I was recently listening to an Andy Stanley Leadership podcast where Andy talked about ownership. Andy told the story about where he walks around this church and picks up the rubbish as he finds it. Eventually his staff who were meeting with him hired a cleaner not only to help him focus on the meeting, but also because they realised that the rubbish was being cleaned because Andy owned every level of responsibility. Not just at the higher levels of leadership. But all levels. If he saw something was wrong. He helped fix it where he could. What Andy probably also knew was how people would react coming into his church seeing rubbish in the corridors.
Andy knows that first impressions really, really matter. In the first few seconds those visitors will form an opinion about his church. And its the same for your church both in your physical location and online.
Unlike Andy’s church most churches outside of a Sunday will have tens or maybe a hundred of visitors to their physical church. On a Sunday that may increase. But whatever the number, first impressions really count, right? No matter what the number, behind the number is a person and they matter.
As a church leader at whatever level, you are proud of your church building. You literally want the building and environments to say the right message to the visitor. I know I do. You rightly may invest thousands of dollars or pounds keeping the place looking how it should be. Spick and span. Beyond cleanliness, many churches understand that how interior design can also assist in first impressions.
I had some updated analytics installed on our church website this week (Jetpack and Google, we wanted an improved free dashboard view for reporting rather than going to google all the time). As I saw again our daily, weekly visitors in an easy digestible dashboard view Andy’s podcast jolted right back into my mind and I was reminded again, first impressions matter not only in physical locations, but also on our online locations.
Why? Because 56% of the visitors to our church website in the last month are new visitors. That’s right. New people. They show up online on our church websites just like they do in physical locations.
Imagine if every week in your physical location, 56% of your church attendance were first time guests. How much would you invest?
Here are five insights I’ve discovered from around the web from great church websites.
1) It is obvious they have invested into the website
Everything communicates something. Bad design, poor site architecture communicates just as much as a well designed site that has had a lot of thought and good design work done into it. When a visitor has a great experience online you will have removed a stereotype and a barrier to entry on a Sunday.
Investment doesn’t mean you have to break the bank. There are many good church website providers out there that can create a great website for those on a budget. I know a few if you are looking and can recommend a few.
2) The website is mobile friendly
Your audience just doesn’t only check you out on a desktop in the office or at home. They check you out on mobiles, tablets, phablets (look it up). You may have a great design, but if your church website isn’t mobile friendly they will leave.
3) They write for the visitors
The vast majority of church websites are written with the assumption that the web visitor knows what the regulars know. It’s called insider thinking. It’s a very common occurrence in church communications. The best church websites I see are written as though they are writing for someone who has never visited their church before.
4) They explain what a first time visitor need to know
It’s amazing how hard on some church websites it can be to just find the location and service times. The best church websites create areas on their sites that specifically speak to first time visitors and give them practical next steps, not matter what life stage they are at.
5) They make the visitor feel something positive about the church
This may seem obvious, but every church website leaves an impression. Good, bad, indifferent. Feelings and impressions last a long time. Make sure its a good one. A friendly one. An open one. An impression that your church is for them. That their children are valued, secure and safe. That no matter what their background is there is a place in your community for them.
What do you think makes a great church website? What should people avoid? Drop an insight or comment below.