Bad Website Design

 

bad-website-titleI ran across this great infographic about “What Makes Someone Leave A Website?” at www.churchm.ag. Since I’m a firm believer that your ministry website is mission critical I want to share it with you as well.

I recommend you use this very simple tool to evaluate YOUR ministry website. Even the best websites can stand for regular evaluation and feedback.

Tactical Tip: If you are really busy or overwhelmed right now, at least create THREE “Next Actions” based on this infographic and put them in your calendar/task list. Otherwise, we both know what will happen . . .

UPDATE: We have just launched a ‘website rebuild’ initiative for local churches. We will rebuild your church website from the ground up, and give you the training you need to update and use it each week. To learn more about cost and details, visit our Website Services page.

why-people-leave-church-website

Guest Friendly Website

guest-friendly-church-website

There is no longer a good reason why any church should have a weak, unattractive & outdated website. And yet, so many still do. It is treated like a leftover, back burner project that, perhaps, one day will get completed.

Unfortunately, every day a church hosts a weak website is another day it may be turning away guests, before they even darken the church front doors. A strong web presence is a critical part of the churches ongoing mission to reach the community for Christ.

Eight Reasons Why You’re Church Needs A Great Web Presence

  • It plays a critical role in attracting first time guests.
    The vast majority of your first time guests will check out your website BEFORE attending your service. This is now true for nearly every generation. Even if someone has been invited by a family member or co-worker, the likelihood is extremely high that they will stop by your website first. So your website will be the first impression for those considering attending.
  • It allows people to visit your church and seek God from the safety of their home.
    Going to church is intimidating. Those of us who have gone for years tend to forget that. Potential guests need a way to visit church without all the real or imagined strings attached. I’ve heard it said that if a car salesman can get his customer to take a car for a test-drive then the sale is half made. Likewise, if a guest has a positive experience at your website, she will be much more likely to visit on a Sunday.
  • It represents your values.
    Like it or not, your website will be a reflection of your values – even if that reflection is completely wrong! You may have a high standard of excellence, great worship, fabulous preaching, loving members, and Holy Spirit led ministry happening every single week; but if your website is shabby your web-guests will assume you are out-of-date, unorganized, irrelevant, and perhaps old-fashioned. One look at your site may be enough for them to click “back” and check out the next church their Google search pulled up.
  • It clarifies who you are.
    If your prospective guests have any church background at all, they will be curious to know at least a little information about who you are. You may be surprised with what they are most interested in too. It’s probably not going to be your “Statement of Beliefs” page. Rather, they will likely want to learn more about what your church looks like, what the people in your church look like (and how they dress), and what they should expect when they arrive.
  • It provides critical information about where you are.
    For most people, it is much easier and more practical to just go to a website and click “Directions” than to look up your address in the phone book. In fact, with the massive increase in the use of smartphones, many will look up your church on the road or use their gps device.
  • It encourages evangelism within your congregation.
    If your regular attendees are excited about what’s going on at your church then they will want ways to invite people to your church. A great website will be a natural touch point for them and for you at those critical invitations. For example, “Hey, why don’t you stop by our church this Sunday? I think you’d really enjoy it. If you want, you can go to our website to learn a little more about us first.” or “We’re having a special marriage seminar next Saturday that you and your wife would really like. It’s going to be fun! Check out our website if you want to learn more or sign up.” However, nobody is going to promote the website if they feel it’s inadequate or embarrassing.
  • It facilitates critical communication among your attendees.
    Once your website is established as a guest-friendly website, you will find that your regular attendees will visit a lot as well. Posting important info about upcoming events and critical communications will go a long way in keeping people informed. Let’s face it, when we want to know something most of us start with the computer. It’s easier than trying to dig through the pile of mail, bulletins, homework, and who knows what else that has piled up on the kitchen counter!
  • It puts extra mileage on your weekly sermons.
    I’ll assume for a moment that your Sunday morning speakers are decent communicators and have something to say that is impacting lives. If that is true, you will receive extra mileage on those great messages by posting them online. Your attendees will thank you. Knowing they can point friends and family to a message that really impacted them or that they can listen to on a week they were absent will help them feel cared for and equipped to put what you said on Sunday into action.

I could go on. Suffice it to say, your website is a very, very important part of your church. In fact, I recommend you look at it right now and ask yourself this one simple question: “Would I feel comfortable asking the local business owners in town to check out the church website?” If you hesitated at all, then you have work to do.

What Next? We have just launched a ‘website rebuild’ initiative for local churches. We will rebuild your church website from the ground up, and give you the training you need to update and use it each week. To learn more about cost and details, visit our Website Services page.

Walmart Community Church

walmart-churchThe local church could stand to learn something from the late Sam Walton. It’s almost too simple to remember. Actually, it probably is too simple to remember, or Sam wouldn’t have felt the need to remind his employees regularly. 

