The online church community that I have researched is Saddleback Church: Internet Campus. This is an online Christian community that is devoted to the Christian ministry and religious engagement with other members in the community. Saddleback Church was founded by Rick and Kay Warren and held its first public service at Lake Forest, California on Easter in 1980. Saddleback Church now has eight satellite campuses as well as an Internet location.
The Internet campus has live services that steam Monday through Friday at 12:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m., Saturdays at 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., and Sundays, which are available every two hours beginning at 1:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m. Podcasts of services are available as well.
The church also provides Saddleback Online Small Groups that come together to grow spiritually. Each group has their own private page to share ideas, discussions, and prayer requests. Groups meet live via their Internet small group page to watch the lesson of the week and discuss the bible study.
Saddleback also engages in social media via Facebook, Twitter, and a blogging site. The Blog Center is unique because it provides multiple topics for members and can be personalized. There is also the option to delete a topic altogether if it is not applicable to someone’s life.
Saddleback Church: Internet Campus is similar to Church Online whose pastors emphasize “the importance of relationships” and is “well-suited to a preaching-oriented ecclesiology” (Hutchings, 2011). Like Church Online, Saddleback Church is more structured because it provides leader-based online small groups and scheduled online services.
In a way, Saddleback Church’s Internet campus could have a negative impact on the offline community. The Internet campus can be viewed as a replacement for the offline churches. If I were to be involved with the Saddleback Internet campus, I would have all of my resources available to me at the click of a button and wouldn’t see a reason why I should put miles on my car and drive to the nearest offline church campus.
The online presence of Saddleback Church can also have a positive impact on the offline community because people could possibly stumble upon Saddleback Church’s online website, which could lead to interest in learning more about the community and even result in becoming a member at an offline location.
Whether it is online small groups, local church events, online and offline sermons, or social media, Saddleback Church’s mission is to reach out to anyone who might be interested in engaging in its community.