Is your Church Website Stuck in the 20th Century?

Digital Ministry begins with a clear, simple, effective web presence

Around the turn of the century - the 21st century! - congregations began to understand that having a website is an important part of helping visitors find them.  

Over the last decade, though, the internet has changed and grown, while church membership has declined. HOW and WHY people look for Good News online has changed drastically.  

But even though MOST churches have a web presence today, many still use the same template - and mindset - that was designed for the church (and the world) of 10 years ago.

Today, people spend a great deal more time online than they do practicing their faith - and they are increasingly searching for interactive experiences, not just information. They have questions about God and the meaning of their lives, and the first place they turn is online. Are we ready to meet them there?

Even though we are all experiencing these changes, congregations are often reluctant to consider their own Digital Ministry as that: MINISTRY, and to use updated technology and evangelism to reach beyond church walls towards those seeking a deeper relationship with God.  

 Many church websites still fall into 20th century traps. Like these...

IMPERSONAL- someone is searching online in the middle of the night because they are having a crisis of faith. Instead of finding a smiling face (and name!), ready to share Good News, they get something like this: 'please verify your info and send us a message.' 

Another way that church websites can be impersonal is offering our 'resume' - the history church, the denomination, even upcoming events, but not directly addressing the seeker, and letting them know about God's love for them. 

UNATTRACTIVE - so many church websites have pictures of buildings with closed doors and no sign of activity anywhere. Or they are so packed full of information that it is hard to know where to look. 

Or they are just not thoughtful about space, color, images and design. The overall effect is something both empty and crowded, and not at all clear or inviting.  

CONFUSING - Many church websites don't seem to know whether they exist for members or for those they have not yet met (hint: it's the latter!) Lots use church 'jargon', words and names not familiar to non-members, or something like the annual 'Basket Ball', which probably means nothing to those who are not members.

And because there is usually just one person who knows how to edit the site, it is often out of date, with sermons from months or years ago, calendars of events long past, or no mention of when the worship service is. 

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NOT what we are looking for when we have questions about God.

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photos are often not the most attractive view of the church or its members.

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Lots of information can actually be confusing.

The Good News is, it has never been cheaper or easier to have an attractive, inviting, evangelical digital presence.  

Lots of today's website platforms are free, and take no special skill to use. This means your website - for a church or any other ministry - can be much more interactive and responsive to those who are spiritually searching. It means you can update information and photos from your computer or phone, whenever and wherever you want.

The second decade of the 21st century is a really good time to embrace Digital Evangelism and take it seriously as a central component of our ministry.  

Your website is your digital church doorway! Is it open?  

Here's how to tell...

1. Oriented towards Seekers Current technology makes it easy to make interactive space for members (Facebook groups, other social media, email lists, church organization apps, etc.), so you don't need to use your website for this.

Ministry websites should be focused on those looking for you! And looking for God

As fewer and fewer people are members of any faith, and more and more of us 'Google' anything and everything - even faith questions - an effective digital presence puts answers (and invitations) right up front.

  2. Simple and visually appealing So often we want everyone to know everything about our church, which means we put everything on our website.

This, ironically, adds to a sense of confusion for visitors to your digital space!

One or two excellent photos, and a few simple lines of text can be inspiring, informational, and invitational. 

Think of your website itself as a spiritual place of respite, and design it to draw people closer to God

3. Only Accurate, Important Information Most people looking for church websites are looking for important information: where it is, what time the services are, and who's already there. 

Your physical address should be front and center (don't forget what state or country you are in!), along with service times (don't forget 'smaller' services, like Ash Wednesday, Epiphany, and Thanksgiving), and some sense of who you are and what you believe.

You DON'T have to go deeply into your history or theology. Most people spend only seconds on a website! A brief, descriptive narrative works best.

4. An Actual Person to Talk to It is extremely intimidating to walk into a place of worship for the first time. MOST people who visit your website will never come to your church. But that doesn't mean you can't bring Good News into their lives. 

Many people have spiritual questions, and don't know where to turn. Your site could be the place they find answers and a listening ear.

But not if there is a generic 'Contact Us' box to fill out, and the seeker has no idea who is going to receive their question!

Just a first name and something about who you are can encourage visitors to reach out with what is on their minds. And give you the opportunity to be bear witness to God's love in their lives. 

Digital IS Ministry SO many ministers - lay and ordained - think of digital presence as some kind of 'extra', something they ask a young person or a 'techie' to set up for them, and then pay little attention.

Most people spend an enormous amount of time online every day. If we are serious about our ministry, we must be serious about DIGITAL ministry. 

If you don't know where to start, Free Range Priest can help: with Digital Audit and Website design.  

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