Your church website strategy is a balancing act; defining the tension between the church's wants, the user's needs, and the content displayed on the site. Your church leadership has a certain set of objectives and missions they expect to execute via the website. Your website visitors expect yet a different set of needs to be met. Stuck in the middle is your content, which you mold and craft over time to meet everyone's desires. Read on to see how this might be accomplished so that everyone considers it a win.
As I said, the website exists between a tension of wants. Predominantly those wants are between what your church leadership want, and what your users want. I will explore both of these viewpoints, and wrap up with how the content can be shaped to fit both.
Most churches are busy following the great commission of making disciples of all nations. We are often caught up with reaching people groups, raising money to fund those ministries, and staffing newly expanded ministries... all so we can reach more people groups. It is a cycle we anticipate not ending until the second coming of Christ. Still, it is a cycle that demands we preach to the world and convert the masses to Christianity. Yet any pastor worth their salt knows that you cannot bring in new church members by constantly preaching to them. Also, you cannot keep existing members coming back if all you do is demand their time, talents, and treasure. This is where we must consider the feelings of the next group; the user.
Visitors to a church website can be there for many reasons. They may already be a believer and are new to the area. They might be long-time residents of your community but want to switch churches. Then there is the most delicate situation, where they are just dipping their toes in to see what Christianity is all about. You must consider all these scenarios, and you must be generous. Hosting content such as podcasts, producing teaching materials for Bible study groups, and posting daily devotionals takes time and money. Yet this is all material you are giving away for free. Granted this is what your congregation's tithes and offering are paying for, but your users expect to get these for free. Even more entertaining is when they complain if said free content is not available or does not meet their expectations. Thus you must consider how to set and meet expectations; which can be accomplished with your website's content.
As stated, your content is what we hope will meet both your church's goals and your visitor's needs. It will both inform and preach to your users, but this should be done in the correct order, similar to an eCommerce sales funnel. It should first inform, then create desire, and finally ask for action. The balance between these should be spread out over several pages. Start on your homepage with some links to purely informative content, such as "About Our Church". There you provide a listing of beliefs in an informative manner, but provide additional callouts for "Why We Believe This". As you progress down this path, you can start crafting an argument as to why your beliefs are true. The final step would be an action for users to submit some contact information for follow up. Notice that you lead off with content that predominantly benefits users, and ended with content that satisfies the church's agenda. This is not sneaky, but rather a typical sales funnel that does not start out of the gates with preaching.
This is in line with my second article, Yes You Are Selling Something. Much like talking to a potential member, you do not scare them off by preaching at them. You present your faith in an objective manner, possibly provide some testimonials and other persuasive content, and land with an invitation to learn about the Gospel more.
Examine how your homepage and other top level pages present content. Are they too direct in their preaching? Do you scare off non-Christians with jargon and strong preaching? Although you want to recruit new members, allow them to explore your tenants of faith before asking them to join. Find a balance between what Jesus commands and what your website users are ready to commit to.
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