I consulted with the Church Hospitality Team leader of a large urban church that is developing a parking lot ministry greeter team.
Over the decades, this church has acquired neighboring parcels of land in the city to expand their campus.
The end result: no contiguous land for one parking lot.
Instead, there are small disconnected parking lots scattered around the campus of multiple buildings.
The question we explored is how to help first time church visitors navigate the complexity of multiple parking lots when certain lots are full.
Together, we discovered two useful ideas for the Church Website:
Have a first time church visitors webpage
This particular church did not have the home page or any section designed for the first time visitor in mind.
Every church needs this type of page.
You might call that page:
- New Here?
- Making Your First Visit?
- What to expect?
First Time church visitors seem to have a particular set of questions in mind visiting your website before coming to your church
- Are these people like me?
- Who is the pastor?
- Where is the church?
- What are the service times?
- What are the child care arrangements?
This is anecdotal. I have no statistics or hard links to back it up.
But I have talked with lots of church visitors. I have been the first time visitor to many churches.
I know that these are recurring questions.
A web page geared toward answering these questions should be present.
Liberally use photos of your church’s social life and good quality in-life photos (not church directory portraits) of your staff.
Show lots of maps.
Suggestion: Have a Web Page for Church Parking
This particular church has a unique challenge with its disjointed parking lots.
One tip we discussed was a specialized page about parking.
This page should be graphic rich.
Have a sub-page with
- How to park,
- Photos of the parking lots and surroundings,
- Downloadable or printable maps of where they are in relation to the main building.
One could even make a video showing the walking journey from each parking lot to the main building.
The video can be on the website.
Coaching Corner: Review Your Church Website
Do a review of your church’s website as if you were a first time visitor.
- Does the home page answer the questions listed above?
Do a Internet search for churches in your neighborhood.
- Think as if you were searching for a church to attend this weekend.
- Pick one that you have not visited
- Pay attention to the questions you are asking of the website (where is this church, what time are services, etc)
- Could you find answers to your questions?
- How easy was it to find what you are looking for?
- Can you answer the same question on your church’s website?
Talk with your church web designer to fix what you have discovered.
This is a good article. One further thing I would suggest for the first time visitors page is to include links to in-depth profiles of folks from your church (not religious testimonies per se, but life stories). Doing something like this will go a long way toward helping people answer the question, “Are these people like me?”
That’s a great idea! I’m writing a new ebook on small church websites and I’ll be sure to put this idea in there.
Good ideas for ways to use the church web site to help first time visitors. I’ve recommended many of the same things in our Christian Web Trends and Church Marketing Online blogs.
Regarding the church with the disconnected parking lots… as much as a web geek as I am I’d say the more important solutions are off-line…
1) Make sure there is good signage around the campus.
2) Station lots of volunteers where the parking lots meet the buildings and have them say to everyone, “Good morning! Welcome to XYZ church. Can I help you find where you’re going?”
No matter how good your church website is, it can’t compare to friendly, helpful people. 🙂
In His Service,
Church Website Builder
Most visitors to US Churches will visit a Church’s website before they ever visit the Church. That means your Church needs a website.
But a bad website can be worse than no website.
If the announcements are out of date or the graphics are unattractive it can be more of a hindrance than a help.
Your website is the first glimpse visitors get of your Church. You want to make sure you make a good impression.
Here a few ideas to keep in mind about what people are looking for when they come to your website:
* Contact Info: This should be easy to find. Make sure people can easily find your phone number, email address and church address.
* Service Times: Somewhere prominent on your website should be a list of all the weekly services and their times
* Calendar: This is the best way for people to see what is coming up that they might want to attend
* Sermons: Posting audio copies of your sermons online will bring both visitors and regular attenders back to your website again and again and will get your message out beyond the walls of your Church
* eNewsletter: Visitors to your website can become visitors to your Church. A simple way to keep visitors on the hook is to provide them an opportunity to sign up for your Church’s eNewsletter. This will increase attendance at your events from both visitors and members.
My church is too small to worry about parking, but it never occured to me to add information to website specifically targeting new visitors. It seems so obvious now! I will be implementing something of a ‘coaching corner’ immediately. Thanks!
Checkin in: were you able to add a section for newcomers to your church website?