If Sam were pastoring today, I can envisioning him giving this speech all over again to his members.

“Now, I want you to raise your right hand – and remember what we say at Wal-Mart, that a promise we make is a promise we keep – and I want you to repeat after me: From this day forward, I solemnly promise and declare that every time a customer comes within ten feet of me, I will smile, look him in the eye, and greet him. So help me Sam.”
Sam Walton – to over 100,000 Walmart associates via TV Satellite link-up. Mid 1980’s.

I’ve heard of churches who have instituted this very idea. They call it ‘The 10 foot rule”. I think it’s a great idea. Tell all your members, and remind them every Sunday at the end of the service in some unobtrusive way (like, “and hey, don’t forget the 10 foot rule!”) that they should, at the very least, smile at everyone they pass or see at the church, in the sanctuary, parking lot, etc.

Seem a little childish? Not. Many people don’t really know how to smile. In fact, check out my confession in my post, ‘Teach Yourself to Smile‘.


Quote from page 115 of Built to Last by Jim Collins

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Where Should Volunteers Park?

 This article was originally posted on Transforming Leader in February of 2012. Enjoy!

parking-church-volunteersA while back I attended a church and, like everyone, parked in the church parking lot. I arrived a few minutes early, but the parking lot was already half full. As I was walking in, I made a harmless comment to another attendee about some rust on a minivan we were walking by in the parking lot. The attendee informed me that the van belonged to one of the children’s ministry volunteer leaders. I smiled and we finished the short conversation without incident.

However, internally I couldn’t help but ask the question, “Is this the right place for this van to be parked?” I remembered a conversation with one of the church leaders a few weeks ago about their desire to be a ‘guest friendly’ church. This van was parked in a prime ‘guest’ spot. It was in the closest parking place to one of the main entry doors.

As a general rule, the “Guest Friendly” church will make the path from the car to the front door as short as possible for guests.

Where should church volunteers (and leaders) park?
Answer: far from the main entrances to your church. This maximizes your volunteer’s service to your local church – for both guests and attendees. Check out these few thoughts on why I believe this should be your general policy:

  • It strengthens a ‘Guest Friendly’ culture.
    I’ve talked about being a ‘guest friendly’ church before. You can check out that series right here. Parking far from the main entrance opens up space for your guests to park that are much closer to the front doors.
  • It communicates honor to others.
    Your volunteers have ‘volunteered’ to partner with you. They show up on Sunday’s to serve. Hopefully, their goal is to help your leadership team provide the best possible environment for church attendees and guests to experience Christ’s transforming love. When others see the deference of your volunteers and leaders in something as simple as parking, it speaks of honor, servant-hood  and humility.
  • It reminds volunteers to serve others.
    It can be easy for regular volunteers to forget ‘why’ they show up each Sunday. The act of parking far from the entrance and making the extra long trek to the church doors is a weekly reminder that they are not here for themselves, but for others.
  • It fosters an “Outsiders Looking Out” perspective.
    You’ll have to go back and read my post entitled, “Guest Friendly Perspective” to understand the language here. Suffice it to say, it’s part of an intentional culture shift on the part of your leadership team. I’ve heard it said that volunteers should get the best spaces in the parking lot in order to honor them for their service to the church. I believe that perspective is inappropriate. We will honor everybody (guests, attendees, and volunteers) by making sure volunteers and leaders do their very best to fulfill their roles with excellence. Let’s DEFINITELY honor our volunteers – but in other ways.
A Brief Example.
The next time you are travelling into town, check out the local businesses that are specifically serving guests (or customers). For example, gas stations, stores, the post office, and local restaurants. Where do the ’employees’ park? Why do you think they park there? I suspect the same applies to the local church!
 
Where do your church volunteers and leaders park?
 

Guest Friendly Parking

This article was originally posted on Transforming Leader the spring of 2011. Enjoy!


no-parking-churchI remember one weekend we decided to take a family trip (four kids) to a local kid-friendly museum in Rochester called “The Strong Museum of Play“. It seems that the rest of the Rochester area picked that day to visit as well. I’m pretty sure we drove around for more than 10 minutes trying to find a parking spot. The place was completely full. Getting desperate (as the sounds of anticipation continued to rise in the back seats), I resorted to following the people exiting the building as they walked to their cars. I figured this method would eventually result in a spot to park. It didn’t. It seems the other drivers circling the parking lot had the same idea. I “almost” got one spot, only to be quite rudely cutoff by another driver. Eventually, we cut our losses and, to the sounds of great mourning, drove away. Frustrating.

What do your Sunday morning guests experience as they pull into your church parking area? Is their experience a positive one? If you’re like most pastors and church leaders, you probably have no idea. You arrive early and leave late, so you have little experience with the parking lot each Sunday.

