Church visitors click on the church’s website before every entering the front doors, receiving a complimentary cup of coffee or flipping through a bulletin.
It is critical for church communication professionals to understand the value of creating a clear, content filled home for their church in the digital world.
Adam Lancaster is the director of messaging and presentation at Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va. Lancaster’s responsibilities include communications, production, and worship. Lancaster’s day to day work is a mix between content creation, meetings with executive staff, and managing the creative design and content of the church’s website.
“The value of a church having a website is that when people have a question about anything, we pull out the phone and type it in Google, so naturally when people see anything, whether it be a t-shirt or a bumper sticker from your church they will look it up online,” said Lancaster.
Research shows that in a 2012 study done by the Grey Matter Research Consulting firm, 17.4 million adults who do not regularly attend a church, visited the website of a place of worship. This speaks to the importance of providing a strong first impression through a church’s digital presence to move people to visit a church.
A church’s website is a key outreach tool in a world continually trending toward digital engagement. It is important for churches to understand the key elements to include in a website.
“Key elements of the church website center around the culture of the church itself; we have a heritage and culture of offering a lot of event programs for people,” Said Lancaster.
Further, as a church develops a website it is essential to rely on the use of analytics to show how consumers are engaging with the website, and where they are frequently leaving the site. Lancaster recently ran diagnostics on his church’s website.
“We found people were coming to the website for two primary reasons- First to watch the sermons, and second to see what events are going on at the church,” Lancaster said.
Research conducted by Thomas Rainer in conjunction with Lifeway Research found that church guests visited the church’s website before attending. Further, those who viewed a poorly designed website had a preconceived negative perspective toward the church when attending.
“You want that website to be the first line of promotion that people come to, and we try to make our’s simple right at the top so people know who we are, what we are about, and what we have going on,” Lancaster said.
A website is a means to reach people where they already are with the message of a local church, and the Gospel as a result.
“That is where people exist, some churches believe it is too trendy, but if you have your priorities straight, you will understand that people are living there, and if you engage with them there you can hope to move them to a human interaction level,” said Lancaster.
It is essential for churches to move beyond discussing new ways to bring people in the front doors, and remember that before visitors enter the lobby they will first search for the church’s website.
“A website really is the first front door of your church, we want our site to be engaging so hopefully they say I want to see this place,” said Lancaster.