Simple Tips for Using Email During the COVID-19 Crisis

Simple Tips for Using Email During the COVID-19 Crisis

Even though most communications professionals talk about social media, email is the still the best way to communicate with your congregation, particularly during times of crisis.

Any communications strategy should certainly include social media, but you might not want to rely solely on it.  Email, even though it can be boring, can also your best opportunity to share your message.

5 Reasons Email Works

  • It gives you more space to expand your thoughts, share important information, and tell stories.
  • You can include multiple links.
  • It doesn’t disappear from feeds quite so easily.
  • People can easily save.
  • It’s easy to forward and share.

Even as you look to communicate instantly on social media, don’t forget that email is one of your most useful tools during this time.

On the first Sunday of digital services, one of the largest churches in the country closed the online service with this encouragement:  “If you’re not on our email list, make sure you go to our website and give us your email address…it’s how we can stay in touch and share important updates with your family.”

Here is one of the nation’s largest churches, with more resources and creativity than most, encouraging viewers to sign up for email updates.  They know email is one of the most effective communication methods.

Times of uncertainty are not the best times to experiment with new communications platforms and mediums.  Instead, you want to rely on approaches that are familiar to your congregation.

Email Tools

If you use a Church Management System like Planning Center, Church Community Builder, Realm or one of the many providers, you have the ability to email your congregation. 

Keeping this database accurate and up-to-date is an important responsibility as your email database will be a primary source of communication.

In some cases, you can connect your database to a third party software like Mailchimp, MailerLite or Convert.  Email lists like this give you the ability to create quick sign up forms and will help you understand who is opening your emails.

Here are some email marketing companies that do a great job.

Email Style

When you create your email updates, know that you don’t have to use a ton of graphics, templates, or fancy style. 

Think about the emails that hit your Inbox. You immediately think the ones with a bunch of graphics and formatting are from companies selling something. The messages from a real person with mostly words feel more like a personal message.

Here are some other tips for crafting email messages to your congregation.

  1. Write like a person. When you’re crafting your emails, write like a regular human being, using regular words and phrasing.  You’re not writing a dissertation or a government report…keep it personal.  
  1. Send church emails from a person. Don’t use admin@churchname.com or worse, noreply@churchname.org as your sender. These emails are more likely to go to the spam folder.
  1. Write to a person. Just like you should write like a real person, imagine you’re writing to a real person (not a group of people). 

Great Examples of Email Messaging

Check out the insanely practical ways that churches have announced major changes via email. (What about you? Find and share more ideas online at covid.church)

Permission to Stay Home, Andy Stanley.  This email went out the week before services were cancelled. 

COVID 19 Update, Andy Stanley.  This email announced the move to digital and gave three reasons. https://cfresourcelibrary.s3.amazonaws.com/eBooks/COVID19/Emails/North+Point+COVID19+Update.pdf

No Services This Sunday, Dan Sweaza.  Great email announcing the change and answering questions.

A Pandemic Is A Terrible Thing To Waste, Andy Stanley. Connected people to their livestream, and encouraged people to invite their friends.

Are You Remotely Prepared?, App Sumo. Practical life advice laid out in a way that is helpful, informative, and high value.

A Note To Our Community, Fab Fit Fun. A message of hope that continues their company’s mission statement of bringing “happiness and well-being to your doorstep”.

How To Help…A Note of Encouragement, Light & Airy. With the mission of helping people find & capture the magic in the everyday, they took an empathetic and practical approach to how you can of things you can do to help others and ways to find joy or be productive when you’re at home. Practical value add with a message of hope and help.

Cancelling Easter, Restoration Presbyterian Church.

How to Build an Email List for Your Community

Building an email list can be super simple or complex depending on the amount of emails and the methods you use to go about getting them.