The answer to that question can make a huge difference. In fact, it’s possible that the parking experience for guests could have eternal ramifications for them? I understand they probably aren’t going to find God while they pull into an empty space; but your hope is that they experience the love of Christ in your service, right? What if they don’t ever make it in the door? Is there a chance that they simply do a ‘drive-through’ because they either can’t find parking or the parking they do find is just too inconvenient for them? Assuming they do find a spot and make the trek to your front doors (possibly with kids in tow) what is their general posture? Let me paint a picture of what you and I really want those first few minutes to look like and feel like to your guests.

Joe and Jane are driving down the road towards the church. They see a large sign that confirms this is, in fact, the church they are looking for as well as a clearly marked entrance. As they pull into the parking lot they notice several other cars have already arrived and people are making their way to the ,well marked, front entrance of the church. They also notice a sign (or better yet, a friendly face) directing them to drive straight ahead if they are a guest to the guest parking area. Within 15 seconds of entering the parking lot they have successfully found a parking spot that was specifically set aside for them. They are very thankful to be so close to the front doors – especially with their young kids. The quick getaway from their car also helped them take the plunge too. They have been nervous all morning on whether they should come or not. So far, so good. They are ready to enter through the front doors and face a totally new world. BONUS: Even better, as they exit their vehicles a kind greeter is waiting for them and offers to assist them inside if they need the help, opening the door along the way.

Guest Friendly Parking Tips:

  • Signage.
    It’s really important that your guests don’t feel confused or nervous as they drive into the parking lot. You can minimize confusion by ensuring the signs to your church are easy to find from the road. Ideally, it will be easy to find BEFORE they actually drive by the church, forcing them to have to turn around up the road. Additionally, if you have more than one entrance or an entrance and an exit, simple signs designating which road is the most appropriate to use will be very helpful. Finally and depending on the size of your parking lot, it would be helpful to post signs directing where guests should go next to arrive at the guest parking areas.
  • Guest Parking.
    Your guests will feel taken care of and will receive a great first impression if you’ve reserved several spaces just for them. Ideally, these spaces will be very close to the front entrance of your church, similar to your handicapped parking areas. I suggest you set aside about 4% of your parking lot for that purpose (if you tend to receive a lot of guests each week, you might want to increase that). If your lot is paved then you might consider painting your sign on the pavement as well as posted signs. 
  • Parking Attendants.
    If you can find some friendly faces who love to be outside, then designating parking attendants will increase the parking experience for both your guests and church attendees. Your parking attendants don’t necessarily need to focus on actually ‘parking’ people. Everyone loves a genuine greeting and a warm smile as they arrive at church! 
  • Clean.
    Sometimes the parking lot is easily forgotten; but it’s the very first thing your guests will notice on Sunday morning. If you have a paved lot, be sure to take care of the pavement. Budget money each year to fill cracks, potholes, and to seal the lot at least every other year. In today’s economy, that’s a chunk of money right there! It would be wise to sweep the lot each Spring as well. If you have a stone lot then consider raking the stones a couple of times a year. You will also want to budget money to add stone every two to three years as needed. Finally, weed your parking lot! Again, this is an expense, but important. There’s little more distasteful to the eye of a guest than a weed-infested parking lot!
  • Clearly Marked Parking Spaces.
    I’m not just talking about spaces for guests. It’s important that all of your attendees understand how to park in the parking lot. If you have a paved lot it’s important to paint lines on the lot. If you have a stone lot then you have a much bigger challenge in guiding your cars to the most efficient parking spaces. You may want to rely on parking attendants or special parking cones. A few winters ago, our church ended up with an embarrassing situation in our parking lot when our church attendees accidentally parked 6 cars in so they couldn’t leave until the cars in front of them did. The reason? It had snowed heavily that morning and we didn’t do a good job clearing the lot enough so that people knew where to park.
  • Snow Removal.
    I hope it’s obvious that you should recruit or invest in snow removal if you live in a location where that is necessary. You will want to shovel and plow just prior to your service start times. If it’s snowing DURING the service, you may also want to consider recruiting someone to shovel during the service so that people can make a clean getaway. Our church has been known to even recruited some teens to brush off car windows before the service let out. People loved it!
  • Valet Service?
    OK. That sounds a little carried away, but why not, especially for the elderly and/or single moms. My point here isn’t necessarily to begin a valet service so much as to remind you to think outside the box and do what you can to show great hospitality to your guests and church attendees.

Plan Your Visit

How would you like it if your first time guests actually made an appointment to attend your Sunday service? What if you could collect information on your guest BEFORE they actually attend?

Great idea . . . and easy to do. The Church on the Move in Tulsa, Oklahoma, created a special page on their website entitled, “Plan Your Visit“. The page simply invited guests to complete a short form with a couple of questions like: name, email, service time & # of children. Their promise: “We will e-mail you everything you’ll need to make your first visit to Church on the Move a great one.”

