Open Source is a concept created by the software development community. It is basically that developers share the source code of a project for free distribution, and collaboration on future iterations of the project. This concept has been adopted by several influential churches, and is a new way their hard work and innovation can benefit churches around the world. While you may not be developing the next ground-breaking iOS or Android application, there are many ways your church can help and contribute.
Large churches like LifeChurch.tv are creating and giving away free applications such as Church Online and the YouVersion Bible application. Others like Mars Hill are creating and giving away teaching and sermon information. This may seem like a large endeavor, and in many cases, they are. Yet there are plenty of smaller ways you can be an "Open Source Church" and help fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
I am not suggesting you turn people away from your doors or your website. But I think something can be gained by sharing links to churches in your city and region. Do not just include a list of links to other churches, add some context and thought behind it. Include information about their beliefs / denomination, worship style, culture, and community. If someone at your church is unhappy with your preaching style, I think we would all agree that it would be better for them to move to another church than to abandon their faith altogether.
Share Best Practices
At the conclusion of a project or event, you may want to conduct a Post Mortem meeting; outlining what went well and what did not. These are often followed up by a brainstorming session to figure out how to avoid those mistakes and how to further capitalize on successes. Instead of putting these in a filing cabinet somewhere; publish a sanitized version on your website. Although you may feel like you are airing dirty laundry, but a microsite dedicated to helping other churches may save others lots of time and money.
Cross-Promote on Social Media
Share and promote events, news, and other good content via social media outlets. This is probably the only place where I would caution you with over-producing. Not only do you run the risk of not reaching interested parties with your own content, but if you are a constant stream of re-posts, you may be ignored or flagged as spamming. So where and when appropriate, promote another church's content and share it with your regular audience.
If you are willing to allow a guest speaker to come talk at your church, also consider allowing a trusted writer to produce some spotlight content for your website. This is a great way to showcase some of your strategic partners, and provide a wider range of teaching and perspectives that just might reach that target market you have been struggling with.
Share Teaching Material
If you have sound, well-researched, engaging, Biblical teaching; why not share it? Although many pastors will not copy your work directly, it may provide a great foundation or starting point for one of their own sermons. A key phrase just may be a spark that helps ignite a movement at another church. I would recommend that each sermon should have its own page or post, with links to or embedded video and/or audio content. That should be the primary focus for any of your sermon posts. But by including a "Notes for Pastors" callout, you can make your notes and research material a secondary focal point of the page.
Several large churches have developed applications themselves, and in the spirit of Open Source have released them free of charge. Two prominent applications I mentioned were YouVersion and ChurchOnline. Yet if you developed your own application or platform and have the ability to share the source code; please consider doing so. You can create pages, a microsite, or spaces on your site to host these projects, or you can use an existing community tool, such as GitHub.
Action Item: For more information about the Open Source Initiative, please visit their website. While promoting other churches and giving stuff away for free may feel awkward at first; realize the potential benefits it can have. Pray with leadership, and examine where you can apply the previous ideas at your church. Your generosity is helping the global church in ways you may never fully understand. I am not bragging at all, but this blog and podcast is a product of one person's desire to share knowledge, information, and best practices. Imagine what you can do when your entire church is behind it!
Note: While I was aware of the movement for churches to be more open and sharing, it was highlighted at the end of a sermon by Pastor Scott Stevens, lead pastor at North Way Christian Community. Thank you for the inspiration and motivation to write this!
Image courtesy of Canna W.