The first visit that a guest is likely to make to your church is a virtual visit via the web. It is easier that way! The time and energy required to make an actual visit and face-down the daunting challenge of walking into a church for the first time is offset by their simple, private, and painless process of searching the web for the church’s website to see what they can find out – whether the church is going to match up with their expectations – in a hassle free environment.
Consequently, churches will do well to insure that within seconds (literally) of landing on the church’s Home Page, the virtual visitor will find the place to get his answers. Maybe it is a “New Here” link or an “I’m New” banner that captures the guest's attention; clearly, something should direct him to the pertinent information he will want and need to know (e.g., times, location, map and directions, childcare arrangements, length of service, attire) as quickly as possible. By the way, the list of valuable information that might be included on the web site is much longer than this example and its length alone accentuates the importance of such information for the guest. A careful and thoughtful presentation of this guest information on the church’s website will dispel fears, uncertainties, and the unanswered questions that might haunt the first-time guest’s deliberations about attending services at the church.
But, information is only part of the story. Churches are prone to be informational on their websites – informing guests of all the details they might consider important. But, in their efforts to be informational, they tend to leave out another essential element, i.e., to be invitational.
Be sure to be invitational. Let your www. include a warm website welcome!
Here are a couple of ideas:
Prepare a brief, welcome video (90 seconds or less) for the website that communicates a personal, casual invitation, reflecting the heartbeat and ministry of the church. It should affirm that the church is prepared and glad for guests to visit. Arms are open wide! Every virtual visitor should know that he and his family are important to the church regardless of their station in life, their previous religious background, or the trials and struggles they are facing. They should understand that the church desires to serve them and looks forward to the opportunity to do so. At the risk of sounding trite: “God loves you and so do we!”
Have members write 1-2 sentence testimonials for inclusion on the website. The testimonials should reflect how the church has contributed to their personal life and well-being. They should state in language that potential guests will understand and appreciate that the church has made a difference in their life. One of them might indicate how the church welcomed them when they were new to town and didn’t know anybody. Another might relate how the church loved them through a tragedy. A third might describe how much richer life has been since getting connected in the church’s ministries.
Both bullets above create anticipation for a positive guest experience and move beyond information toward invitation. Both are personal and communicate from the heart! Both speak to value! Both are compelling!
Let your virtual visitors have a warm website welcome. Then plan on having a warm church welcome awaiting your actual visitors when they actually arrive. Make sure the church visit matches up with the website welcome.