pastors need to know about (your website) e-ministry
by Terrell Sanders
a high percentage of your potential visitors viewing your Web
site before they visit your congregation, you can't
afford a poor quality site.
Your target audience for church
Your Web site will be your...
3. If you're not on the Web, you don't...
visit your Web site before...
5. A whole generation
exists that will...
6. The Web site is too...
You can't afford...
8. People are viewing your...
Your target audience for church
growth is Internet-savvy.
Most church growth comes from what we call the 18-to-18 range –
people from 18 years old to families with 18-year-old children. This
also happens to be the group with the highest Internet usage.
According to research by the U.S. government, teenagers and families
with children at home are the most frequent Internet users of any
demographic group. Using the Internet to communicate with families
and young adults is a natural fit.
2. Your Web site will
be your "first impression" for many people.
Most people under the age of 40 grew up with technology, and they
automatically go to the Internet for information. We have found that
many families relocating to a new city will research both where to
live and where to worship over the Internet. They will often make
their "first cut" shopping list before they ever come to town.
3. If you're not on the
Web, you don't exist to many people.
As a corollary to the previous item, people who use the Internet as
their primary research tool will not know you exist if you don't
have a Web site.
A 20- or 30-something person is much more likely to use the Internet
to find church service times than to look in the yellow pages or
newspaper. Our informal surveys have shown that many young college
graduates don't even have yellow pages in their homes. My teenage
daughter didn't know theaters listed movie times in the newspaper –
she gets them off the Web.
Seekers will visit your Web site before attending your services.
The Internet provides a perfect tool for people wanting information
anonymously. Seekers who are not ready to "come to the building"
will visit your Web site to see what you believe and why. Savvy
organizations are using the Web to educate visitors and encourage
them to take the next step. Online sermons and photos of services
and events go a long way toward making a seeker feel secure enough
to make a first-time visit.
5. A whole
generation exists that will seek "religion" online.
In his book
Boiling Point, George Barna projects that 10 to 20 percent
of the population will rely on the Internet for all of their
spiritual input and output by 2010. Whether you like it or not, the
prediction seems to be right on track. When these people go to the
Internet with spiritual questions, who will be providing the
answers? What will they be taught?
6. The Web site is too
critical to be run by a volunteer.
I can tell you stories of churches from New York to California who
were disappointed or burned by volunteers who built their Web sites.
What happens if your volunteer Web developer gets transferred out of
state or leaves the church angry?
How do you gracefully fire a
volunteer when the church's need exceeds his or her abilities?
Church leaders frequently ask me to help them
justify why they should pay large amounts of money to develop a
professional site when they have a volunteer who will do it for
free. I ask them if they use free volunteers to install and maintain
their roof and plumbing. In three years, no large church has ever
admitted it used volunteers for their roof or plumbing – it's just
too critical to depend on volunteer help.
You can't afford a cheap site.
With a high percentage of your potential visitors viewing your Web
site before they visit your congregation, you can't afford a poor
quality site. All the time and money you have spent building your
congregation's resources and reputation are worthless if people
won't visit the first time. Visitors are judging the values and
programs of your church from your Web site. Are your key programs
properly represented? Can a Web visitor see how active your youth
group is from your site?
People are viewing your
current Web site right now.
I can almost guarantee you that people are viewing your current site
every month. People moving into your city are researching churches
before they move. People interested in changing congregations are
viewing your site. Seekers who have been made aware of your church
are looking for more information on your site. You may not be
providing the information, but people are looking for it.
Start asking your visitors how they found out about your church.
You'll be surprised how many young families found you on the
Internet. Good or bad, your Web site is generating impressions every
week. The big question is – are you satisfied with the impression
they are getting?
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