Reaching Out in a Networked World

Reaching Out in a Networked World Buy this book now »

The recent explosion in ways to communicate

  • e-mail,
  • websites,
  • blogs,
  • podcasts,
  • social networking websites,
  • projection screens in worship,
  • digital cameras, and many more

has created challenges for congregations. Lynne Baab’s new book helps leaders of congregations understand the opportunities offered by many of the new forms of digital communication. Her free ebook from The Alban Institute contains related material:

Websites That Work

Lynne's free ebook offers practical ways to develop or improve church websites. Please feel free to share this resource with congregational leaders and others who work with church communications. download book [pdf]

Be sure to check out the "articles" page of this website, which has numerous articles Lynne has written about congregational communication.

Endorsements of Reaching Out...

Our world and culture are changing rapidly and the ways that we as churches communicate our values and identity need to change too in order to be relevant. The use of technology in particular has revolutionized the ways that we form community and network. In her book Reaching Out in a Networked World, Lynne Baab gives us very practical suggestions as to how we can continue to be relevant in this rapidly changing world. It is full of rich examples and information that make it a must read for anyone seeking to lead a church today.” — Christine Sine, CEO, Mustard Seed Associates, Seattle

“This is the book pastors and lay leaders need to read if they care about the face their congregation presents to the community. In a thoughtful yet accessible way Lynne Baab discusses the ways congregations communicate (or fail to communicate) their heart and, especially, how the new communication technologies can be used faithfully and effectively.” — William Dyrness, Professor of Theology and Culture, Fuller Theological Seminary

“If you’re looking for Church Communications 2.0, you’ve found it. Lynne Baab leaves no technology unturned in this marvelously practical, thoughtful guide. From the latest trends in marketing, websites, e-mails, blogs, mission statements, projection screens, and PowerPoint to online communities, Reaching Out helps your congregation express its unique identity with authenticity, style, and coherence.” — Sally Morgenthaler, author, Worship Evangelism

“Lynne Baab has written a wonderful and balanced book full of practical insight. She fearlessly explains the direction in which we will be going and she gives us the tools to get there. Using Reaching Out in a Networked World as a guide, we can learn how to tell the story of who our churches are. But even more than that, we can imagine what our spiritual communities might become, and we can begin to communicate that message in a networked world, in ways that a new generation is ready to hear.” — From the foreword by Carol Howard Merritt, author, Tribal Church: Ministering to the Missing Generation (Alban Institute, 2007)

“Every church I know is adopting new technology in their communication, but often without considering whether it is being used to express the personality and values of the congregation with clarity, authenticity, and beauty. After reading Lynne Baab’s book, I will never look at websites, newsletters, worship bulletins, projected images or even email messages the same. Here is a practical, understandable, and faithful guide to the use of new media in congregational life. It is a must read.” — Dr. Stephen Hayner, Professor of Evangelism and Church Growth, Columbia Theological Seminary


New Media for Ordinary People by Kimberlee Conway Ireton »

New Media for Ordinary People by Kimberlee Conway Ireton

Lynne Baab has a gift for communicating technical information concisely and clearly so it is accessible to ordinary people. In this thought-provoking book she walks readers through a plethora of new communication media and the ways they can be wisely used in congregational life.

Now, I am a skeptic when it comes to new technology. Prior to reading Baab's book, I thought Facebook was a faux community, projection screens in worship were obnoxious and distracting, and blogs were an embarrassing form of public self-indulgence.

Baab blew these self-righteous assumptions right out the water. While she articulates concerns about the thoughtless use of these (and other) media, she also convinced me that in order to reach out to Generations X and Y, churches need to carefully consider how to use these technologies in ways that will help draw people to God, express their unique identity as a congregation, and even encourage congregations to live into that identity.

Her book provides a guide to navigating these new technological waters and implementing them in life-giving, community-building ways.

Anyone who is involved in congregational leadership, whether pastors or lay leaders, should read this book.

Prophetic Words for Congregations by Barbara Bjelland »

Prophetic Words for Congregations by Barbara Bjelland

Lynne Baab's book is a must-read for congregations who want to be intentional about their identity and values, and how they reach out in a world exploding with new communication technologies. Baab is an expert who has served in pastoral roles, earned a Ph.D. in communication, and now teaches pastoral theology.

