Is your church website an open door or barrier to your church?

Today, Yvon Prehn allow me to share her guest post about your church website.

Yvon is an excellent writer and shares frequently on church communications – in fact, that is her ministry.

I’ve benefited much from my conversations with her and her regular newsletter provides all sorts of great snippets.  She also runs a membership site that is extremely affordable for churches and ministries.

Guest Post: Is Your Church Website an Open Door or Barrier?

Today, if we have a question about anything, where do we look up information?

If we want hours of operation, products offered, staff bios?

If we want to know what movie is playing, what time a concert starts, what classes are offered at a college where do we do to find out?

Obviously, we go to the website.

It’s the same whether we are looking up information about what computer to buy or what church to attend.

We judge the organization, its people, and its products based on the website.

If the website gives us winter hours and it is spring; if the sale has been over for weeks or if the hours of operation are incorrect, we aren’t likely to visit the business or have confidence in it.

If the business is a franchise and the website is an obvious template, with little local personalization, we won’t think much about the technical skills (equated with competence overall) of the staff.

Again, we judge a church the same way.

Unfortunately many church websites don’t meet the minimal standards.

Though lost customers may be bad for a business, the consequences for a church are much more serious. Following is an example of what can happen and then some suggestions for change.

Read more:

Excellent Church Website Tips

The article goes on to give excellent tips to keeping up your church website.

  • Keep it current.
  • Learn how to create one in wordpress

In my experience, I still see a lot of churches that make dumb mistakes on their website – stuff that should easily be fixed:

Help your church visitors find you this coming Easter

Easter is right around the corner.

Does your church website reflect your Easter services?

Does it promote the post Easter sermon series to help your visitors decide to return?

This Easter, some people might want to visit your church.

This Holy Week, some out of town guests may want to visit your special services for holy week.

You don’t know who they are.

They don’t know where they want to go.

God has given these first time church visitors spiritual thirst that propels them to seek a church.

So what do they do?

They likely search the internet first to find a church website.

Read more:

Coaching Corner:

Take a good look at your church website.

Would a potential Easter visitor find the basic information needed to attend your services?

3 Keys to Make an Evangelistic Sunday School Culture

Sunday school has a long history of being an evangelistic tool of the church.  I’ve visited growing churches that utilize their Sunday School to not only grow their members, but create a space where newcomers can connect and discover faith.

Recently, a small church pastor asked me about how to make their Sunday School evangelistic.   They are a small church in a semi-rural and under-resourced community.  I get the sense from the pastor that members have an apathy about Sunday School that may be hard to over come.

AdultSundaySchoolGrow680

As I listened to the description and function of their existing Sunday School, I found myself discouraged.

It was full of barriers to entry of newcomers, barriers that would prevent invitations of friends, and barriers that would discourage meaningful learning.  I don’t want to elaborate on their specific problems.  Instead, I want to share with you 3 key elements they need to put in place.

1.  Create a safe context for newcomers who are not yet believers.

Your newcomer is in a place of stepping into a group of people for the very first time.

  • Will they feel safe?
  • Will they feel welcomed?
  • Will they feel freedom to contribute their opinions?
  • Will they be invited back for the next week?
  • Will they feel like it was worth their time to make the investment next week?
  • Will their opinions be respected, even if their theology is not biblical?

Your newcomer needs to feel valued and respected.   Even if they say something that you disagree with, can you disagree with grace instead of being a fountain of correct biblical theology?  Nothing will kill spiritual thirst faster than well meaning Christians who have to correct bad theology.

We made this mistake in an evangelistic small group.  We killed the safety of the evangelistic small group the first night and never recovered.  The Christians had become a verbal fire hydrant of truth, ready to convince someone that they have to follow Jesus.

I’ve seen many people become Christians within 4-6 weeks of joining a group where they finally trust the people in it and realize they can ask their questions without getting a sermon in response.

Is your Sunday School class a safe place where seekers can safely ask their legitimate questions?

2.  Create a culture of evangelistic prayer.

Your existing Sunday school members will need a regular reminder to pray for their friends by name.    Have your class make a prayer list of friends whom you’d like to see following Jesus.

We might mentally agree to the the idea, but to actually make the list and use it may still be a challenge.  I’ve put together my practical model to make a friends prayer list today.

Some would say to put the list on a wall in the classroom, but I prefer to keep that list private and with my journal.

Beside the names on the prayer list, I’ll note specific prayer requests.  The idea is to get beyond the generic “I pray for Jose and Martha” and into more specific areas.

For example:

  • Give me eyes to see their spiritual thirst.
  • Give me opportunity to speak with them.
  • Give them a thirst, help me to see it.
  • Is God inviting me to spend a little more time with them?
  • What is the next “do” with them?  Call?  Coffee? Cookout?
  • Help them move another step closer to you.
  • Reveal yourself to them in undeniable ways.

