Turning Church Sites into Evangelistic Tools
- Most church websites are designed entirely for their members, or unwittingly exclude non-Christians because of their choice of language and content.
This is the main reason why church websites fail to reach into the community.
- A good church site must communicate with three very different target groups.
Christians moving to the area who are looking for a new church
Non-Christians in the community because visitors are increasingly checking out churches online before walking into a service.
- This 'three-way stretch' is a challenge, but can be achieved.
If you wish your site to reach non-Christians in the community, make a conscious decision that this is to be an over-riding priority for every aspect of the site. It's ability to speak to non-Christians must be intentional, rather than hoping for some sort of 'trickle-down' effect.
- Take time to consider the needs and viewpoints of non-Christians.
We cannot reach those we do not understand. The first task of an overseas missionary is to learn the surrounding culture. Although we are immersed in our own culture, we may not understand it, or the needs and pressures that most non-Christians in our society are facing.
Avoid all 'churchy' jargon and 'Christianese' language throughout the site, especially on the homepage.
Non-Christians, almost by definition, do not like or understand these words. This even applies to the navigation menu. Many churches have a menu link called 'ministries'. This is actually a jargon word meaning 'Things we do' or 'what's on'. Much better to use neutral alternatives like these.
- Non-Christians may have negative images of Christians: boring, killjoys, judgmental, etc.
A light-hearted, informal, witty website may help to counteract these misconceptions. Opinion polls show that evangelicals are increasingly perceived in a very negative light, in almost all countries.
- Christian outreach often fails because Christians do 'megaphone proclamation' from behind the protecting walls of their 'ghetto'.
A church website should not aim to be an impersonal electronic 'cut and run' tract distribution system. Its primary aim should be to draw people in the community towards real relationships with real people within the fellowship. Most conversions result from relationships.
- A primary task of the website is to convince non-Christians of these four things:
Our church is made up of ordinary real people
We understand their life problems
We are community, family, and there is an unconditional welcome waiting for them
In that context, God can meet them and help them
- Do not think of your church site in isolation, merely as a stand-alone online brochure.
Integrate it into your overall strategies, both as a way of contacting individuals, and giving the fellowship a higher profile within your community.
- Church is people: the home page should have at least one photo of a church member. This is absolutely foundational to good communication, yet infrequently done.
Although you can also use a photo of the church building on the home page, this is impersonal – however attractive your building may be. So use people too. Inside the site, include more photos of real people. Make sure you have signed permissions to add any picture to the site where a face is clearly identifiable. Do not include full names or personal information about children and young people.
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