In recent years the church I pastor has invested extra time, energy, staff, and money to improve and increase our internet and social media presence. I have often wondered if our investment was working. After receiving this message via Facebook page yesterday, I have no doubt! Here’s a slightly edited version of it:
“Hello Friends! Today was my 1st day at Midway Church. I have been following Pastor Todd online, since Oct. 2013. Today changed my life in the most amazing ways! I had prayed for 3 months asking for God to reveal HIS plans for my life. I have been thirsty for HIS word and fellowship with others for quite a long time.
One night (Three Years Ago!), I was looking up ‘churches near me, Villa Rica’, and Midway popped up. The very words on the website (“YOU BELONG HERE”) hit my heart so deeply. I was so overwhelmed by what I felt, and I had to know more. I read everything I could on Midway, Pastor Todd, and LIFE groups. I signed up for e-mails and Pastor Todd’s weekly Blogs and then, I started listening to previous sermons. My new journey had begun. The more I listened, the more I wanted to hear.
Today, I knew I wanted to be in service and among other disciples of Christ. God filled me with courage to be there today. From the moment I walked in, I felt the LOVE of GOD surrounding me. I was trembling and realized, I was finally where I belonged. I had brought some food donations and walked straight to the table where I met Ms. Jenny. She introduced me to Mr. Charlie and they made me feel like family. God is really working in me and HE has known my needs better than I. I was very nervous and I have Social Anxiety disorder, so BIG crowds can be a bit overwhelming. Several ladies helped me through that with prayer and Mr. Charlie; well he sat with me through service, just in case I needed anything.
After service, I met Pastor Todd and I felt so at ease finally. His sermon today, resonated with me in so many ways. I was meant to be there today. Mr. Charlie and Ms. Jenny took me down to FAN day and introduced me to so many wonderful new friends. They adopted me and made me feel so very welcome to be there. I had the most amazing time today. I cannot stop smiling! I am so excited to start my new journey with all of you there. I’m looking forward to finding the right fit with a LIFE group, and begin fellowship with others. Thank you for making me feel so welcomed and like family. God Bless!”
After reading our new friend’s message, I realized just how God had used our internet presence for His glory! As I thought it over I saw seven things about our virtual that touched her actual life. All of this was before she ever stepped foot on our campus.
1. For many people the front door of the church is not the front door of the church, the online presence is.
If you are depending on your parking lot team or your door greeters to be the initial face of your church, it may already be too late to make a first impression. Many internet-savvy people are looking for a website for even a Facebook page that lets them know what is in store for them when they arrive.
2. Your website front page should speak to the unchurched.
“You Belong Here!” is what greets every person who visits our website. Why? Because we really believe every unchurched person belongs with us. In our view “unchurched”refers to any person who for any reason is not regularly attending a local church whether or not they are believers already. We want every person in our community to be impacted by the gospel and we’d love to be the ones to get it to them!
3. Regular blog posts, emails, Facebook posts, and the like can build a bridge for the unchurched to your church.
If you are a pastor with a blog, create an email list and make sure a subscribe button is on your blog. You never know who might be reading. If you use other social media channels wisely you can begin relating to people in your community before they visit.
4. Your website and social media are safe-zones for the unchurched.
By “safe zone” I don’t mean safe from the gospel; I mean safe from confusion or misunderstanding. Many people hesitate before going to a church. There is a sense of uncertainty with any new venture. When a person can see what your church stands for, how it ministers, and how your members carry themselves before they come the first time, there is actually a sense of belonging built it. Allowing for this is a good thing. Note the lady who recently visited monitored our website (and my personal blog and Facebook) for three years before coming the first time.
5. Unchurched people can connect to mission through online information.
When is the last time someone showed up at your church for the very first time, and brought something to support a mission effort you were already doing? When this lady visited Midway the first time, she brought bags of groceries. Why? Because she had received online information about our food drive and came prepared to support it.
6. Your website should include free archived sermons.
It amazes me how many people would climb Mt Everest in a t-shirt for all the printed volumes of Spurgeon’s sermons yet do not make their own sermons available digitally. As easy as it is to host audio online, or turn recorded sermons into podcasts, there really is very little reason not to give the unchurched who find your website or blog the ability to listen to sermons before they attend.
7. Your website should feature easy to find information on how to connect.
At the bare minimum a person should know exactly where to go on campus from information on your website or Facebook page. Beyond that they should be able to join a group or find when and where they meet from your website, Facebook page, or app.
In short, design your online presence with more than church members in mind. If your website or Facebook page are only rehashes of the Sunday morning announcements you are missing a huge opportunity to create a brand new front door of your church.
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