Here are some ideas to start building an email list:

  • Capture people's addresses from inside and outside your church: Add an opt-in form to your website.  Opt-in Monster is a powerful and popular tool for lead generation.
  • Create resources that would be helpful to your community and give them away for free on your website. It could be resources for parents and kids, devotional guides, or community-driven news. Ask for an email address in return.  
  • Ask for people to subscribe to your emails at the end of your message. Give them an email address to “opt-in” to, use a service like text-in-church and give them a phone number, or create an online form for them to fill out after service.

This is a great opportunity to share messages of hope, helpful information, and ways to be like Jesus throughout the week. How are you using email to love others and point them towards Jesus? Share your story in the comments below.

Optimizing Your Website During the COVID-19 Crisis

Optimizing Your Website During the COVID-19 Crisis

As a church, you want to be a source of peace, hope, and stability in uncertain times. As preachers, teachers, and gospel-believing church leaders, we know the power of words. Now more than ever, people in our congregations and communities need a word of encouragement and clarity, without downplaying or dismissing the seriousness and complexity of the situation. 

We simply aren’t experts when it comes to handling a health crisis… no matter how many podcasts, articles, posts, or tweets we’ve been exposed to. 

We are, however, called by God and empowered by His Spirit to lead our churches in love for the glory of Jesus’ name.

Be sure that words and tone of church communication relay a message of unwavering hope and unselfish love. You love your community and the church wants to take necessary precautions to promote the wellbeing of everyone in your zipcode and beyond. 

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 10:23–25

Your home page is the front door to your church. 

Today’s best practices emphasize the power of first impression and ease of finding relevant information on your website. If that’s right under normal circumstances, the importance of that fact just grew exponentially in size. Right now, just about any site you visit has COVID-19 information front and center. 

This should especially be the case for churches—a place for gathering and for seeking help and hope in tough times. Provide a clear message and plan for how you will communicate and meet, along with how people can get in touch with you too.

Update your landing page to share the most important and urgent information. This is an opportunity to be informative and connective.

Review your analytics to see what people are looking for by noticing what pages they’re visiting. Most likely they are searching for service information and resources

Kem Meyer recently shared a great strategy for how to handle your landing page:

  • Create an interim landing page.

None of the “usual” stuff matters right now. Get rid of unnecessary events and content.

  • Answer two questions: 
  1. What is your simple response to COVID? 
  2. How are you retooling your people and your resources to help others?  

Also consider making one of your main CTA’s prayers. Add it to the copy of your page, or as a menu item. Tools like YouVersion’s new Prayer app can help your church pray together, even if you can’t meet together.

Examples of Website Messaging

Check out the insanely practical ways that churches are using their websites. 

Look at how The Action Church has positioned themselves as a source of information: 

  • Include a list of COVID-19 community action resources 
  • Add service information on the landing page. Whether it’s a “watch live” button, or a link to another page detailing service information, you need to make the information that people are looking for insanely easy to find.

Check out Elevations Call To Action: https://elevationchurch.org/

You can expect that you’ll have a lot of new visitors on your website. A church in Virginia noted that of their recent website visitors, 93% of them were brand new. Make sure that you’re prepared to capture their attention and information so you can connect with them.

Just remember: Keep it simple, keep it brief, keep it real, keep it helpful.

Live Streaming for Churches: A Practical Guide

Live Streaming for Churches: A Practical Guide

The church has left the building. We’re no longer able to gather as a family, which makes our connection to each other more difficult and significantly more important.

When it’s not considered safe to gather in person, it’s time to get creative, utilize technology, and be the Church outside of the building in new ways. 

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.
Matthew 5:14 

Live Streaming Best Practices

Live Streaming is one way to broadcast your church services. If your church is starting from scratch with live streaming, we’ve put together the things that you’ll need to know. If you’ve been livestreaming for a while now, you are still probably considering new ways to engage people in the new dynamic of “church at home.”

Although people can’t hug and smile at each other as they would in person, you still want your livestreaming church’s experience to be edifying and engaging.