People are in different places in their spiritual journey.  As I write each name, I ponder what might their next step be?

  • If they are hostile to God, how I can pray that they may start seeking God?
  • If they are seeking God, how can I pray they would talk with me about how I found God?
  • If they are studying the Bible in their search, I’d like to pray that God’s word would speak.

In other words, I try to pray in accordance with the work that God might be doing in their spiritual life already.

As the leader of the Sunday School, it is your job to set the pace and hold your current class members accountable for praying for their friends.

3.  Create an expectation of sharing

I hold the philosophy that evangelism is a process of sowing, cultivating, and reaping.  Some people would define evangelism strictly as an event – the verbal proclamation of the gospel.  Instead, I see evangelism as a process.

When I listen to testimonies, I see the journey of awakening, gathering evidence, reflecting on information learned, doing some reading, and talking out loud with friends about what one is learning of God.  It is a process of sowing, watering, cultivating, tending, weeding, and preparing a fruit for harvest.

You’ll want to encourage your Sunday school members to plant seeds for the gospel by sharing about what they have learned this week. They don’t need to regurgitate the lesson, but reflect on a key point with a friend. This plants seeds for future conversations about faith.

I’ve watched it happen multiple times in my own life.  Let me give you a few examples:

  • We talked about being a better husband.  How do you want to grow as a husband and father this year?
  • We talked abut how God answers prayer.  Share a specific example of how that has come to pass.  Have you seen a possible answered prayer?
  • We talked about raising kids.  I shared how I want to raise my kids to be a follower of Jesus.  What do you want for your kids?

In other words, encourage your Sunday school members to “verbally process” what they are learning with their non-Christian friend.  That assumes they actually have non-Christian friends.  Such conversation topics prepare a context for future gospel centered conversations.

To cultivate this ethic, we use this one question very week.

With whom can I talk with this week about this lesson?

It might take some time

As I shared these three thoughts with the Pastor, it was clear they have a long way to go in adopting these three points.  Their existing Sunday school structure doesn’t foster personal invitations.  They admit that their material is boring, and they recognize that they’ve not created a safe space for non-believers.

How they will change this is something they will need to work out.  They will need to change in-grown patterns that have produced apathy.

These three keys will not produce change overnight, but working towards them will start to create a different culture.

Learn 13 more ways to Cast the Vision for A Great Welcome

Catch the Church Hospitality VisionThese are just a few different ways to reset the vision for a great welcome in your church.

On this MP3, I offer 13 more different ways and places where you can cast that vision in under 5 minutes at various places in the church life.

I want to help you answer how can you develop a passion within the congregation for welcoming first time visitors?

In this 79 minute audio MP3, pastors, hospitality ministry leaders, and volunteers will learn:

  • 4 Reasons Church Visitors Don’t Return and Which Ones You Can Fix
  • Evidence of Poor Church Hospitality Practices
  • Meeting the Expectations of Your Church Visitors
  • The Importance of Initiative in Greeting Church Visitors
  • 14 Ways to Cast a Hospitality Vision
  • How to Pray With Your Church Visitors
  • 7 Next Steps for the Next 30 days.

Format: MP3 audio download (70 MB) Price: 10.00

Order Your Church Greeter DVDs

You’ll be taken to the product order page in the EvangelismCoach.org store

1 Way To Keep a Person from Visiting Your Church

For a holiday break, our church decided to take two weeks off and allow people to travel, visit family, and so on.

So with perfect liberty, we got to visit another church for the first time, giving us fresh insights to to help improve your hospitality this year.

Out of this weekend, we learned one critical church website mistake that kept us from visiting. [Read more…]

5 Possible Desired Outcomes of Door to Door Visitation

Perhaps your church is thinking about a door to door evangelism outreach.

Some churches excel at it.  Other churches want to get better, and still others want to avoid any kind of door to door visitation.

If you are considering a door to door evangelism campaign, the premier question I would ask you is

What is your desired outcome?

Townhouse.  Source: Self

1.  Prayerwalk the community.

You might structure your door to door campaign as an ongoing prayer effort in your community.  You can do this form of prayer ministry without even touching a door.

I have a pastor friend who spent his lunch hour, 5 days a week, walking the streets of his community.

He would simply

  • Pray for the community.
  • Pray for the small businesses.
  • Pray for the government workers.
  • Pray for the people who walk the street for their errands, lifestyle, or other purpose.

Sometimes he would stop in front of house or office and pray a short prayer, or other times, he would keep walking while praying.

This form of door to door outreach isn’t really knocking on doors, but is intentionally walking every street of an area that you have defined and praying for every house, every business, and every person that you see as you walk.

