Our world, and the way we interact with each other in it, has undergone some significant changes in recent years. There has never been a better time to build a cohesive, engaging, and organized online presence for your church!
There has also never been an easier time to do so. From the availability and affordability of user-friendly technologies, to wonderful tech-savvy people right in your own congregation, strengthening your church’s online engagement is an important item to add to your to-do list. Here are some helpful things to consider as you get started.
People expect to be able to connect digitally now that online activity has become a daily norm for most of us. In the past some churches wrestled with concerns about shallow online engagement eclipsing the power of deeper, in-person connections. The pandemic both showcased the benefits of having an online presence, and accelerated changes in human behaviour towards online engagement. Churches today can no longer rely solely on Sunday presence for connecting with people in today’s society.
Digital connections may not provide the deepest connection, but frequent exposure through engaging digital touchpoints can help foster a sense of community. Having an engaging online presence:
- Signals that your church is active
- Provides information that newcomers want to know before they visit, from location and hours to statements of belief, to available ministries and who is on staff
- Makes it easier for people who are already connected to remain aware of what’s happening
- Is inclusive to people who can’t always physically attend church
- Allows people to participate anywhere they have internet access
- Builds trust because of transparency and consistency around messaging and activities
- Makes it easy for people to share information about church with friends and family
Regardless of how much or how little online presence your church already has, the best way to proceed is to decide what’s important, form a strategy, and create and execute a plan.
It is always important to begin with the end in mind. Take time to discuss and determine what you wish to accomplish through your online presence. This can be anything from digital evangelism, to connecting your existing community, to providing accurate and updated information about your church to the public. Having a clear picture of what you want to achieve is the first step in determining the right tools and strategy to get you there.
Once you have determined purpose, a good next step is to assess and update whatever online tools your church already has, including deleting old accounts that are no longer being used or that don’t align with the current vision. If you have existing social media accounts (for example) that you want to keep, consider improving how you use what already exists before launching something new.
The most important aspect of your church’s online presence is the website. Regardless of what else you have going on, the church website serves as a kind of home base for all of your digital activity. If your church needs a new website Sunergo can help with that. We have an easy to use and versatile church website tool with a number of beautiful templates that can be matched to your logo and colours. We also build custom websites for Canadian churches that require something wholly unique.
Once your website is updated and you have a relatively clean digital slate, there are so many possibilities to consider:
- A detailed online calendar and events page
- An email newsletter
- Blog posts
- Social media
- Online groups
- Donation platform
- Apps to connect volunteers
- Online event registration
- Online church directory or member portal
- Church management software (which can perform many of the above!)
Depending on your church’s evangelism and recruitment goals, you might even go so far as creating targeted ads and engaging with online analytics to make sure you’re reaching your intended audience.
Whatever digital tools you choose to use, consistency is key. Establish a regular posting schedule and make it part of a staff member’s oversight. Regular posting engages the algorithms that will keep your church findable. Regular content will keep your community engaged and let seekers know that your church is full of life.
Creating thoughtful and intentional guidelines around messaging and visual design is important since it is such a key part of the church’s public presence. Word choice should be crafted in a way that consistently emphasizes values and mission. Churches are as varied as the Christians who attend them. Making sure your online presence reflects your church as authentically as possible will draw like-hearted people through the doors.
Once your routines are in place, look for feedback to gain understanding about how people interact with your online presence. Then you can make adjustments to your activity to increase effectiveness.
One final consideration is who should be responsible for the oversight of your church’s big digital-picture, and who should be tasked with the various online activities that need to occur. Be it an administrator, minister, leader, or even a trusted volunteer, personality and skill set should be taken into account. Look for someone with a blend of rationality and creativity who:
- Already enjoys being engaged online
- Is a lifelong learner
- Is perceptive and will naturally adjust as platforms and trends change
- Is organized and can stick to a plan
- Communicates diplomatically and professionally with tact
- Can work autonomously and perhaps is a bit perfectionistic
- Likes to collaborate with others
Remember, there is no need to feel overwhelmed by all of the options! It is more effective to focus on doing a few things really well than inconsistently posting and updating across many platforms. Whether your church has the resources to manage many facets of an online presence or you need to cherry-pick a few, approaching the digital space thoughtfully, with a plan, and with the right people doing the work, can be an effective way to strengthen your current connections and outreach. Visit our website to learn more about the tools included in our church software that can help you improve your church’s presence online.