As a result of her wide experience and research, Baab has prophetic words for both the technologically savvy and for those fearful of change. Throughout her book, the author pays special attention to reaching newcomers, which is a blind spot for many congregations.

Her writing is both thoughtful and practical, and is rich with example. She demonstrates clearly how communication can promote or impede the message of God’s love and care. Each chapter also includes questions for reflection, journaling and discussion.

The author begins by telling her personal journey as an editor and associate pastor creating printed material, before the days of websites. This puts those of us who did not grow up with a personal computer at ease. She points out that the persons creating publications not only discover and express the unique identity of a congregation, but also help to shape to it, as people "grab hold of the concrete faith values that lead to spiritual vitality (p. 27)."

Baab goes on to describe major paradigm shifts in communication. Some examples are: the significance of stories as a way to teach values as opposed to lists of principles, the desire for authenticity, and the shift from an emphasis on words to that of words and images. The need for change is applied to pastors creating sermons as well as to designers creating web sites; Baab recounts that in the sermon she remembers best, the pastor threw a watch into the audience.

In chapter three, the author describes how Leonard Sweet’s EPIC acronym applies to worship and ministry in our post-modern age. She writes that in order to be effective, worship and ministry must be experiential, participatory, image-driven and connected. She also offers a brief history of the contested use of images in the church, and tells of the renewed use of the visual arts in both Protestant and Roman Catholic churches.

Websites, blogs, e-mail, and on-line community are described as wonderful opportunities for outreach that should be thoughtfully examined.

What sort of images should appear on websites? Baab points out that featuring the church building on a home page may have the unintentional effect of emphasizing buildings over people.

Next, Baab offers guidelines for the wise use of desktop publishing, mission statements and projection screens during worship. The author questions the use of bulleted lists on PowerPoint slides, which came to the church from the corporate world and can seem like business presentations.

She gives several examples of worship that is more participatory, such as stations for foot-washing and prayer. Her readers are thus reminded that ancient Christian practices can be used effectively along with modern technologies.

I would have liked even more examples and detail on participatory forms of worship, but that may call for another book. (Baab is a prolific author, also having written books on subjects such as Sabbath-keeping, fasting, and personality types.)

The last part of Reaching Out in a Networked World includes steps for a communication audit, creating or re-vamping a website and an annotated bibliography for further reading. This timely book provides tools congregations need. Read it, and learn to better convey the 'life-giving aspects of who [you] are and who God is in [your] midst' (p.128).

Bjelland is a member of Crossview Covenant Church in North Mankato, MN. She has a M.A. in Christian Education from Seattle Pacific University and is a free-lance artist and graphic designer (

Staying Relevant and Faithful in a Changing World Rev. Monica McDowell »

Staying Relevant and Faithful in a Changing World Rev. Monica McDowell

According to Lynne M. Baab,

"everything about a church communicates something."

When I read this, I immediately began asking myself,

"What are the different things my congregation is saying? Do the messages contradict each other? Are they theologically sound? What can we do to make sure we're communicating in the most effective ways?"

Fortunately, Baab's newest book answered all of these questions and more. Covering everything from iPods, blogs, and Facebook to fonts, graphics, and PowerPoint, Baab skillfully guided me through the maze of how to utilize new technology in order to effectively and ethically communicate a church's identity and values.

Although marketing isn't a word I'm totally comfortable with, Baab defines it in such a way that makes it accessible to Christians:

"reaching out with the purpose of making known that a congregation welcomes new people."

She also includes several helpful tools to help increase your church's outreach:

  • a sample communication audit,
  • a website plan,
  • many examples of creative ideas from other congregations,

and each chapter ends with questions for reflection, journaling and discussion, making the book useful not only for individual study, but for group study with staff, committees, and boards as well.

The challenges facing churches as they try to adapt to swift changes in communication media can seem insurmountable. But whether your congregation is computer savvy or technologically challenged, I found this book a crucial read if you're a church leader who wants to stay relevant and faithful in reaching out to a networked world.