I’m a fan of the Church. I really am! I believe that she’s got some great stories to tell that not only encourage existing members, but also have the ability to attract new ones. And it makes me sad knowing that many of these stories go quietly unnoticed by both audiences.
As a blogger, I feel a need to figure out how to tell these stories. I do it all the time on my blog, but wonder sometimes how I can help the Church get these stories out there in a greater capacity. That’s one of the things that’s impressed me most about the Christian blogging community, that there are so many great testimonies out there being told.
Then I sit in sanctuary of the Church I attend thinking about all the great testimonies that I’m hearing, and I know that there are lots of people who needed to hear that but never will. So I’ve thought about how some of the most powerful social tools in history could be used by Churches to share those stories.
I’ve been working with the Church I attend (Fellowship of Believers) to work out some new strategies related to the web, telling our stories, and leveraging social media tools (like great bloggers do).
The Current Situation
Our current website at www.fob.info is a more traditional, static website. It’s clean, easy to navigate, and has lots of information about who we are and what we do. It’s been SEO’ed very well, so that if someone is searching online for a Church in our area, then they should be able to find our’s with relative ease.
It’s been a great resource for newcomers to our Church, and we’ve had several reports of new members finding us through the site. We’ve even embedded a player from our sermon.net account so that people can watch our services live or catch archived messages.
However, aside from being able to watch a service online, there’s been little value for existing members on the site. There’s really no way for members to interact with the Church, its ministries, or each other.
Upkeep is difficult at times as well, because static pages must be updated with new information as events are planned. Without physically visiting and checking on each of these pages, there’s not really a way to make sure the information is completely up to date.
The Desired State
A Church is a community of believers, therefore we felt that it’s important for our online presence to show that sense of community. Part of that is making sure that people can connect, share, and talk about the stuff that’s happening with others. Therefore, conversation and social sharing tools had to be important elements for the new web strategy.
The new strategy should help us improve communications with our members. If people could subscribe to get updates delivered to them and not trying to remember to come back to see if certain pages are updated, then members could be more informed about events and messages from our leaders.
This idea of connecting members more with our Church leadership is an important one. We wanted to find a way that leadership could easily share what God’s put on their heart for the Church, and for people to be able to respond to that.
But all of this couldn’t mean that we sacrifice what newcomers and visitors need from the site. It still has to be easy to find for people searching in our area for a house of worship to consider, and it still had to have the information required to help them decide if it’s the right kind of Church for them.
The Solution We’ve Arrived At
In order to carry out all of this, we’ve moved to a WordPress format that would allow us to take advantage of all the community-building features that bloggers have at their fingertips. Thinking about our Sunday morning announcements, weekly bulletins, and bi-monthly newsletters, we plan to drive post content in three main areas:
- Announcements for upcoming events.
- Post-event reports and testimonies.
- Messages from leadership.
With the ability to subscribe to the website, members can be automatically be notified of new content from the Church. In addition, conversation can take place through commenting on the site, and posts can be easily shared on Facebook and Twitter. In fact, we’re also feeding the new posts over to the Facebook page (and Twitter), making it even easier for people to find the information in the places that they’re already spending their time.
We also believe that this new approach may actually be even more effective in showing the world that we’re an active, vibrant community! With a regular stream of new content, visitors searching for a church will discover an environment that’s presents an online version of who we believe we are in person.
Our goal is not to switch technology to be cool or more with the times. Rather we’re working to improve communications and our ability to tell the story of what God is doing around and through us, and we’re simply trying to leverage the technology to help us better carry out this.
We’re still working on developing and implementing this new strategy, and I’ll continue to share our experiences as we enhance what we’ve started with. But I’d love to hear your experiences.
Have you worked on a similar shift in strategy? What are your lessons learned?
What do you think works well when using a strategy like this? What pitfalls to you see?
[Image via cybershot dude]