrated to other software platforms, people easily accept them as “the way things should be” and quickly forget how they originated.
The City has “walls”, which like it or not makes it an exclusive members-only club, and I personally think that is the antithesis of what a church wants to accomplish. Social media has been great for me, and I think it’s a great idea for church members to be active on social media platforms, but all of their persona’s should be public and open to full inspection by anyone at any time. You want to be found so that you can connect, and when you are found people need to know that what you have not posted anything online that you are trying to hide.
How can you expect to earn my trust – the foundation of right relationship – if you give me the impression that online you are concealing something? It’s a mixed message, which sends the wrong signal.
I am a strong introvert by nature, and connecting with people in public groups has never been easy for me. The City for my church has well over 1000 participants, and I only have 7 “friends.” I never visit The City because it reinforces my perception that I don’t really “fit”. The City is no place to make friends, which I find absolutely incongruous with the concept of church life.
I love the transparency that comes with open architectures like Twitter and my blog. In the blogsphere and on Twitter, I can reach out to people I want to meet, and I can offer people a reason to reach out to me. There are places where information is shared, conversations are convened, existing relationships are strengthened, and new friendships are formed.
It’s not a popular opinion, but I think The City is simply unnecessary for the congregation. The current church website works just fine as a billboard to post announcements. The social functions taking place in The City could be accomplished better on existing, more open platforms like Facebook or Twitter.
I hate The City because I think the attitudes and behaviors that its walls encourage compromise its core mission.
What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!