It’s obvious the Internet has changed the world. We all get that now. But its evolution is so swift that I’m not sure I’m ever caught up to fully realizing its global impact.
Anything this huge and woven into the fabric of society affects the way we do ministry. You don’t have to use it. Just like you don’t have to use the printing press or audio recordings in ministry. However, when society overwhelmingly engages such a medium, I think it makes sense for most ministries to explore using it well.
That’s the challenge. How do church’s use websites well?
Monk Development researches the topic each year, and you can download the 2013 State of the Church Online report for free.
The underlying idea is a website can be a valuable ministry tool if you know how to support users along each step of their discipleship journey from visitor to casual attendee to engaged member and dedicated Christ-follower.
A Few Highlights from the 2013 Report
According to the study, churches have seen about a 17% increase in new visitors to their websites since 2009.
Church websites have become one of the first touchpoints churches have with their local community. But its not a billboard or street sign that is necessarily getting them to your site. In fact, search engines now account for over half of all church website traffic, and an increasing number of these visits are on mobile phones and tablets.
So what’s a church to do?
Think useful. Create for those actually using your site – easy-to-find directions, service times, and other valuable details.
Think search engines. Create content that can be found by how people actually search – “Los Angeles church” is more practical than “baptist church”.
Think mobile. Create a site that can be used on mobile devices because that is how many will access it.
Monk Development’s research shows the more people interact with a church website, the more likely they are to feel like part of the larger community.
If you want casual attendees to engage and become more involved, give them opportunities via your website with online sermons, events, and next steps (i.e., how to get involved, how to get connected, etc.).
Keep in mind a website isn’t a golden ticket that solves all of your challenges. Rather a church website is a complement to the relational work you do.
In 1 Corinthians 3:6, Paul says, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” When used well, a church website is a valuable plow or watering hose for your kingdom work.
ENGAGED MEMBERS & DEDICATED CHRIST-FOLLOWERS
Let’s streamline what’s important so that we can focus on what’s most important. If not careful, ministry can become bloated with inefficiency. Sometimes we step on the gas thinking we’re getting somewhere when we are only spinning our wheels. We need the Holy Spirit as our navigator, but it is up to us to act on his direction and act well.
You can streamline your church website. Use social media, particularly Facebook, to communicate in a way that meshes with people’s natural rhythm of life. Simplify your online registration or giving platforms to remove barriers to participation and even save time. While in and of themselves these things seem small, they can eliminate some busyness of the process and free up time that ideally will be used for spiritual practices.
You can use this same approach with discipleship. Consider using an online community platform like Cobblestone to enhance small group interactions and complement face-to-face relationships. A community platform isn’t limited by meeting times and buildings, and if used well, it allows for small group interactions and accountability to be more easily nurtured throughout each week.
For more highlights and in depth research, you can download the 2013 State of the Church Online report for free.
Special thanks to Monk Development for supporting Church Relevance by sponsoring this post.