I love this. 

I think you should give it a try. All you need is someone who knows how to make a web form, some time to determine how you will respond to guests when they submit their information, and a system in place to ensure it happens promptly – preferably within a couple of hours of when the form is submitted.

How will you build this idea into your Guest Friendly strategy this week?

The Internet is a Mission Field

I ran across this great little video today (90 seconds) that challenges us to include social media and the internet in our creative outreach strategies. How about your church? How’s your website look to guests and those in your community? If you’d like some genuine, unbiased feedback, send me an email. I’ll look it over and give you some thoughts to consider.

You also might want to check out this article by the good people over at Willowcreek entitled, “Your Digital Front Door“.

Internet: A Mission Field from Resolute Creative on Vimeo.

 

Great Guest Friendly Posts

guest-friendly-greeting

Following are some great posts I’ve discovered in my blog reading that relates to the issue of Guest Friendliness and Customer Service in the Local Church. Forward them on to your ushers, greeters and leadership teams! Enjoy.

Guest Friendly Series by Wayne Hedlund
When I did a Google search on “Guest Friendly Church” I was so proud to see several of my very own posts on the first page of results, so it seemed OK to me to include them with everyone elses. If you haven’t read through this series of posts, I invite you to do so. Read More.


First Impressions Are Virtual by Evan Courtney
Last summer my family went on vacation with my in-laws to Branson, Mo. When Sunday rolled around it was defaulted to me, being the pastor in the family, to pick a church to attend. I didn’t know anything about churches in the area so I resorted to Googling “Branson church.” Read More.


8 Points On Great Customer Service by Brad Lomenick
I’ve worked on some great teams over the past several years, and seen great customer service in action. One of the places I learned the most about great customer service was Lost Valley Ranch, an incredible 4 diamond guest ranch in Colorado. Read More.


What Do Our Guests Want From Us? by NorthPoint Guest Services
Every Sunday, every guest who comes into our church wants something from us. If we’re lucky, they will walk up to us and ask for it. Most Sundays, though, they don’t even give us a hint. We just have to guess. Guest Services volunteers are on the front line of giving each guest what they want. What a privilege! And what a responsibility! Read More.


How To Create A Great First Impression by NorthPoint Guest Services
“First impressions can greatly impact the emotion consumers feel for a brand. What are first impressions like for your customers?” – The Disney Institute via Twitter What a great question for churches to ask! Every Sunday you create a first impression. When guests first experience your church, they feel something towards your church. Read More.


My VIP Experience at Elevation Church: First Impressions Matter by Tim Schraeder
First impressions matter. Oftentimes in the programming and planning of church services we can quickly neglect an important aspect of our worship gatherings: how we welcome first-time visitors. Read More.

 

Strategy Kickstart: Hire A Mystery Guest

A Strategy Kickstart is a short 3-5 minute video clip which can be used to ‘kickstart’ a strategic discussion in your church or ministry. Simply show the video clip to your team and use the ideas and question posed in the video to stimulate a valuable and hopefully relevant discussion on how you can better fulfill your ministry mission.

In today’s Strategy Kickstart I challenge your team to consider hiring a mystery guest to provide more realistic feedback on the Sunday morning experience from the perspective of a guest.

 

Thursday Quote: Simply Strategic Growth

Tim Stevens and Tony Morgan published the book, ‘Simply Strategic Growth: Attracting a Crowd to Your Church‘. It’s a great book with a ton of simple ideas/principles you can use to stimulate strategic discussions about becoming a Guest Friendly and attractive church in your community. Each chapter is very short and to the point, which makes it a great bathroom book too (you know what that is, but I talk about it more right here).

This quote is from the chapter entitled: Thou Shalt Stop Using Christianese

“Several years ago when we moved into a new house, I met one of our neighbors. This guy didn’t know I was a pastor. He only knew that I was moving into the neighborhood. And yet his conversation dripped with Christianese. “Glory to God.” “Hallelujah.” “Praise the Lord.” It made me sick, and I’m a Christian! My heart sank because I thought, “This guy is going to be an obstacle for me in building relationships with my neighbors.” I’m sure he had no idea how he was coming across.

“Consider these examples of what we say, and how a ‘normal’ person in our culture would say the same thing:

  • Christianese: “Share some blessings with us.” Normal: “Tell us what God is doing in your life.”
  • Christianese: “Can someone share a testimony?” Normal: “Let’s hear some stories.”
  • Christianese: “How long have you been saved?” Normal: “When did you begin following Christ?”
  • Christianese: “Here I raise my Ebenezer.” Normal: “Say what?”

Add Simply Strategic Growth: Attracting a Crowd to Your Church to your library today!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” 

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