For millennials, your website is the front door of your church

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I recently visited a church with a friend of mine who was in rough shape. While I had initially felt excitement about attending a new church, it quickly turned to wariness when I saw the physical space. The church hadn’t been cared for, things were stored in random places, and it was confusing getting to the sanctuary. I remember sitting down and literally feeling a sense of anxiety about being in that space before the service even started!

You may have been here, or you may have made this very argument to your church committee. A clean church that has been taken care of simply feels more welcoming. And so you invest in cleaning, updating, and fixing the space.

But the same is true of a website—especially when you’re trying to reach younger generations. We shop online, watch movies online, interact with friends online, and we check out your church online… usually before ever attending it. According to recent research, millennials do 67% of their shopping online. If they’re parents, it’s even higher.

Your website might as well be the front door of your church when it comes to millennials. And if your website is outdated or unhelpful, you are telling a generation of people “this church isn’t for you.” So here’s a few tips of things to look for:

1.     Let us hear a sermon. Most churches have some sort of sound system. It shouldn’t be too hard to get a sermon recorded. I have a pastor friend who even reads his sermon into a microphone and puts it online later. The goal here is not the highest quality or even having a podcast. It’s letting people put their toes in the water.

2.     Information, information, information. Give us straightforward information about our visit. I’ve been to church website after church website that make it painful to get the information I need for a visit. Where do I go? What door? What time are services? Is there church for my kids? Will they be safe? Think about your website from the perspective of a visitor. What are the roadblocks?

3.     What’s the story? By “story,” I don’t mean the history of your church. I mean why do you exist? What is the vision of your community? While information is necessary, your website shouldn’t just be information. Paint a picture for us.

4.     Photos. Let us see some real people. Stock photos aren’t great, but sometimes are necessary. Try to get photos of real people in your congregation. Photos of people in your community will give a visitor a sense of who your community is.

5.     Consider social media. Social media is free advertising. At my last few churches, I got more results with social media than with newsletters or bulletins. It gives you an online presence and people are almost as likely to check out your Facebook or Instagram pages as much as your website.

These are just a few basic tips to help you think through your website. Again—this is a very important part of church in the 21st century. In the same way that you work to create a great first impression in your physical space, your digital space is vital to reach younger generations.