Practicing the means of grace through your website
One of the best resources for people in your church to grow spiritually can be found on your church website. Pages can be built that guide individuals to practical ways of practicing the "means of grace," which will enhance individual spirituality, as well as the spirituality of the whole church. Wesley understood the means of grace as two categories: works of piety and works of mercy.
Works of piety
When it comes to works of piety, Wesley considered the following discipline: prayer, fasting, searching the Scriptures, healthy living, communion, baptism and Christian conferencing. Each of these could have a separate page on your site that could either connect people in your congregation to empowering resources or offer modern ways to practice the discipline. The most straightforward way to begin might be to simply educate and define the practices on the pages.
Many content management systems (CMS) like Web-Empowered Church, WordPress, or Joomla have widgets that are already built to equip your website with a prayer connector. These are great because your site will list personal prayer requests. Individuals can also sign up for prayer alerts when someone submits a prayer request through the webpage. Another option is to link to the Upper Room Living Prayer Center where persons may submit prayer requests that are sent out to covenant prayer groups throughout the U.S. for prayer.
There are many different ways to fast and a webpage can offer links to retreat centers where individuals and groups can go to fast. Also, a webpage can organize community fasts. Fasting can be a difficult discipline and a fasting webpage can offer different types of forums that can offer support during tough times. Fasting can also be a proactive discipline (meaning you do good as opposed to giving something up). In these cases, instructions and links can be offered for connecting people within the church to the activities or organizations that are connected to the fast.
Many CMS frames offer daily Scripture widgets, but if you are more ambitious, a webmaster or pastor can offer Scriptures connected with the upcoming Sunday message or a reading plan for the congregation to participate in. There can be chat rooms or forums in which readers can offer questions and comments on the readings. You may also want to link to The Upper Room daily devotional guide.
Healthy living is one of the principles that Wesley considered essential, and there are many links to resources that can help someone order their life in new and Christ-centered ways. A web page can offer practical tips, classes and support for many areas of life to help one another in the area of healthy living.
Holy communion and baptism
Over the years I have found that many of the questions congregants have center on the sacraments. A web page designed to educate and inform people on The United Methodist Church’s beliefs is a powerful tool to aid in the essential understanding of the power of communion and baptism. Beyond education, experience and practice is critical. Your web page could clearly announce when communion is offered. Plus, baptism is very special for families and individuals who take that step, so a web page could celebrate their commitment (just make sure it is OK to put their name on the web).
You can use current events and topics through forums, plus some CMS offer a blog widget so the pastor or leader of the congregation can offer a topic and people can respond. You can also use this web page to announce fellowship activities, as well as your church conference and annual conference dates and information.
Works of Mercy
Wesley defined works of mercy as doing good, visiting the sick, visiting the imprisoned, feeding and clothing those in need, earning, saving, and giving all one can, and seeking justice.
How do people in your church do good?
Be creative and offer links and information about activities that are important to your individual congregation. When it comes to visiting the sick or imprisoned, and feeding/clothing those in need, offer links and directions to local facilities so that individuals and groups within the church can easily connect, make appointments and engage in life-changing discipleship. You may also utilize congregational resources available to help churches participate in the Rethink Church advertising and welcoming campaign, such as web graphics, videos, logos and other resources.
Earning, saving and giving
Offer pointers or reference links to valuable resources that can empower individuals with opportunities. The web page can also offer ways to contribute to ministries at the church or make donations.
Like doing good, seeking justice is a broad category. One easy way to empower the congregation is to offer links to Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church, UMC.org, the denomational website for the church, and UMCgiving.org, a site with information about Special Sundays and connectional giving, so that they can see all the incredible work the church is doing around the world. Through those sites they also have opportunities to serve and give. The local church can utilize a web page to set up mission and activist opportunities. Another great link is the General Board of Church and Society, where individuals and church leaders can find important information to organize ministries around current events. You can also use this web page to teach church members about the Social Principles of The United Methodist Church. If you were to set up a forum around each area of our Social Principles you might get some good dialogue.
Offering a Good Word
And finally, something as simple as a word of encouragement or unity, a prayer or a photo can go a long way toward presenting a spiritual attitude and engaging others. Add photos or an inspiring quote to your homepage or other informational pages, and your social media, too. Be creative!