Conducting Stakeholder Interviews

To properly support your church, your website needs to support its high-level strategic goals. If you want to know where your church is going, you will need to ask your leadership. The best way to accomplish this is through stakeholder interviews. This will not only include your primary or lead pastor, but also your various ministry leaders. By gathering input from all areas, you can not only ensure your church is aligned on its long-range goals, but also that your website is crafted to most successfully support it.

There are multiple parts to conducting a stakeholder interview, and I intend to outline each of these. However, know that if you want to dig deeper and further research any areas; I highly encourage you to do so.

Have an Objective

Do not simply interview people for the sake of interviewing them. Possible objectives are determining all, or a combination of the following areas:

  • Strategic Vision: The church's 1,3, & 5 year plans
  • Value Proposition: Why people want to attend this church
  • Competition: Both worldly and other churches
  • Customers: Target markets and what you offer them
  • Typical Meeting: Describe a typical meeting with a prospective/new member
  • Context: How do they and their customers use the website
  • Goals: Defining success, failure, and "blue sky" ideas

Create Questions

Some of the objectives may seem to have obvious questions to ask. They may include asking about the future state of the church, what the priorities of the various ministries are, what the biggest customer complaints are, where they see the biggest gaps on the website, and what questions do new members always ask. If you look forward a few steps, you see how each line of questions will not only help you determine that larger objective, but will aid in determining aspects of your website; such as navigation, content priority, calls to action, and many more.

Conduct Interviews

While face to face interviews are best, conducting these over the phone is certainly acceptable. Do not allow one word answers to fly, and dig deeper into meanings and reasons whenever possible. Remember that you are trying to figure out their pain points as well as their vision for their particular area. Also, remain objective during the interview. If you uncover an opinion that you disagree with, keep it to yourself. Allow your partner to continue on unaffected by your stance. Also, if possible, record these conversations. A smartphone with a recording app is often enough to accomplish this, as you do not want to miss any subtle conversation points.

Summarize Findings

This is where you take in all of the answers and bring together some meaning behind them. Summarize each of the major areas, and address where the various areas want focus to be drawn. This may be the most sensitive portion of the entire process, as you do not want any one area to get all of the attention. However, if the majority considers one ministry or section to be more important; perhaps it is and you need to highlight it. Lastly, attempt to put all of this through the lens of the user. Balance all of these findings against your personas to ensure you are not guiding your website purely based on your internal agendas.

Action Item

Before you make any random updates to your website, ensure that you first have buy-in from your church leadership. Establish an objective you wish to accomplish, create questions that cover the various areas you wish to cover, conduct the interviews, and lastly summarize the findings. The last piece should be accomplished with caution, as you do not want to take up someone's time and appear to ignore their concerns. If you choose to diverge from some popular opinions, be sure to show it in light of what your target market wants; which demonstrates it is not your personal opinion, but rather the needs of your customers that matter most.

Photo courtesy of Per Pettersson

Author: Stephen Morrissey

I have been making websites since 1996, and using social media since 2006. My current profession is designing user experiences for corporate software, websites, and mobile applications. I started sharing my knowledge with the world in 2011, about a year after a revival in my faith.