As a part of my job here at Vanderbloemen, I spend a good chunk of my time on church websites, and I’ve seen a little bit of everything. There are some websites that are on the cutting edge creatively and others that appear to have been created in the Stone Age. Wherever your website falls within that spectrum, it communicates your church’s image and culture to the viewer.
Whether the viewer is a long-time member or someone perusing the web in search of a new church home, everyone that sees your church website compares what they see to the culture they know or anticipate encountering.
Do you feel like the external perception of your church is inaccurate? Does your staff feel distant or disconnected from attendees? These five ways to display your church culture and engage your attendees online can help relieve both of those pains.
1. Create a team/staff page on your website.
Your staff members are the torch bearers of the mission and image of the church, so it is only fitting to display how they do so on your website. The three most effective communicators of culture I have seen on a staff page are pictures, short bios and contact information.
You can demonstrate a relaxed culture with goofy pictures, a buttoned up culture with traditional headshots, or whatever you choose. The old adage “a picture speaks a thousand words” holds true in your online presence. Thoughtfully consider the thousand words that you want your pictures to communicate. You can carefully choose the background of the picture, the dress of your staff, the poses and any other details you feel demonstrate your culture well.
Short bios give you a chance to personally introduce your staff members to every viewer. It would be very difficult to have all of those conversations over coffee, but bios can bridge the gap for viewers and put a personality to a face on a screen. This can be a great avenue for educating your viewers and making them feel welcome.
The personality of your staff reflects the personality of your church.
Displaying contact information for your staff demonstrates that you want to be approachable and accessible leaders, giving volunteers the chance to ask questions and newcomers the chance to connect. Without contact information being readily available, volunteers may not know how to ask for help and get burnt out sooner. Newcomers can reach out to the children’s director before dropping their young ones off for the first time. Whatever the situation may be, having your contact information readily available expands your ease of communication and ministry opportunities tremendously.
2. Use social media as a ministry throughout the week.
Social media is an easy avenue to interact with attendees and have a household presence throughout the week. Following your church attendees on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook gives you the opportunity to engage their day-to-day activities and struggles. Envision the opportunity your church has to speak encouragement into someone’s life when they post that they are having a terrible day.
Social media also gives you an opportunity to post content for your followers such as pictures of office culture or fun church events. Those attendees involved in your church will repost your content that will then be viewed by their friends that may not otherwise have contact with your church. The sky is the limit with social media networking and care.
3. Display your culture through videos.
Videos give newcomers a feel for culture before they ever step foot in the front door, and they put the nerves of walking into a new church at ease. Youtube and Vimeo are great avenues for uploading video updates from ministries and other teaching content throughout the week.
4. Provide a phone number for pastoral care on your webpage.
If you are able to provide pastoral care services over the phone, then I would encourage displaying that phone number on the home page of your website. This goes back to the same theme of accessibility and approachability that I mentioned earlier with contact information.
5. Evaluate your culture.
The final reason to consider how you are displaying culture online is to evaluate your culture introspectively. If you are considering posting pictures of your staff culture on Instagram but realize that no one is smiling in the office, then the exercise was worthwhile. That may be a dramatic example, but intentionally displaying your culture publicly on your website and through social media will lead to consistent evaluation. If you are going to take steps to display your culture it will force you to ask if your culture is something you want to display.
You are always communicating something about yourself through your online presence; the question is whether you are displaying the church culture you intended to or not. Be intentional with what you post online because viewers are intentional in the way they evaluate your church through your website and social media content.
How can your church use its online resources to reach your vistitors?