Your Church Website – for insiders or outsiders?

Your church website has plenty of potential to be a powerful tool to help you connect with people who don’t go to church and have little knowledge of the Gospel. All too often the question of who your churches website is aimed at is never asked and the default position is nearly always that an internal audience is presumed. It’s often just an extension of the church notices. It could be so much more.

Plenty of people living in the immediate suburbs surrounding your church may well be inquisitive about the Christian faith and about what happens in church, but they don’t have sufficient courage to walk through the doors on their own accord. They can however get a ‘read’ of what the church is all about from website which has strategic content.

Many church websites have the sermon podcasts prominent. Forgive my lack of faith in the respective preaching skills of pastors but I don’t think a lot of people out there are chomping at the bit to listen to a 35+ minute monologue from your latest series on Romans. Plenty church people may want to catch up with the sermon but it’s not necessarily a list topper for people outside the church.

Here’s some suggestions to fine tune the strategic focus of your website:

1. Audience

Choose your primary audience to be your primary target group in terms of the people you are most trying to reach. Once you’ve made this key strategic decision use this as a filter for all the content on the site and its graphic appeal. Create an avatar of the typical person who knows very little about the Christian faith or your church and try get inside their mind.

2. Internal Content

If you need to place a lot of content on your site for internal purposes you can choose to have a login for church members, or a page that they can click on without any need for logins. It’s best to keep information such as rosters, etc in a members only area. Keep your Home page for your strategic target group.  You can also communicate a lot of content via an effective email software solution such as Mailchimp meaning you don’t have to use your website for internal communication.

3. Matching Social Content

If you’ve made the decision that your website is targeted primarily at people who are external, make sure that your social media content matches that strategic aim. Filter all your content through this prism to see if it makes sense to the uninitiated. Don’t assume that people know what acronyms are or what certain event names are. Explain everything so that people can understand what you’re all about and how they can fit in.

4. Anticipate

Anticipate the kind of information your avatar is looking for when they look at your site. They may be looking for something basic such as information about events or they may be looking to get a ‘feel’ as to the kind of people you are and what you do. You need to understand the level of anxiety some people have about entering into a new community especially when they feel that they know very little.  Showcase the life of your church and go big on the things that you do to support people in your local community. Churches have got plenty of credibility building information that the community never gets to hear. Turn the apple cart of expectations about Christians upside down by showing them that that we don’t sit around all day dreaming up opposition to progressive social policies.

5. Cheese Light

No need to gloss up your website and go all cheesy with Colgate smiley people stock photography and an unreal image of who you are: a motley bunch of people saved by grace. Being perceived as the genuine article is a big thing in Australian culture. Make sure that people don’t perceive that they need to be perfect in order to be a part of your church. Many people think that there is a level of goodness they need to achieve before they can come to church. Make sure people get the opposite feel from perusing your website.

6. Pathways

Make sure you provide a pathway for people to come into the life of your church. Ensure your website makes it easy for people to contact your church and to understand the various ways in which they can become part of the life of your church. Don’t just put your stall out there, ask people to partake. Be invitational and make sure it’s easy for people to respond.

7. Brevity

Baptist aren’t known for their brevity. We like our long monologue sermons and we’ve trained ourselves to sit still and take in a lot of words. The internet is the opposite. Keep things short and sweet. Curate your material. When you think you have all your website copy down pat, divide it by two and then halve again. People spend small amounts of time looking at web pages and deciding whether to linger longer. Don’t turn them off.

Stan Fetting is the Operations Manager of Crossover.