Simply running down the list of beliefs and a few pictures of volunteering at a soup kitchen is not enough to get new members into your church. Just like an eCommerce site, you need to establish yourself as a leader in a particular area. What makes you special? If you give your visitors an honest reason why they need to try your church out, you will distinguish yourself online and attract new members.
A short while ago I searched on Google Maps for "Church" in the Pittsburgh area. The image to the above is the result. Astounding right? So many choices it is overwhelming. Who should I choose? Granted if you are partial to a particular denomination, your choices may slim down. But that aside, you see the problem. There are literally hundreds of options to choose from. With that level of competition, how do you stand out?
Having a website used to be a distinguishing factor; however that has gone away. Many churches have a website, and some even have effective ones. You might even see them on social media outlets attempting to interact with their congregation and potential members. Probably at this point you might be lost for ideas where you can improve your site. I will attempt to find some areas you might not be exploring:
Even though it is a bit old, Email is certainly not dead. Keeping up to date with Email lists is yet another channel you can engage your existing church members with. Plus it is a medium that can easily be forwarded and shared with potential members. Instead of spending large sum of money on advertising for Easter services, send an Email to all congregation members asking they send it on to a few people. Not only is it very inexpensive, but the people your members are sending the message to already have a personal connection; which is far more effective than a public ad.
Focusing on something is one sure way to gain a reputation. If you invest heavily in a live nativity scene, you can develop loyal fans from other churches that travel over an hour to see it. Skits, plays, and other theatrics are among the many ways you can become known for something in your area. If you record it and highlight it on your website; it has the possibility of attracting an international audience.
Although your pastoral team is very capable, getting an outsider to come and preach is often a big event. It offers a new perspective and can provide a spotlight on a certain area your church is talking about. This goes hand in hand with the previous point on specializing. If you bring in an expert in a certain area, by association you get some of that reputation. This is especially true if you record their talk and have it available for download. By hosting that content, you get traffic related to that topic.
See where your church shines. What does it do that is different than other churches in the area. If the answer is “nothing”, then research and pray for something you can start. Of course you will want to highlight these differentiators on your website, and combine them with your offline channels (information kiosks, banners, bulletin announcements, etc.). Bottom line, you need to stand out in the crowd and show the world how you are trying to make a difference and spread the Gospel.
Photo courtesy of Julia Freeman-Woolpert