Why online communication with your tribe is vital to retention & growing your church.
On average a family spends 2-4 hours with you each Sunday. So, how do you reach your community the other 164 hours in the week? How do you reach your community when more and more of their life is on and scheduled online? So much so, that the average time spent online is about 24 hours a week*, and 62 %**say the internet is important for maintaining social relationships.
We have to meet our community where they are: online
Now, you can see that information as scary OR as an opportunity. Speaking as someone who spends a fair amount of time online, please note that not all of my time is spent on Facebook or laughing at cat memes. I read books from the local library, find recipes for dinner, do research, use it to play animal sounds for my daughter, among many other productive activities. Please don’t fall for the “internet is ruining everything!” trap; like anything, the internet can be abused, but the benefits far out way the downside.
So why do you need a cohesive internet presence? Today people research everything online from eco-friendly soap, to who they’re going to date. Researching a future church home is no different for many people.
Growing your Church
Nine in ten Americans believe in God, yet only a slim majority (56%) believe in the God of the Bible. There are a number of reasons for this, from people disillusioned by their church scandals, their original churches teaching on issues, to just not being able to identify with the church of their youth anymore. Today, nearly four in ten (39%) young adults (ages 18-29) are religiously unaffiliated– three times the unaffiliated rate (13%) among seniors (ages 65 and older).
“Think of your points of contact as speed dating, you have mere moments to make a connection.”
So, to sum it up, the vast majority of Americans believe in God, but a large number (especially of the young) don’t identify with any organized religion. Put that together with more time spent connected to the greatest information-gathering-network in history and you have the potential for exponential growth!
The question is, can you be found online? Can you reach them? If they find you, will they know you’re the right church for them? This is why churches need to expand their online presence and at the same time NOT try to reach everyone by coming off as just another church.
By proudly announcing what you believe in and what makes your community great, you will set yourself apart. A lot of this can be attained by revamping your website, engaging in social media and writing blog posts. Think of your points of contact as speed dating, you have mere moments to make a connection. After that you can take your time to build a deeper relationship.
You got‘em! Now, how do you keep them?
Now that you are working to grow your audience you have to focus on retention. Are your events drawing smaller and smaller crowds? Are your groups falling apart? Are tithes/donations down? Do you hear things like, “I would have come if I’d only known”, “The group just kind of drifted apart”, or “I never carry cash or my checkbook anymore”?
Obviously, churches can’t grow if they’re losing members and participation. Again, your online communication is key, to not only retention, but getting your community to engage.
This is where a strong online presence can be a godsend (pardon the pun)! An online calendar with regular social media posts can help your events fill up again. Moving groups to both real world and online can increase participation. Adding the ability to take donations online can increase your tithes and expand your operational budget.
How can you work this next quarter on reaching more of your community online?
- Expand your social media presence.
- Keep website up-to-date.
- Make sure you can take debit/credit card donations. (cardreader, online and/or via text)
- Post your calendar of events.
- Keep your communication constant and easy to digest.
- Keep your email address and email signature looking consistent.
- Schedule out posts and emails for when you are off.
Don’t do these:
- Think only about your ministry as conducted in your physical space.
- Think that people actively go to your website for info.
- Think that your posts show up in everyone’s Facebook feed every time you post.
- Assume they read your emails thoroughly.
- Assume this is all too hard. Seek guidance.
By: Kevin Gallagher
Kevin is the content producer for Guiding Outreach, a company that helps faith communities connect their their community online. Learn more at: GuidingOutreach.com