Live Chat While Live Streaming

Most live streaming services have a chat feature that makes the online service interactive. Have staff or volunteers log into the chat and respond to comments and questions and ask questions to engage the online audience. 

Comments and questions to engage a livestream audience:

  • Let us know where you’re watching from today!
  • What were your biggest takeaways from the sermon?
  • Remember to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and share your notes to encourage someone!

The chat feature is also a wonderful way to make sure that the service is accessible for everyone. For example, one church set up tech support to help senior adults get set up to view the service. Another sent snail mail to every household with instructions on how to watch their service on multiple platforms.

Change Up Service Times.

The same rules don’t apply in the livestreaming world, and your streaming times don’t have to be the same time as your normal church service times. You can choose your livestreaming times based on when your audience is online. Most streaming services have audience insights and for using Facebook live, your page’s Facebook Insights can help you see the most popular online times for your audience.

KEEP IT SIMPLE. Don’t overthink it. Most smartphones can do this.

It’s important to know your congregation and try to anticipate needs and questions. But don’t overthink it—most of this can be done from a smartphone. No matter how simple your setup (even if you’re streaming from an iPhone on your desk), people will appreciate the sharpening and consolation of a sermon and the ability to connect with others.

Getting Started with Live Streaming

Big Principle #1: You don’t have to replicate, you can innovate.

Too many churches are trying to reproduce everything from their in-person gathering online.  It doesn’t work and it’s a mistake to try.

At least for most churches.

If you’re new to services online, don’t try to recreate everything.  An online service can become something new, something fresh.

You can show pre-produced music.  Or you can downplay music and corporate worship.

You can share an informal message from home rather than a polished sermon from a stage.

These things are not better or worse…they are different. 

And it’s okay to be different.

Big Principle #2: Start where you are.

It’s easier than ever to show up online, and you don’t need fancy equipment and expensive tools to go live online.

Some good news in a time of widespread distress: there’s no shortage of options for live streaming your church services and continuing to share the real good news about Jesus.

Examples of Live Streaming Options

Check out the insanely practical tools that churches use to live stream. 

Church Online Platform – This streaming tool is a free resource from Life.Church that includes features for real-time chat, live prayer, chat moderation, and more.

Facebook Live – Streaming through Facebook Live is a simple option and a great place to start if you’re new to livestreaming. While it does have its drawbacks, such as the difficulty embedding a replay onto your website and the pressure to pay, it's a simple tool that most everyone is already using.

The best way to get started is easy and free, right? These are not only free to and easy for you to use, they’re easy for people to watch as well. 

Before you throw up a camera and start live streaming everything that you would normally do in a worship service, there is one major topic to consider first: music. 

Copyrighted Material

Christian Copyright Solutions provides many churches with the licenses they need each week. Did you know that each of the following may require a license by law?

  • Playing pre-recorded music 
  • Performing songs live in person
  • Projecting or printing song lyrics
  • Live Streaming any / all of the above  

A lot of churches assume that if they have one of these licenses, everything is covered. This isn't the case. For example, many churches use CCLI to cover their in-person worship music. CCLI also has a live streaming add-on license that you’ll need to check into if you plan on going live, since that’s what we’re talking about here. 

Here’s a quick breakdown of what they are along with links to more detailed information and action steps (in their own words, since this is all specific legal language).

Streaming Licenses

The WORSHIPcast Streaming License covers more than 25 million secular and Christian songs across all genres from ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC, including holiday and patriotic music. 

The CCLI Streaming License covers more than 300,000 Christian songs from the CCLI catalog. If your plans are only to stream Christian music, and your church already has a CCL Copyright License, the CCLI streaming license is a good fit.  If your church or ministry plans on streaming any music outside the Christian genre, you will need WORSHIPcast. 

If you plan on streaming just your worship services, the CCLI streaming license has you covered. For streaming worship services, special events, and guest performances, your church will need the WORSHIPcast license. 

