Launching a new website can be fun and exciting, filled with wild expectations of a flourishing church ministry. Then reality hits you when church attendance remains the same, and website traffic numbers are floundering. Here I will offer suggestions on how to maintain hope and deal with the obstacles of growing your church's Internet presence.
In a message I listened to from North Point Community Church, they talked about keeping hope that God will create a change in your life. Granted this was primarily focused on personal relationships, but I saw how this could be applied to a web team and a congregation. This is because with every new church website or church website redesign, there is a promise of hope. There is a promise of having to add an extra service because of a massive influx of new members. Yet in so many cases, you do not see such a reaction. Yes it may help, but so often are our hopes dashed to pieces when the buzz of the new site dies down and your attendance remains the same.
First I need to ask if church attendance is your only measure of success. Internet outreach is a very nebulous thing, and can have many unseen effects. You might publish an inspirational piece of scripture, it gets posted to Facebook, a members shares it, and one of their friends living in another state becomes interested in going to church. You just won another soul for the Kingdom, but you will never see the result. So if you are measuring by service attendance, or visits to your website, it may not be an accurate representation of what your church is accomplishing.
Not A Fix-All
Next I would ask that you realize that a great church website will not fix a broken church. The most attractive and effective website will be nothing if you do not have a good support staff to answer incoming Emails and inquiries, a charismatic welcoming committee at your front door, and good follow-up from pastors. It can be a key factor in getting someone interested, but if you cannot show them that your church is worth committing to; your efforts are in vain.
Buying and Building Success
Also, take heart in knowing that church websites take time to grow in popularity. A steady stream of relevant and search engine friendly content will eventually push you to the top of the rankings. You can purchase ads through one of the major search engines to give you an initial boost in traffic; but know that this will last only as long as you have money to put into it. Eventually the coffers run out and you must rely on the popularity that you built over during your campaign. As your ads run, it would be good idea to build up your regular search engine rankings by hard work and regular updates.
Finally, keep praying and asking God for guidance and direction. Keep trying new things while perfecting the basics of having a good church website. As the sermon that inspired this article said; have hope and faith for a "Then God" moment. So many times when times were bleak for the people of God, they cried out for mercy. The scriptures often follow that with a miraculous moment where God intervenes and rescues His people. You might be a year, a week, or maybe even a day away from a "then God..." moment for your Internet ministry.
Take heart and do not lose hope in your ministries. I know this is not easy as I have first-hand experience of this feeling. For the first few months of my writing I had weekly visitor statistics in the single digits. Although I do not get many more than that now, I started to receive more and more encouragement from the small audience I do have. Know that your church website will eventually have long-standing results and effects. Although you may need to shift directions from time to time, your website will continue to grow; along with your faith. Keep praying for guidance from the Lord and know that He is with you.
Note: Thank you to North Point Community Church's message Climate Change (Part 4) for the inspiration for this article.
Photo courtesy of Adrian van Leen