I can’t help noticing church trends, and I love visiting churches. Just ask Laura, my wife, and she will tell you that I will drive way out of our way when on vacation to visit a church that I’ve heard about. You can learn something from everybody.
Some time ago I began contacting numerous churches and scheduling presentations designed to communicate the need for church planting in the Urban South. As a result, I’ve had occasion to view lots of church websites. Some are great—some are not so great.
Church leaders, your website is your church’s new foyer!
Quite a while back, Zondervan sent me a few books from their Leadership Network series. One of them was A Multi-Site Church Road Trip by Geoff Surratt, Greg Ligon, and Warren Bird. This book offered me a unique opportunity. I could, in essence, visit a number of diverse churches around the nation without ever leaving my local ministry on a Sunday. To a churchman like myself, this was an appealing opportunity! Since all of the churches in this book were multi-site (already a bit out of the box) I wasn’t surprised to read that many of them had also added an “internet campus” so I could virtually visit as well.
This post isn’t about the pros and cons of the multi-site church model or even whether an “internet campus” is or isn’t church. Rather, let’s focus on the simple thoughts that this book, along with other factors, has generated in my mind.
Specifically, let’s talk about how important online media has become to churches. One thing that each of these diverse churches seemed to “get” was that their church must leverage media. Experience seems to be indicating that 20-somethings will watch/listen to services online for several weeks or more before ever attending church in real life.
In Reaching the Unchurched Next Door, the survey team was surprised to discover that “most of the unchurched feel guilty about not attending church.” In addition, “96% of the unchurched said that they are at least somewhat likely to attend church if invited.”
This would seem to indicate that truly unchurched people are likely intimidated by all the unknown factors presented by any given church.
I remember going to play golf for the first time with “serious golfers” only to find out that there were all kinds of rules of golf etiquette that I was completely unaware of. It was intimidating! In the same way, the unknown intimidates people who are unfamiliar with church!
Enter: the church website. Your website is a tool that unchurched people who want to visit church are using to become familiar with an intimidating setting before they come.
- Do you have a high bounce rate? Rethink the design of your site.
- Do you have primarily single page views? Maybe you should re-work the content of your site.
- If you provide audio—great! Could you provide video?
- If you provide video, how could you make it more consumable?
- By adding an attractive lead in?
- Could you divide each video into parts?
- Could you optimize for quicker uploads?
- What about a better-written explanation for each video?
- Should you consider moving your service media to a different location on your site?
I think that we will find more and more visitors spending a few services with us online before they ever meet the church in person. It’s like the new foyer—the place where people take time to get comfortable, get to know what your church is all about, and ultimately decide whether or not to push through the sanctuary doors.