Don’t Forget the Lyrics

Need to show lyrics? This feature is only available with the CCLI license and only for the titles in the CCLI catalog. There is no blanket lyric streaming license for secular music available currently. Neither license allows you to stream sound recordings. 

A Quiz For Your Specific Needs

CCS has put together a super-helpful quiz and also free guide to help you make any decisions for your church.

Royalty-Free Music Libraries

Additionally and for a limited time, One License is offering a free one month license to help ease the transition period for churches dealing with COVID-19. 

Examples of Worship and Music

Check out the insanely practical ways that churches have adjusted their worship for streaming. 

  • Skip the licenses and create a Spotify playlist that people can play in their own homes before and after the preaching or teaching.
  • Skip the fancy and go for a more casual and stripped-down “living room” feel for musical worship. It may also help people feel less self conscious about singing along from home.
  • Don’t feel like you have to pretend that things aren’t “business as usual.” Pastors can and maybe should address viewers at home. It may even be a good idea to rework the setting for worship services. Whether more traditional and formal or modern with more stage production, ask yourself if it’s helpful or hurtful to continue a “stage” presence.
  • Some churches are incorporating at least one more kid-friendly song in the worship set. Remember that whole families will be worshipping together, maybe for the first time!
  • Hunter Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL incorporated more scripture readings, prompting parents to read their Bibles aloud. What a beautiful example for their kids!
  • Bobby Smith, a modern worship pastor in the Atlanta area promoted a #HouseChurchJF hashtag, “collected the different posts of people worshipping all around, and compiled them to build a sense of togetherness in the midst of dispersion. Pretty cool to see so many people dig in.”

Ideas and Best Practices

  • Use a tool like Typeform to ask a question or two before people actually enter your live stream.  It’s a great way to gather information and serve better.
  • Don’t forget about the people who show up early.  Have something playing in the background before the service officially starts.
  • Make “eye contact” with viewers by looking at the camera to build a sense of connection. 
  • Avoid creative but unnatural camera angles that remind viewers that they are spectators to something happening somewhere else.
The Summer Outreach Planning Guide (and 5 Ideas)

The Summer Outreach Planning Guide (and 5 Ideas)

As a church leader, the summer can feel like an overwhelming onslaught from a powerful enemy. 

During the spring, you see the summer months coming, and a tinge of anxiety strikes your chest. 

You see what’s about to happen. 

Your attendance declines. 

Giving decreases. 

Your ability to reach your community feels thwarted. 

In these moments, you’ll feel tempted to hide for cover, close your doors, and bury your head in the sand until school starts again. 

Be encouraged!

I know the summer can be a challenging time. But I’m here to tell you it can also be a fantastic opportunity to reach your community for Christ!

Below, I’m going to share a handful of outreach events your church can use. 

Before I share those details, I think it’s essential to talk about two things first:

  1. 5 common mistakes to avoid when launching an outreach event
  2. How to plan your next outreach

Let’s get started!

5 common mistakes to avoid when launching an outreach event

Launching a new outreach event is exciting. 

The thought of connecting with new people, sharing the gospel, and making disciples is awesome. 

In your excitement, it’s easy to make mistakes in the rush of launching something new. 

Before you dive headfirst into your next outreach event, take a moment to learn these common mistakes. This will help you to avoid stepping on any potential landmines that can blow up your progress. 

1 – Moving too fast

I just alluded to this first mistake: 

Getting caught up in the moment and launching something too soon is a common mistake. 

In other words, it takes time, planning, volunteers, and money to make most outreach events work. 

What is more, if you try to launch something in the next few weeks or months, you may not be able to secure the support you need  or have enough time to promote your event to the community. 

When planning your next outreach event, be sure to forecast the amount of time you’ll need to make it a success, which leads me to the next point. 

2 – Misguided vision

Pop quiz:

What's the goal of an outreach event? 

