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Church Online Discussion Forums

17 June, 2004 12:07 PM

Does anyone out there have any experience of using online discussion forums within a church community?

A group I've had a little bit to do with has started one - it has some great discussions going on in it but there is some real tension being expressed between a small group of individuals that is perhaps getting a little destructive. I've been asked for some advice.

If anyone uses discussion forums in their church (ie mainly used by church members) I'd appreciate any thoughts on what guidelines, rules, boundaries you might set. Are there some internal issues that you don't discuss online but would reserve for face to face interaction? How do you deal with conflict? etc

Your thoughts in comments would be appreciated.

Comments

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Discussion forums were a big part of our genx community for a while. Membership restricted to people we knew. We had some tensions occasionally, which we managed by some fairly tight moderation.

As is usual in these sorts of fora, the most controversial and polarised threads had the most hits. OUr basic ruls were that no personal attacks were allowed and the definition of personal attack included expressing that someone didn't believe in God, was not a good Christian, didn't read/understand the bible etc etc.

In the event of breaches, the person concerned was contacted personally and asked to edit/retract the post and explained why it was necessary. If the breach was repeated, the moderator deleted or edited the post immediately. It relied on a set of attentive moderators and a willingness to confront problems promptly. A bit of a fine line to walk where encouraging robust discussion of controversial issues.

Good luck.

dan » 17 June, 2004 8:55 PM

Discussion Forums are a big part of our community too:

http://www.jacobswellchurch.org/discussion/

Our boards are unmoderated. Because of this, discussions can get dicey at times, but most people who use them come with a heart of love for everyone there.

If you choose to use a forum, be prepared for people to be brutally honest and say things that might be taken better if it was a face-to-face discussion.

In any case, I think that Discussion Boards are vital in giving an online arena to people who don't necessarily surf the internet or blog -- the questions and comments that arise from our Discussion Forum are some of the most through-provoking I have ever read.

timsamoff » 17 June, 2004 10:34 PM

We had discussion boards on the Christian Depression Pages website for a long time, I wrote about the aftermath, and personally, I never want to go near a Christian discussion system again, let alone try to run one. I know that sounds really negative, but I got a little tired of personal threats, accusations, and lies in the two Christian communities I was part of. I would like to see one done well, but I have no idea how to do it.

Ali » 17 June, 2004 11:27 PM

our forum has proven an invaluable resource in building our community- way beyond what I hoped or expected. At times it's gotten a little tense (people tend to self-censor less on a keyboard than in person)... but that's meant we have to be intentional about love, reconciliation, etc. A good thing. check it out!
http://evergreenlife.org/forum

bob » 18 September, 2004 4:24 AM

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