When church hunting in a new locale, many people rely on community directories, phone books or personal recommendations to aid their search. But when a family member of mine needed help finding a church I found the Internet the most efficient way to browse.
From the ease of my home computer I was able to Google local churches, read about their values and ministries, listen to sermons, and determine if the church might be a good fit before they even set a toenail through the door.
In an increasingly digital society, the Internet is one of your best tools to reach seekers and lead them through your doors. Here are a few ways to leverage the Web and engage your online community…
1) Create a Web-dentity
Your website is a great tool to reach new people. First impressions here are key, and will tell lookie-loos who you are at a glance…
- Design: Secure a well-designed and intuitive site. Keep it clean, polished and relatable. Here’s a great example: http://www.northcoastcalvary.org/
- Information: Your site should not only direct to Sunday services, but communicate your core values as a body of believers. Share who you are, what you believe, and where you’re headed together.
- Hospitality: Add personal touches such as a staff directory with photos and brief personal messages—this makes your church more relatable.
- Connection: Include upcoming events and activities so that guests catch a sense of your regular week, and available opportunities to visit in person.
- Ministries: Each ministry should have its own mini-page dedicated to ministry values, events, staff, blogs, and other important communication.
- Content: Post sermons and blog content regularly, and provide links to your other online communities (i.e. Facebook). These give guests a sense of your relevance and identity as a church, and provide them with an immediate, low-risk opportunity to connect.
2) Reach Out
Even if you do not have a website, you can still take advantage of some forms of Internet advertising and claim your free listing in search engines. Here are a few suggestions…
- GooglePlaces: Sign up for your free directory listing on GooglePlaces at http://places.google.com.
- Google AdWords: Increase your search exposure by using pay-per-click ads, which appear during keyword searches. www.Google.com/AdWords
- Local Calendars: Utilize local online community pages to post upcoming events.
- Facebook Ads: Bid for Facebook ads to target specific demographics and locations in your community. http://www.facebook.com/help/?page=409
- Causes: Engage in missional online endeavors. Host or jointly support the online hub for whatever cause you choose—raising awareness and fielding donations.
3) Connect & Equip
Engage your digital community, encourage members to connect with each other online, and equip them with pass-along pieces to share with friends…
- Social Networking: Start church Facebook and Twitter accounts and post daily. Upload photos, send event invites, and encourage discussion on topics and sermons.
- Church Classifieds: Email or post free church classifieds to meet needs within your church body. Include categories for housing, employment, etc.
- Blogs & eNewsletters: Connect the church body to its leadership via regular blog posts or emailed newsletters, and encourage comments.
- Apps: Several mobile applications are available for church use. www.YouVersion.com provides a mobile Bible and tools for an interactive church service, and www.TheChurchApp.org allows access to church resources and sermons while on the run.
- Podcasts: Members can take your sermon content with them as they travel, run errands, or at home.
Are you doing something else or something more that’s not listed here? Has your church grown from Internet outreach? Please share your stories and insights in the comments section—you make this resource more valuable for others!