Many churches focus on growing their church by targeting the 20-something crowd. This is a great strategy for congregational growth. Yet if you want to experience growth on the web, the demographic that lags behind is older.
How do you engage digitally with the over-50 crowd?
This article will explore common barriers that group encounters. In addition, it will showcase a few tools and solutions to these problems. This way all ages in your congregation are informed and connected online.
Teens communicate using the latest Internet slang with such frequency, it sounds like another language. This often leaves your older crowds wading through a alphabet soup of unfamiliar acronyms. Plus terms like hashtags, walls, tweets, and selfies are nearly alien to them. Your church should find a happy medium between the divide. Use enough Internet language to remain relevant, and be plain enough for older crowds to easily follow. Also, it is a good idea to create a quick reference card of acronyms. This way everyone understands those slang terms you feel you still need to use them.
Remember that the vast majority of the over-50 crowd have some sort of eyesight degradation. This means larger fonts, simple layouts, and a higher contrast color pallette. Calls to action such, as a link or button, deserve these helpful visual treatments. In case you did not know, there are accessibility guidelines called the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). From these guidelines, many automated tools have been developed to provide a quick test of your code and design. Seek out one that is right for you and utilize it as a baseline. Remember that accessibility is the minimum. A pleasant experience for those with disabilities is what you are striving for.
Ease of Use
You should always strive for easy-to-use interactions. But navigation paths and pages on your website where you expect older populations to visit need to be extra easy. Test the vocabulary and instructional text of your websites. Unlike younger crowds that skim websites, an older person is more likely to read every line of text. If something does not make sense, your older user will find it and be confused. This is where usability testing will come in handy. Recruit volunteers from your church to help you. I would hope that some of your senior members could spare a few moments to click on a laptop or tap on an iPad. If you are having trouble, visit a local nursing home. Not only will you find plenty of volunteers, but many great conversations!
This article touches on three considerations you should have for reaching your older audiences. In addition, I provided a few guidelines and solutions for those obstacles. While they may not cause your youth ministry to expand, senior members can provide years of wisdom to your various ministries and committees. Help them realize their understanding of technology may be of considerable gain to your church. They should have the circles of friends and time on their hands to share and promote your digital ministries. Who knows, their experience may just be that extra help to guide your church to new heights.
[Image via Ethan Prater]