If I were to go to your website would the impression I gain about your church from your website be accurate to who you are as a church?
When a church inquires about doing a generosity initiative or capital campaign, one of the first things I do is go to their website. I’ve found the website, it’s layout and feel makes a big impression on me.
Sometimes I find the impression I got from a church’s website does not accurately convey who they really are. Maybe all the information was correct, but it didn’t give me an accurate feel for the atmosphere and culture of the church.
Your website matters! The people who go to your website form a locked-in impression of who you are. That impression may not be accurate, but as they say, “Seeing is in the eye of the beholder.” Typically, they’ve formed an opinion of who you are and you won’t get a second chance to make a first impression. I’ve seen articles here and there that say the church website is passe and doesn’t matter. But I would contend they’re talking to people who are already “in” a church and not people “looking” for a church.
Let’s look at 4 things your website needs to have.
1. Google is the main gateway for many.
When someone is looking for a church, they are going to open Google and look for churches in their area. Once they get the list of churches, they are going to keep that list in that browser window; then holding down the “shift” key, begin clicking on every church website available on that list one at a time.
I have done an inpromtu survey with the people in the congregations of the churches with which I work. Somewhere in the conversation I will ask how they found that church. I find at least 50% of the time, they will say, “We just Googled churches in the area on the computer and started visiting the ones that looked like they might be a fit.” Here’s the thing, you absolutely need to tell your people to invite their friends and neighbors to church. You absolutely need to develop many different strategies to draw people to your church and most, if not all, of these methods will prove to be effective. But even these other methods will lead to a significant number of those potential visitors going to your website before they visit, so they can get a feel for your church.
2. Staff/Leadership pages matter.
In an article I read by Justin Trapp – “5 New Rules for Effective Church Websites”, he says,
“I can guarantee your staff/leadership is in the top 3 most visited pages on your site. You need to have professional, warm photographs all over your site.”
I thought about this statement and realized typically the first page I go look for on the website of a potential client is their Staff/Leadership page. From there I will go and look at other things, but I find this page tells me a lot about the church. How many people are on staff? Are the pictures coordinated or are they amateur and random? Do they look happy? Do they look fun? Do they look like what I’m looking for in a church?
We had our Generis Team Spring Meetings back on the first of March. Going into those meetings, they asked us to bring in some object(s) that would be fun and reflective about our personality or what we like. These pictures turned out awesome and I would encourage to keep watching our Generis website where we list all of our team members. They haven’t put the new pictures up yet, but they are going to be awesome. For instance, in my case you will see a standard profile picture of me, and then when you hover your mouse over my picture it will change to show me doing something fun. This change on our “staff page” will be much more reflective of who we are, both individually and as a company.
3. Use a little Dragnet strategy.
I’ll borrow again from the Justin Trapp – “5 New Rules for Effective Church Websites”, where he says that people who have never been to your church are looking for 3 things:
What are the service times?
Where is the church located?
Who is the pastor?
Trapp says, “Your homepage should answer all 3 questions quickly for the visitor.” Again, I found that Trapp is right on the money, in that I’m looking for these three things. In many cases, a family may be on their way to your church or scrambling to get everyone ready for church, and are trying to figure out quickly where you are and the times of your services. Every second they can’t get or find that information is an ever-building chance they are not coming that morning. Keep these people and this situation in mind and make sure this information is easy to get right away, without having to drill through five different menu options or windows.
4. Leverage using Pictures and tell visitors, “I see you!”.
Graphics are cool, but pictures tell much more about who you are. I learned this concept from some people who were helping me develop my website for my consulting practice. If you go to my website (www.cultivategenerosity.com) you will see a picture that conveys quickly an understanding of the work that I do. Originally, I had a picture of some young people I had secured from a stock photography website. My advisors went through photos I had of my clients and then showed me how these pictures conveyed much more about what I do and the ministry God has given me to churches.
You probably have someone in your church who can take these pictures for you, but don’t just ask them to take some pictures. You don’t want pictures that look amateur, where the photographer is 50 feet back and everyone is posed looking at the camera. Browse through some other websites or even stock photography websites for inspiration and examples of camera angles, settings and other things you like. These pictures tell a story of who you are and what you are about.
Right on your homepage, let visitors know you are cognizant they are there. Again, this is something I learned from my advisors and now I look for it on the websites of my clients. On the homepage of my website (www.cultivategenerosity.com), the first thing you should see is that I’m speaking right to you as a pastor, church leader or administrator. My good friend, Donnie Williams at LifePointe Church in Raleigh, NC, has an excellent strategy in speaking to visitors. When you go to their website (www.lifepointechurch.com), you see a great picture that tells you a lot about who they are. Then when you scroll down you see a welcome and the Try 5 challenge. They challenge visitors to come and try them for 5 weeks in order to see if their church is the right church for them. When a visitor goes to your homepage, within seconds they should know you are talking to them and they can find the answers to the three questions I just outlined above in #3.
Your website matters, so don’t undervalue the impact and first impression it is making on potential visitors. Use these 4 things and have some strategy and intentionality in your website. Have some fun with this project. Get creative with your staff page, but at the same time ask people who don’t go to your church what they think. Maybe send the pictures to some out of town friends and have them tell you their impressions. At the same time, don’t overthink the obvious and make sure the basic information visitors are looking for can be found in less than 30 seconds. Now go out there and cyber-conquer bringing in more visitors!
I submit these articles and ideas to you in order to add value to the work you’re doing in your local church. If you would like to talk about this or other ideas to grow you culture of generosity please email me. Keep me in mind if you’re looking for coaching or a consultant in the area of giving and/or a generosity initiative or capital campaign. If you don’t already I would also really appreciate if you would follow me on Twitter at @cstovall16 or on my Generis Facebook page.