Time’s up! 

Have your answer?

It’s to reach or serve your community. 

When thinking through how to reach your community, keep in mind that your goal is to connect with non-Christians or people who are unaffiliated with a local church. Your outreach event needs to be about just that: outreach—not (only) about doing something fun for your church family. 

Launching an outreach event unanchored to a clear purpose of serving your community will naturally lead your plans to become simply an event for your church. 

Before getting started, clearly identify your goals, think through who you want to reach, and make sure every staff member and volunteer is in the know. 

3 – Lack of promotion

Who are you trying to reach in your community? 

How will they find out about your outreach event? 

If you’re not thinking about these two questions, then stop what you’re doing. 

If you don’t have the time or resources to promote your event, then don’t plan on anyone showing up other than your church members. 

To reach your community, you have to do more than build something and expect people to come. You have to make a plan and provide people with a compelling reason to show up. 

4 – Expecting one person to do everything

Don’t expect one person to do everything that needs to be done. 

Running an outreach event is no joke. 

It takes a village of people to run a successful event. 

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have a project manager. What I’m saying is that you can’t expect for only one person to accomplish all of the tasks that need to be completed. 

Whomever you assign to spearhead your outreach event, encourage him or her to build a team of volunteers, be open to ideas and input, and empower everyone to pitch in a helping hand. 

5 – Mismanaging your outreach event

It’s easy to be inspired by an idea. 

But implementing an idea through to completion is a different ballgame. 

When (not if) you run out of steam, there’s a good chance your outreach event will derail.

Why? 

If your only motivation is inspiration, and you don’t make a plan and work your plan, then your outreach event will go nowhere fast. Excitement can only take you so far. You need to clearly define what needs to be done to get ready and to get your community excited. 

With these common mistakes out of the way, let’s take a look at how you can plan your next outreach. 

A checklist for planning your next outreach

I know you’re pumped about launching a new outreach. 

Before you get caught up in a whirlwind of excitement, stop for just a moment. 

You’ll need to take a moment to think through the nitty-gritty details. I know this stuff isn’t exciting. But like I just mentioned, it’s a huge mistake to overlook planning, organizing, and managing any outreach event. 

We’ve covered project management for churches elsewhere. So I don’t want to get into the weeds here. However, I’d like to share with you a few quick practical tips for launching a new outreach. 

Here’s a 7-step checklist you can use for launching any outreach:

  1. Figure out who you’re going to reach
  2. Pick a tactic
  3. Assign a leader
  4. Make a plan
  5. Build a team
  6. Launch
  7. Follow-up

Let’s take a look!

1 – Figure out who you’re going to reach

Who are you trying to reach in your community? 

Are you interested in making inroads to local schools? 

Is there an at-risk community who you feel burdened to reach? 

Are you trying to think of ways to reach families in your area? 

I know talking about this can feel awkward. But you have to know who you’re trying to reach so that you can identify the best ways to serve this group of people—to build relationships, share the gospel, and invite them to your worship service. 

Here’s why:

The outreach tactic you choose will influence who you want to reach, which leads us to the next point. 

2 – Pick a tactic

From the list of events below or elsewhere, decide what you’re going to do. 

I know this sounds obvious. 

But many church leaders (maybe you?) struggle with merely pulling the trigger. 

If you wait too long to make a decision, then you’ll miss out on reaching your community. 

As a friendly reminder, keep in mind whom you’re trying to reach. ? 

3 – Assign a leader

Who’s going to run point on your outreach event? 

Someone on your staff? Or do you need to tap on the shoulder of a volunteer? 

Whoever it is, just be sure it’s not your senior pastor or teaching pastor. I’m not saying your senior leadership is above managing an outreach event. 

Far from it. 

But at Church Fuel, we believe senior leaders must focus on the things only they can do, such as preaching and teaching and casting a vision. 

4 – Make a plan

Know what you’re going to do? 

