A simple way to open your church to more visitors

Many times, people who are looking for a new church search online for churches near them and then decide which ones to visit based on the appeal of their websites. If your church doesn’t appear in those searches, many people will never discover or experience what you have to offer. | by Don Corder

It is no secret that churches in America are struggling with church growth. Fewer people attending fewer services at fewer times is the norm in most churches in the United States. Experts galore are ready to offer a universe of reasons about the cause of the decline of church attendance in a post-Christian era.

What I know is that Jesus is still Lord, God is still on His Throne and the Bible is no less true today than it was when it was written.

Two Factors That Have Impacted Church Growth

Even so, two factors have significantly impacted church growth and how the church connects with people in the neighborhood around it.

  1. People’s attention spans are shorter than ever. In 2015, Microsoft published research that showed the human attention span has dwindled to eight seconds. That is shorter than a goldfish’s nine-second span. That’s right — a goldfish can focus its attention longer than most people on social and digital media. (I admit I wonder how anyone could know what the goldfish is actually thinking. Oh well, it must be true. I read it on the internet.)
  2. The way people search for churches has changed drastically. In fact, 70 percent of church searches start on the internet. With the advent of the internet and smartphones, the entire world of information is available at your fingertips instantly. Predictive analytics, search engines and social media have forced all content creators to compete for our attention.

The New Front Door Is Digital

How does that impact the church and our ability to reach the neighborhood and community around us? It forces us to look at our digital front doors: our websites. Your website is your church’s new front door in the 21st century. Don’t think so? Read on.

Recently, one of my sons relocated to a new city and began looking for a church for his family to attend. Like 70 percent of all people searching for a new church home, the first thing he did was pull out his smartphone and search “churches my town” (try it with your town). He looked through a few websites and finally settled on a church that was about 10 minutes from where he lived. He did all this without even visiting a church or driving around to see what was nearby.

As he told me about his search, I asked him what made him choose the church he did. I asked because I knew there was a well-established church closer to where he was living that had amazing worship, a world-class children’s ministry and a legacy of excellence more than 100 years old. He told me he just looked at the first few sites that came up in his search.

He looked at when and where services were, what worship and the community looked like, what was going to happen with his son (who, if you follow me on social media, will know to be the most adorable toddler on the planet) and finally the church’s theology. If a website couldn’t answer all those questions or it didn’t seem like a fit, he would move to the next one. The entire search took about 15 minutes before he decided to visit one.

When I asked him about the church that was closer to him, he said if it had shown up in his Google search, he would have considered it. Knowing my son and this particular church, it would have far exceeded his expectations and met his needs, but because someone at the church didn’t SEO the website, he never knew it existed. Failing to do something as simple as Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is one of the critical ways that the church is failing to “go” in the 21st century.

Amazing worship, a world-class children’s ministry and a legacy of excellence more than 100 years old are useless if people don’t even know your church exists. Some basic changes to that website would have gotten them included in my son’s search results.

Do This Now

Open up your search engine right now and search “churches in <insert your town>.” Did your church show up on the first page? Are you in the first five results? If you aren’t on the first page of search results, fewer people will find you. Go and talk to the people who are in charge of your website. Ask them if they have SEO’d your website. If not, ask them to research SEO and come back to you with suggestions and a plan. Or call us at The Provisum Group, and we will point you in the right direction.

Although SEO and web design are not the be-all-end-all for church growth in the 21st century, there is some pretty low-hanging fruit when it comes to growing your church. I outline a number of these basic opportunities and give you a step-by-step guide in my book, Connect. If you need help with your website or other communication services, The Provisum Group builds and administrates websites for ministries all over the country. Check our some of our work here. CGM

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