I've been working with a church on improving the front end "assimilation process". One area in particular that required our attention was the proper use of the church website.
This particular church had a decent website; quality graphics, lots of relevant content, and regular updates. The question that was raised within the improvement project team was "Who are we really trying to reach and respond to with our website… and, how successful are we at achieving it?".
I believe there are really two primary groups that every church should target with their website.
The first group represents the "Locators". This group can be defined as those members of the community that seek information on church fit – who they are, what they do, what they offer, and where they are. This is considered first contact, and as such, this group has very different needs and expectations than the next group.
The second group represents the "Learners". This group can be defined as those members of the congregation and crowd that seek information on church functions – programs, courses, special events, registrations, and ministry contact details based on facts they already know. These are people that already attend the church (even if it was just a couple of visits). They are taking the next step to getting connected within the church body. They already know where the church is and what it's all about. They want to know what's new and what's going on in the church right now.
A church website needs to focus on both of these groups. The content for the Learners needs to be fresh and interactive. The content for the Locators needs to be detailed and motivating. The objective of using your website for first contact should be on communicating a solid understanding about your culture, mission and vision… and make it as clear as possible for this group to understand how to get into the front door of your church. From their perspective they are asking the two questions;
- What is this church like (culture set by the mission and vision)?
- How do I find it and how convenient is it for me to get there?
The best way to answer these questions for a large segment of the locators is through the church website. If you properly answer these questions (through the use of perhaps some audio, video, Google Maps, etc.) you should be able to adequately satisfy this group and help them make that decision to visit your church for the first time.