The digital revolution has transformed the way we shop, communicate, relax and work. We have seen household names disappear whilst new businesses spring up from nowhere. The church is not immune to these changes, but far from fearing them, if we take hold of the opportunities they present, we can both grow and deepen our churches
Here are 5 ways that you can grow your church through digital:
1. Invest in your online presence
A precursor to making progress online is to invest in your online presence. Thankfully the investment is often more time than money. You can get a good looking mobile friendly website up and running quickly with online services like wix.com, weebly.com and squarespace.com. Prices tend to start at around £5 per month. Alternatively you can talk to a Christian agency like samevine.com who will manage things for you.
2. Climb Google
Think about what people looking for a church in your area might type into Google. Perhaps it might be ‘church in yourtownname’. Try to use natural language on your webpages that matches these search terms. You could even pick a domain name that is more natural, so rather than www.stceddsbirm.com why not something like www.churchinyourtownname.com. Lastly, why not apply for the the Google Not For Profit programme. If accepted they will give you up to $10,000 of free advertising every month.
3. Speak to the visitor first
Research shows that 43% of people visiting church websites are looking for basic visitor information like service times and locations. Secular research shows that 81% of people research products online before purchasing. Therefore, you can be sure that lots of people are making the decision on whether to visit your church based on its website. If you visit the home pages of big online names like Spotify.com, their working assumption is that the visitor is not yet a customer. The login for current customers is small and in the top right corner. Too often we assume the visitor to our church website is already involved in the life of the church, making it hard for potential visitors to get the information they need to decide whether or not to visit. All the finalists for the Most Engaging Small and Large Church websites at this year’s Premier Digital Awards demonstrate this principle well.
4. Harness the power of your congregation
Your church may not have many followers on social media, but if you add up the combined followers and friends of your congregants it would equate to a lot people. If we assume that there are 100 adults who are members of the church, on average 60 of them will have Facebook accounts. Of those, on average they will have 338 friends each, meaning that your church of 100 could reach 33,800 people from their smartphones on a Sunday morning. This doesn’t include all the email contacts they may have or any other social networks like Twitter. If we can inspire our congregations to reach out online, we will be able to reach more people than the church could on its own. You might find it helpful to join broader campaigns like Christmas Starts with Christ or 40Acts to increase your reach further.
5. Deepen community
Many of your church members will have little or no contact with each other during the week. They may have very little spiritual input or encouragement as well. Some churches are creating private Facebook groups for members so that there can digital fellowship during the week. It is also a place where the leaders can interact and the church can place its notices. I have spoken to leaders who have commented on how using Facebook has improved their pastoral care between house visits and meetings. All of this is not to replace face to face meeting but to compliment it and enhance the quality of relationships.
Engaging with the digital world offers many great opportunities for evangelism and discipleship.