Strategic Partners for Online Ministries

Is your church trying to reach a particular demographic? I would surprised if you did not just think "yes, in fact we are trying to reach several". There are several ways you can test how well your website is reaching those people groups. User interviews, surveys, and usability testing are just a few tools you can use. Yet, the major obstacle is not failing to use those tools. It is finding volunteers. Instead of always looking for volunteers, create partners for your digital ministries.

This of course requires a strong partnership between the communications team and your mission and outreach teams. This means your staff meetings should have plenty of cross-talk. Those who are out on the streets must talk to teams with hands on a keyboard.

Clubs and Groups

Are you trying to reach young parents? Why not talk with members of the boy scout troop renting a room in your church? Do you want to know how your website can better serve people with addictions? Anonymously talk with members of the AA group that meet in your basement. I imagine there are many target markets meeting in your church on a weekly basis. Why not reach out to them and ask how to better serve them digitally?

Cultural and Heritage Organizations

You may live in an area with a large ethnic population that you are attempting to reach. Even more pressing is that you have no idea what their cultural values are. Will you inadvertently offend them? Do not rely on stereotypes and get to know these people groups instead. You can assist with events by providing financial support, volunteers, or hosting it at your church for free. In return, you meet with them and create digital ministries specially tailored to their culture.

Venues and Hangouts

People enjoy their time away from work. Libraries, community centers, and skateboard parks all have folks enjoying themselves. First, get permission from the facility. Then identify a need you can help with. One example is to visit a skateboard park with a cooler full of water. Then ask those teenagers you do a little work on your iPad. They can fill out a survey about likes and dislikes. Others can answer some questions about your website. While still another group can pick one of three photos they would most likely engage with on social media.

Digital Spaces

There are many virtual hangouts you can visit. There are groups and lists in social media, communities around video games, and niche forums you can get to know. It obviously helps if you have an actual interest in the subject. Otherwise you will stand out as an outsider and make more enemies than friends. I would advise a subtle approach. You can include a Bible verse or link to the church in your profile. However as relationships form, more direct private conversations may happen. Regardless, the main point is to contribute to the community. Help them grow as you learn about them.

Action Item

Immerse yourself in their space and culture. Take notes on behavior, cultural values, and what they find most helpful. Ultimately you want to take this data and create a persona from that group. Continue to work with your outreach ministries. Ensure the connections you establish remain for future projects. This will result in stronger ties to the community as well as a better website.

Photo courtesy of Mike Johnson

This article was inspired by the UIE Article and podcast Gaining Design Insights from your Research Recruiting Process.

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.