By Bishop Mike Rinehart
Evangelism is the highest priority of this synod. This priority has been reaffirmeds over and over again by listening visits to every congregation, a survey of over 400 church council members and pastors and focus groups.
Take a moment and consider every aspect of your congregation from an evangelism standpoint. Try to see everything through the eyes of a newcomer who is unfamiliar with church history, culture, liturgy and theology. Then take a look at your web page.
Consider this: 90% of the people who visit your church have already been to your website. They went there to find out what time the services are, how to get to the church and maybe just to check you out. I’m not saying they used Google to find your church. They didn’t. Odds are they heard about you from a friend, or drove by, but as they considered paying a visit, they “Googled” you to get information. Your web page is your front door.
Try a couple of experiments. Survey all the people who joined your church last year (or your next new member class). Ask them why they visited the first time. How did they learn about you? Did they visit your web site first? Let me know what you discover. Share it on the synod Facebook page. Besides discovering that most people join churches because they want to make friends, and that most discover your church through word of mouth, you will also discover that everyone has been to your web page.
Our summer intern, Alex, visited all the websites of our synod’s 114 congregations. Here are some interesting discoveries:
· Many websites were not modern or aesthetically pleasing to the eye
· Many websites were not user-friendly: they were not easy to navigate
· The information was out of date
· The pictures were not dynamic, using pictures of empty buildings instead of people’s faces
What surprised me the most was the fact that 27 of our congregations have no web site at all.
Some congregations have hired developers to help them craft a modern website. Here are some examples:
Not every congregation can afford to do this. But every congregation can afford to have a website. How? Ditch your Yellow Pages ad. When you survey your new members, the first thing you will discover is that no one, no one found out about your church through the yellow pages ad. One church in our synod cancelled their $300/month (yes, $3,600/year) Yellow Pages ad, investing it in their web presence (web page, Facebook ads, Google ads).
There are other congregations that decided to use template software to build their websites:
Every web page should have these critical things:
1. Welcoming photo with faces. Please, not a picture of your empty building!
2. Service times. This is the most sought-after information on church web sites.
3. Location. If you want people to come, they need to know how to get there. Give them an address and a map.
4. Contact information. Give them a phone number and an email address.
If you’re really strapped and don’t know where to turn, there’s good news: As a part of our strategic plan, we have developed three templates that congregations can use. Bring your team to a one-day workshop and we’ll help you get set up, personalize a website for your congregation, and help you learn how to update it.
We will have the first workshop this fall. You need to send a team of at least two people from your congregation. More details coming soon! Please contact Andrea Martinez, our Communications Coordinator, with any questions.