In a previous article I gave some tips for making someone’s first visit more comfortable. Now I will give some ideas for getting new visitors quickly and easily connected to the church. Of course, when I say “church” I mean the people, not the building. Getting connected with your church’s community may not always be easy, and I hope to share some ideas for using your church website to draw people into relationship.
Removing the Awkward
As a new member of the church, it is often difficult to feel connected with the community and culture. Developing your relationship with the church and with Christ can feel quite overwhelming; especially if they are a new believer. You made a big leap in faith, and now you want to (hesitantly) dig in. Thus mechanisms where people can observe from a distance might be easier to commit to. Here are several ways you can use your website to show members and potential members how they can connect at your church:
Your first inclination is to recreate your visitor’s kiosk (if you have one that is). This is a good starting point but may limit your imagination. This will most likely involve posting brochures, welcome material, maybe even a video you may normally distribute on DVD. Additionally, a sign-up form should be present, to allow them to move to the next step and talk with member with questions and even join a group / team. However there are fewer limits with your website than a permanent kiosk.
Why not take some time to create a video for each of your groups and ministries? See if a volunteer, paid staff, or outside agency can put together a consistently branded series of 30 second to 1 minute promotional trailers. If you cannot host them all on your website, consider posting them to YouTube. Focus on the impact that Christ has had in people’s lives, not just features at your church. It will show them you are interested in helping, rather than just preaching to them.
While video is just a one way dialog with your customers, social media is meant to be a two way dialog. You can be boring and just announce upcoming events, or even celebrate milestones. However, the real power comes when you start asking open-ended questions. Let your audience respond and share their opinions and ideas. It may seem risky, but it is an honest way to gauge people’s feelings; even your critics.
I mentioned before about announcing upcoming events on social media, as well as your regular site. However imagine this in a smaller, more intimate setting. Most content management systems (CMS’s) have the ability to password protect sections of the site. You can create areas where known church members can organize prayer groups, bible study groups, community groups, and even support groups. These tools often require a heightened level personal privacy; so be wary of exposing this data. Regardless, if your church has the technology and know-how to setup and administer something like this; it can be a powerful tool.
Not just recruiting
Finally, I want to emphasize that this is not just about recruiting new people for the Kingdom. These should be used to energize existing members. Maybe they are in a new season of life and switching from their usual role in the church may be exactly what they need to keep motivated.
Show potential customers that the Gospel is not something to be preached about, but to apply in their lives and communities. With access to the right tools, and with proper support and prayer from the church; you will grow new members from curious explorer to energized disciple in no time! Consider each of these possible tools and see where they can be integrated into your existing church web strategy.
Photo courtesy of Svilen Milev