Hard times tend to bring more people to church. According to a December 2008 article in The New York Times, evangelical churches around the country have experienced a swelling in their ranks by up to 50% with each recession cycle since 1968. This current recession is definitely no exception! So what can you do on the Internet to extend and leverage your church outreach efforts to reach both your new members and people looking for a congregation to join?
First, effective church outreach on the Internet necessitates a great website. That doesn’t mean bells and whistles. It means the site is easy on the eyes, offers simple and clear navigation throughout, and provides content that is both useful and fresh.
Useful church outreach content answers the question, “What’s in it for me?” Sure, people need to know your service times, who is the pastor, and when to show up for upcoming events, but they also need to know why they should come to your church rather than the one down the street. What is it about the pastor, ministries, and congregation that will help the reader’s family get though these tumultuous times with peace and tranquility? How does your youth ministry influence the reader’s teens to stay out of trouble and grow in Christ? How are people helped through grief, whether by losing a loved one or getting laid off from a job they held for 30 years? You get the picture. Speak to the reader, not yourself.
Second, effective church outreach requires that people can easily find your site, and they want to keep coming back. Once you have a website that speaks to the reader’s needs, there are some simple online church outreach strategies you might want to try.
- Sign-Up – You need an email list for the strategies below to work. You can ask people to provide their email addresses in various ways, including through your church bulletin. You can also invite people to sign up online, asking for their first name and email address in exchange for some benefit, such as a free download of some kind … a special message, a regular eNewsletter, etc. The sign-up form needs to be located in the upper left of you home page because that’s where people’s eyes first go. The form needs to link to More Info on a dedicated landing page that outlines the benefits of signing up.
- Traffic Conversion – once you get people to sign up, then you want to pull them deeper into the goings on of the church. You can get more contact information by offering to send something in the mail … a book, a bookmark, a prayer journal, etc.
- eWelcome Series – This is an online church outreach version of your welcoming committee. The intent is to introduce people to your church and its ministries. You can send one email a week for 5 to 7 weeks. Each email introduces a different portion of the website or the church –all spelling out the benefits to the reader of the various aspects of your church, ministry, congregation, and church outreach.
- Autoresponder Plan – Pathmaker Marketing LLC has worked with a large church in Chicago that challenged people to fast from wrong thinking for 40 days. We helped them set up a 40-day autoresponder system to allow people to participate in the fast from wrong thinking and receive a daily email message about a topic from which they would fast for that day. What kind of multi-day message could your church develop to minister to people during these tough economic times?
- Prayer Walls – Pathmaker has helped several ministries install an interactive Prayer Wall to their websites. This is an effective church outreach strategy because it specifically ministers to people in a non-threatening way, and it helps people realize that they are not alone. The Prayer Wall invites people to leave a prayer so others can pray for them – and of course to pray for others who have left their prayer requests and praises.
- Blogging Tool – Pathmaker uses a blogging tool that is a powerhouse for getting your website seen in search engines. It’s based on extensive keyword research. We help churches and ministries develop keywords that are strategic to their church or ministry, and then help them develop a blog that will maximize their church outreach by multiplying each blog entry into several entries that entice search engines to, “Come find me.” This not only increases the visibility of your site in search engines, it provides ministerial content that can benefit readers around the world.
The tough economic and political times in which we find ourselves have people searching for your church. Your church outreach efforts can be extended and leveraged when you employ the strategies listed above. Pathmaker is experienced in helping ministries implement these tools. Call 623-322-3334 to schedule a time to discuss how we might help you.