Recently my pastor shared a quote from a great missionary that has been reverberating in my mind:
“Some want to live within the sound of the church or chapel bell,
but I want to run a rescue mission within a yard of hell.”
Despite massive building structures and a plethora of conferences and resources, since the emergence of the Information Age, generally speaking, church growth by conversion has been stagnate in America. Yet with the popularization of interactive media such as websites, podcasts, blogs, MySpace, and YouTube to name a few, at increasing highs, the Church stands at the crossroads of the digital divide: embrace technology to do more ministry to reach more people for Christ or avoid it and become irrelevant in 21st century America.
Over 200 million Americans are online with 78% of those having broadband access; the opportunity to leverage this readily accessible technology for ministry is vast. Over 60 million Americans say they use the Internet to make big decisions in their lives, and 45% of Internet users say the web helped them negotiate their way through major episodes in their lives in the previous two years (Pew Internet). Harris Interactive reports that seeking spiritual answers is the second highest online search activity (35%), ahead of finances, gambling, and dating, second only to pornography.
Today, the number one medium used for communication is the Internet. As one of the most significant influencers in our lives today, to have an impact in your community, you need to be where the people are, speaking the language and using the tools of the day in order to relevantly engage people with your message. Just as a missionary going oversees would learn and use the language and the customs of that nation, so we too must use the most effective means possible that we might reach our world and connect people to one another in the Information Age.
In our culture, your virtual presence is just as, if not more important than your physical presence. It is what creates the first impression on new people, shaping their perception as to the relevancy and quality of the ministry they could receive at your church. It gives people a sense of who you are, allowing them to build familiarity before pulling into the parking lot, and hence, it is a powerful tool to attract more first time visitors to your church.
Volumes can be written on this subject but won’t be written here (deep sigh of relief). With a website from faithHighway, you already have some of the key components with quality design, ease of navigation, and interactive tools (media center, e-invite, streaming, resource libraries, etc.). Another component is the relevance of content: below are some helps and tips gathered for publishing content to best connect with the first time visitor (this is by no means exhaustive, but a good start!):
- Geared towards visitors: be lighthearted/humor; welcoming and inviting; use fresh neutral language not Christian jargon; share experiences; informative but not “preachy”
- Power of story: include member testimonies, relatable info about the staff
- Emphasize relationships: pictures of people, not buildings; experiences, not programs (if have pictures of building, be sure to have people in/around/in front of the structures/rooms)
- Contact info that is easy to find, complete, and print friendly; also, be responsiveness to emails!
- News, events, and activities current and prominently displayed and accessible on the site
- Children’s ministry: clear info on safety/security policies and procedures; of course, the fun stuff too
- Your brand (logo, colors, phrases, slogan, etc.) visible and consistent throughout the site and all touch points
These are just some in a long list of help. For questions or more info on how to make your website more of an outreach tool, please visit www.faithHighway.com/service or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for allowing us to serve your web ministry needs and be encouraged in moving forward to reach your communities with the Gospel!
Anthony J Carrano, Chief Operating Officer
P.S. faithHighway is a sponsor at several upcoming conferences across the country, you can view them by visiting our website. We would enjoy an opportunity connecting with you!