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Most church Web sites ineffective, too inwardly focusedcomment (0)

April 15, 2010

Churches, by and large, still haven’t entered the digital age when it comes to evangelism — but those who have are reaping huge rewards, according to a new survey.

A poll conducted by Christian technology company Endis, which provides the ChurchInsight church Web platform and has offices in the United States and the United Kingdom, indicates that when churches deliberately focus their Web sites on attracting outsiders they see a corresponding rise in the number of non-Christian visitors.

But many focus on the internal life of the church and their effectiveness is reduced.

Endis polled 1,600 churches for its DigiMission project, asking questions about church size, the Web site’s target readership, the number of Christians and non-Christians coming to events and the influence of the Web site on their decision to attend.

The 120 churches that responded reported more than 1,300 non-Christian visitors in the last 12 months to church events, services and discipleship courses through the Web — an average of 11 non-Christian visitors per church.

For Christian visitors the figure is 1,600, an average of 14.

Among the survey’s key findings were that most churches’ Web sites were not created with the unchurched in mind. Only half offer an outline of the gospel, and only a quarter provide testimonies of people who have come to faith in Christ.

Endis spokesman Geoff Knott said there were clear differences in the effectiveness of different Web sites.

“When we looked at the successful sites, we found that they had the gospel on their site, and that people were able to book into events like Alpha courses,” he said. “Interactivity is important, but we didn’t find that blogs or forums did much. The other thing that was very successful was stories.”

It was also noticeable that larger churches were less effective than smaller ones at attracting unchurched people.

“Smaller churches of between 100 and 150 are very good at getting guests in. I think they push harder, using Google AdWords for instance — they’re trying to grow. Are we losing our missions edge as we grow bigger?”

He stressed that good content and ease of use were far more important than a sophisticated image or a multiplicity of functions.

The survey was welcomed by Tony Whittaker, the U.K. coordinator for Internet Evangelism Day. Most church Web sites fall short of what they could be for various reasons, he said.

“They are often mainly ‘brochureware’ — static informational pages with little interactive comment, or frequently updated material such as a blog or Twitter feed,” he said. “Another reason is that wittingly or unwittingly, they present the church as a building where there is a program of meetings. Obviously there is some truth in this.

“But the greater, and more meaningful and biblical truth, is that the church is a big family in that community, which happens to meet together from time to time, as families do in one or more locations. In other words, it’s people, not programs.”

There were many ways of showing this on Web sites, he said, such as including photographs of members.

He also referred to churches’ habit of using Christian jargon.

“Sites that are actually effective for outsiders have looked at themselves through an outsider’s eyes — or better, actually asked non-yet-believers to give an honest opinion of the site — and built everything around that understanding.” (ABP)


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