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Sunday, 13 January 2013

10 tips on reaching the community with #churchwebsites

some time ago I came across an august 2009 study on this subject by Ceri Longville, a student at Redcliffe Bible College in Gloucester UK at  internetevangelism.com/blog

given that the aim of the dissertation was to investigate strategies for a local church website to implement in order to relate to and touch people living in its surrounding community ....


.... then in summary the points that interested me or thoughts that the document prompted were:

1) make sure your church leaders understand that the internet (and social media like twitter or facebook) are highly populated mainstream communication mediums connecting people in relationships and communities in new ways (and aim for your leaders to be enthused about this whilst understanding that people have different levels of comfort with the technology)

2) assess your website versus the guidelines set out by the Internet
Evangelism Day assessment tool (which asks questions about these three subject areas: design, usability and readability), avoid christian jargon in text and use pictures of people (ask their permission) not just of buildings

3) listen to people who don't go to church and understand that the technology enabled culture shift that has happened means absolute truth is rejected and power and authority diffused “Christianity is rejected not because it has been tested and found untrue but simply because it claims to be true.” (Shiflett, 2009) and  "This equal access to information leads to a diffusion of power and authority. We begin to believe there is no centre (authority) or margin (follower) in the electronic world—everyone is a leader and everyone is a follower” (Hipps 2006, 129). 

4) focus on a shift to evangelism which is “two people walking side by side and talking together”. 

5) make sure the homepage of your website is welcoming to people and that it is a clear and intuitive roadmap to the rest of the site  - and so makes it easy to find out about info on baptisms, weddings, how to contact people and service times, how long they are and what is expected of people at services -  e.g. children, type of music, collection, before and after, disabled access and facilities (and dont' forget to make the site accessible to those with disabilities)

6) if you want to draw non-Christians into your site have personal stories from people at the church, community links, a weekly article by a leader, some form of gospel presentation (avoid too much too soon) with answers to FAQs

7) have a mechanism for interactive online community communication - so you might use facebook or forums for this (take care about privacy settings)

8) consider having content that uses the “Bridge Strategy” to make room for your website content to be what people are searching for.  - "If we write pages on secular subjects or felt needs we can target any group of people. We can call this the ‘Bridge Strategy’... This does not mean that we make trick pages that are not really about the subject they claim to be. If we write a page about restoring VW cars, or breeding mice, or a favourite musician, the page must truly be ‘about’ that subject. (Whittaker, 2009)"

9) preferably have a team of people (with clear roles and well connected with your congregation) to keep the website up to date including people to engage in conversations in any communities or forums you have set up (remember this team will not be all "techies" but more communicators  - and have all of this activity backed up by prayer support)

10) avoid being lulled into thinking your church has arrived in learning how to communicate with digital culture, it is the fastest changing culture in history and is always changing



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