Your online presence is the new front door to your church. Before someone shows up to worship, he or she will look for your information online. Do you offer childcare? What time is worship? Is parking available?
In 2012, a Grey Matter Research study reported that more than 17 million nonchurchgoers had visited the website of a local church or place of worship in the past 12 months; yet, many sites fail to provide the information these visitors seek.
Church doesn't look the same as it did 30 years ago. People read Scripture on their tablets or smartphones, tweet during worship or check in on Facebook or FourSquare when they are at church. A variety of tools can help churches be a vibrant presence online in the lives of their members and those looking to belong. Social media tools offer churches opportunities to connect with audiences and congregations in a way that print has not. Real-time updates before or after events or worship invite users of these spaces to engage on a more personal level and to amplify that message by sharing it with their friends online.
If you think you don't need a website or some social presence, think again.
When people are looking for information about your church, will they find a website? What will they find? Will they find last Easter's events in December? Or contact information from your old location? Or, perhaps, the summer worship schedule well into fall?
Here are four reasons your church needs a website:
1. It's the modern-day phone book. In an age where people can Google anything, you had better believe people are Googling you. Do them a favor and post all your current information, photos of the congregation and an invitation to join you. Even if it is no more than one page, at least, you are searchable online. People may even call or email you!
2. You can share content. You are a content creator! Every week a pastor shares a message is an opportunity to bring an encouraging word that someone may need to hear. How will they hear it if they weren't in church on Sunday or if they don't live in your city? Put it online as a blog post or PDF, podcast or video recording.
3. It's affordable. Whatever content-management platform you use to create your site, you can find hosting packages for as low as $5 per month. Check out United Methodist Communications' hosting plans for more information: www.umcchurches.org.
4. It creates visibility. People are sharing more and more information electronically and digitally. E-newsletters link readers to resources and organizations. Companies and organizations list partners on their websites. Facebook and Twitter can share your church's information with a broad audience. When you have a website, you can share the vibrancy and warmth of your congregation with the world.
Are you interested in learning more about how to create a website for your church or how to improve what you already have? Check out www.umcom.org/learn/website-building for tips on building your web presence and look at what United Methodist Communications' face-to-face and online training has to offer: www.umcom.org/learn/all-training-courses.
We'll see you online!
YOUR FIND-A-CHURCH PAGE
Find-A-Church (www.umc.org/find-a-church), a ministry of United Methodist Communications, gives each United Methodist congregation in the United States an online presence and allows users to locate churches by city and state or ZIP code. Each profile has information about the church and its ministries and ways to make contact. Churches are urged to add information about their schedules, ministries, events and programs and to keep it current throughout the year. Update the information in your profile by clicking on the link at the bottom. Send questions about updating to firstname.lastname@example.org.