Often, this pastor felt a leading to engage particular people in conversation, invite them to a church event, or even offer to pray for a particular need.

Be sensitive to moments of generosity, moments of grace, and moments when the Holy Spirit might lead you to engage a person in conversation.

2.  Community Exegesis

Another technique of a door to door visitation is to learn about the needs of the community.  Some churches will visit every house and business in a defined area and seek to gather information about the community.

These visits usually take the form of some kind of survey that is not evangelistic in nature, but aimed at gathering a reasonable sample of community data.

However, you might encounter some geniune spiritual thirst while talking with people.

Consider if the Holy Spirit is prompting you to take the conversation further.

3.  Gospel Presentations

Some churches will choose to carry a particular gospel conversation house to house.

That might be:

  • The Four Spiritual Laws
  • The Romans Road
  • Evangelism Explosion
  • Evangecube
  • The Bridge
  • Steps to Peace with God
  • Do versus Done.
  • Or some other gospel presentation that’s been reduced to several points.

This was a common practice in many church growth programs decades ago and may still be appropriate in some places.  I am often asked to teach door to door evangelism with this model, but I do a different take on it, since I don’t think everyone is ready to hear the gospel on my time schedule.

Rather than assume that a person wants to hear the gospel, I look for signs of spiritual interest.  If there are none, I offer to pray for any need they may have and then move on.  This leads me to the next one.

4.  Spiritual Thirst

I believe that noticing spiritual thirst will open good conversational doors.

While there are many gospel presentations (I call them gospel scripts) that one could memorize for door to door evangelism campaigns, I teach an evangelism method can help you at each door you visit during your evangelism campaign.

  • Watch for the working of the Holy Spirit
  • Listen for spiritual thirst
  • Discern your place in their journey
  • Suggest possible next steps towards Jesus.

If part of your purpose is evangelism, consider using the Effective Conversations DVD for door to door training.

5.  Start New Seeker oriented groups

Using a good tool, like The Your Journey Guide (by Gary Rhormayer),  you’ll be able to determine some community needs, plus see who is currently thinking about improving their spiritual life.

I’ve started using this tool myself to determine who has a genuine interest in learning more about God.

Then, with a group of people, we can start a small group time together among neighbors and talk more about who Jesus is and so on.

This is my biggest joy – gathering spiritually open people who want to grow and have expressed a desire to learn more about Jesus.

What is your desired outcome of door to door visitation?

If you were to consider the various outcomes, what might yours be?

That outcome will determine what kind of training you will want to provide, plus suggest the tools you will need.

If part of your purpose is evangelism, consider using the Effective Conversations DVD for door to door training.  It can help you with more effective conversations that presenting a simple script.

Image Credit: Self

How @BrandonACox is Planting a Church Using Social Media

What if you are a brand new church with a near zero marketing budget?  That is how Brandon A Cox started planting Grace Hills Church in Bentonville Arkansas.  Read below as he shares some of what he is doing in social media to get visitors to come to his church.

Using Social Media to Market a Church

This snippet on planting a church using social media comes from Paul Stienbruck’s article at the Ourchurch.Com Blog

Planting a Church Using Social Media

In a recent blog post, Brandon wrote:

    • We started with two couples (including the Cox’s). We spent $0 on traditional advertising but had 35 at our first gathering in July of 2011.
    • We grew to approximately 80 within six months by word-of-mouth and while spending $0 on traditional advertising.
    • We launched with 176 on our first Sunday, mostly gathered through Facebook, word-of-mouth, and search engines.

Sounds like a pretty good start.

So how did they do it?

Brandon included some great tips!

1) Start with a website

“It’s a content hub, of sorts. Sometimes your goal is to move people from social platforms to your site. Sometimes it’s the opposite. And sometimes they simply co-exist for different purposes, but having a hub on the web is essential.”

2) Use Facebook Pages Well

A few key tips:

    • Understand the difference between a profile (which is for people) and a page (which is for brands, organizations, celebrities, etc.).
    • Use your personal Facebook profile to connect with new people in your community, people who get in touch about your plant, etc.
    • Write often. At least daily.
    • Converse. Answer messages, reply to comments, and be helpful to those with questions.

3) Provide Easily Sharable Content

“You are a content-producing master! … We take our messages and break them into bite-sized pieces and share them as a daily devotional on both our website and our Facebook page… All of the content a church produces can be distributed to the volunteer army of people in the pews to equip them to share their faith, their church, and their story.”

You should really read on for their 5 things they are not doing.

- See more at the original post here.

How do you use social media to market your church?

He’s learned some great lessons.

If you are using social media in your church plant, what is a tip that you want to share?  Add it to the comments below.

Then share this post with a tweet or plus one, inviting others to share their tips as well.