A lot of churches have small, anemic websites, or no internet presence at all, and this lack of attention to technology is a huge missed opportunity. There are many popular religious and theological blogs on the internet, but almost none of them are overseen by a church or by someone who actually studied theology. That doesn’t mean that your church needs to start a site in order to build a platform to discuss theology necessarily; the world of blogging, social media, and other online community-building tools has many other functions.
Give Your Community an Interactive Online Hub
A massive potential asset to your site is a forum where your congregation can discuss sermons, local events, ministry opportunities, and general life. Keeping church-goers in contact with each other makes a huge difference both in terms of keeping members, and for integrating new people into the community. This allows people to engage in discussions about issues that they legitimately care about, and gives them a place to go when they have questions.
If you’re trying to do community outreach, having an active online community can help you by giving you a low-pressure place to send the curious, and a bustling community where people who might otherwise be too shy to engage can take the opportunity to get involved in the conversation.
Keep Your Members Organized
From a practical perspective, churches are non-profit organizations that rely on their members for support, both financially, and to spread the word and bring in new people. A website can help you by giving you a platform to make announcements, organize events, and to set the tone for discussion. Additionally you can use it to update both your congregation and the community at large about local community outreach efforts, international missions, and volunteer opportunities. This helps to focus members, and keep everything running smoothly. Membership software tools can make this task easier by integrating all of your online communication efforts.
Resources and Recordings
One thing that many church websites already have that definitely shouldn’t be forgotten is a section for resources and recordings. That could include links to good literature, recordings of sermons, sermon notes, community outreach information, ministry opportunities, or any other information you want to make available to visitors.
Of course getting people engaged is its own trick. In order to get people to actually use this section instead of simply ignoring it you can start discussions about the things you’ve got in your resource section in your forum and encourage people to join. Once you’ve got that done you can start reaching out to the internet at large.
Yes, everyone knows about social media and the hype is never-ending. Also, it’s not as easy to use as it might sound at first, however, if you take the time to learn and experiment a little bit, it can be another great way to bring people to your little corner of the internet. Start by building a Facebook group, inviting your congregation, and fleshing out the page a little bit. Then post links to your blog updates in your group feed, and encourage your members to share with their friends. This fairly simple strategy can help you reach thousands of people who might otherwise have never heard of you.
There is no denying that we’re living in the digital age. And there is no indication that this fact will change any time in the foreseeable future. The internet and its social media platforms have fully transformed long standing notions of what communities look like and how they operate. The same applies to churches and their congregations.
Suppose a member moves to another city or travels abroad to complete missionary work. While they may choose to become involved with a church in their new location, this is no longer the only option available. A church that sports a well-designed website and a robust online presence can continue to serve its members remotely.
Sunday (Internet) Service
Every year, developers introduce more and more web-based tools that facilitate connection and communication. Without much effort at all, your church can stream its services via audio-only or video channels. This provides out-of-town members, as well as those who may have pressed snooze one too many times on Sunday morning, the opportunity to worship anytime, anywhere.
Offering sermons online may raise concern that your members will stop showing up to fill the pews. But this is a shortsighted concern. Providing alternative ways to practice to the faithful only has the potential to increase your church’s reach.
As you implement these tools and strategies to develop your congregation’s online presence, you are effectively growing your church beyond its wood and plaster walls.