Have you ever noticed how much FREE stuff there is on the internet? You can take any course at the famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for without paying a penny – the whole course including listening to the lectures, taking the exams, and even participating in online discussions about the material being taught. The folks over at Wikipedia have produced a free online encyclopedia that is as accurate as the "pay for use" one that they use to sell door to door. Google is giving away a series of free online applications that increase productivity and open up new opportunities for people all over the world. In fact, there is so much "freeing" going on the internet that there are whole directories dedicated to helping people find free stuff to help them in life.
Why is everybody giving stuff away on the Internet? Well that’s a longer discussion that we can have here. . . the cost of distributing information in the last 15 years has dropped so dramatically that it costs almost nothing . . . the nature of many industries are changing as new business models are employed online . . . it seems like information simply "wants" to be free – that is – we’ve entered an age when information is shared globally irrespective of previous "perceived" borders.
(A "micro-rant" is coming . . . sorry if you’re offend . . . kinda . . .)
So what is happening in the broader church doing when it comes to providing stuff on the internet? Some churches are still charging to listen to messages online. What!? It’s true. Right at the moment when the internet is becoming a global gathering point for discussion about a wide range of topics the church is demanding that people pay to download messages. Huh!? Does that make sense at all? I can understand charging for "physical" product like a CD or book or something like that. But downloadable content costs barely anything to post online and is only getting cheaper every day. This seems like one of those areas where we are missing a great opportunity and might be totally out of step with the broader culture.
Do Jesus’ words of "freely you have received, freely give" apply to the core content we produce every week at Connexus? We think so.
We give away content for free on our web for a few key reasons . . .
Samples for our Guests – We want to make the transition into our church as easy as possible for your friends and family who don’t normally attend church. By providing the core messages from our adult services online we are giving you a tool to help invite your friends to Connexus. Pass it along!
A Service to our Community Groups – A number of our Community Groups use the weekly discussion guides that we generate as the basis of their discussion. If a member of your group happens to not be able to attend one Sunday morning we want to provide the messages online so that people can be caught up for the discussion at Community Group.
Back Catalog – As we generate content every week we end up developing a pretty cool catalog of material on a wide variety of topics. In the future this back catalog will be invaluable for you in personal study and reflection.
Broader Discussion – We think that the church should engage the broader culture and not shrink away from it. By posting our content online we are allowing anyone in the world to stumble upon what we are talking about and to join the conversation. This can happen as individuals use our content or as small groups of people around the world use our material to fuel conversation. (We’ve heard about this happening in a few Universities . . . that’s kinda cool!)
It would seem like some sort of crime to charge for our content for any of these uses. So we’ve decided to give it away!
A Quick Guide to Accessing Our Content Online
As a general rule all of this content is online and ready to be viewed by Tuesday morning. (Most weeks it’s up well before that.)
1) Watch the most recent message.
On every page of our website on the right hand side you can view our most recent message. After each message is done it plays the week prior to that through our entire catalog – it’s hours of viewing just waiting for you!
You can set up your computer so that the messages will automatically arrive every week with a service called "podcasting". By following these links you open up a piece of software called itunes that will watch our servers and as soon as the messages are ready will automatically download them to your computer for listening – in your computer, ipod or any mp3 player.
On every page of our site there is a series of links on the right that give you access to five most recent messages at Connexus. It also shows you what "content" is available for that message. (Speaker for MP3 audio file, film reel for video download, adobe symbol for Community Discussion Guide.) Simply click the title of the most recent message to see more detail about it.
When you click through to an individual message you will find even more content for your use. Can you download a CD quality MP3 for use on your computer, mp3 player or to burn to CD. You can download the Community Group Discussion PDF for that message. You can even download a DVD quality video of the message – perfect for small group use. The DVD files are big (around 1 gig) but you can download it and burn it onto a DVD for your use. Plus you can watch a larger version of the video than the one in the toolbar on the right.
We’ll probably add some more services to our content offerings in the future. Probably a search function for searching through back content – we’re already "tagging" the content on the back end in anticipation of that. We might even add content from our other environments. Who knows!
Did you know that every week we have the same number of people download our content as attend the adult services at either of campuses? It will be interesting to see what happens in the future as you invite people you know to use our content and as the archive grows.
What do you think about all this? We’d love your feedback in the comments section.
Executive Director of Operations
Connexus Community Church