Great. 

Now it’s time to get to work. 

To make a plan, there are a number of essential things you need to nail down:

  • When is your event?
  • Where is your outreach taking place? 
  • What’s your budget?
  • How many volunteers will need to help? 
  • What tasks need to be completed?
  • How are you going to promote your event? 
  • Do you need to print anything? 

These questions will help you to start thinking about what you need to do. 

Now, as I pointed out above, everything that needs to be doesn’t fall under the responsibility of one person.

5 – Build a team

Alright, so you know who you’re going to reach, what you’re going to do, and have a pretty good idea of what needs to be done. Now it’s time to build your team. 

This process doesn’t necessarily have to start at this step. 

This is something you can (and should) do while you’re thinking through who you want to reach and what you need to do to reach them. 

As you build your team, think through everyone you’ll need to not only launch an event—but to reach the people you want to reach. 

6 – Launch

Launch your outreach event with a bang!

For anything you do for your community, you have one opportunity to do it well. 

Don’t hold anything back. 

Give it everything you’ve got to make it pop. 

7 – Follow-up

This is an essential step and it’s easy to overlook:

Follow up with your community and your church. 

Here’s how: 

Be ready to follow up with new guests by collecting information (if relevant). Also, consider planning a follow-up event to lead them one step closer to getting involved with your church. From launching a relevant sermon series to promoting your children’s ministry, there are several ideas you can pursue. 

For your church, share stories, images, and videos from your outreach event. Let your church know how everyone together—donating and volunteering—made the outreach possible. 

5 summer outreach events

The outreach tactic you pursue will depend on three things:

  1. Your community
  2. Who you’re seeking
  3. Your resources (time, volunteers, and finances)

Below I’m going to share several ideas you can consider. 

As you pray through your next outreach, run through each idea with this lens. 

Let’s dig in!

#1 – Do something sporty

Sports can reach one of two groups:

  1. Adults
  2. Children

Depending on whom you want to reach, there are several different approaches you can take. 

For adults, you can either gather a team of players to join a preexisting league (e.g., softball) or start a sports ministry. For this latter option, you can tap an expert in an area (e.g., archery, MMA, aerobics) and offer classes.

For children, you can pursue similar opportunities. For example, you can recruit a team of children (both affiliated and non-affiliated) from your church community to join a preexisting league. What is more, you can also consider launching a sports ministry where you offer basketball, soccer, or baseball lessons. 

In both of these scenarios, don’t stop at offering sports training alone. Be sure to provide a great experience, offer refreshments, and find ways you can collect contact information and invite people to visit your church’s worship service, small group, or Bible study. 

#2 – Watch a movie

There is one thing most people in the United States have in common: 

They LOVE watching movies. 

During the summer months, watching movies is one of the most popular activities. So, why not tap into this crowd-pleasing activity and reach people in your community? Besides, your church probably has a sweet audio and visual setup or at least access to a legit location to host an outdoor movie. 

Now, if you go for hosting an outdoor movie, be prepared to have a backup plan. It’s impossible to forecast the weather, and you want to be able to pivot on the spot (go inside somewhere) or at least postpone the movie for another day. 

Regardless if you host an outdoor or indoor movie, go all out to create a movie theater experience. 

Get a popcorn machine. 

Buy boxes of candy. 

Provide drinks. 

To manage this, provide attendees with a ticket for one popcorn and/or candy. As for drinks, you can keep them flowing. If there’s plenty of snacks leftover, then offer people seconds and thirds.

#3 – Host a book club

People read books. 

I know that reading, in general, is on a downward trajectory. But depending on whom you want to reach, starting or joining a book club is a great way to connect with your community. 

You can start a book club for men, women, or both. 

You can start a book club to read through a “spiritual” book focused on an introduction to Christianity like The Reason for God by Timothy Keller or Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. Or you can pick a famous book people in your community are interested in reading. If you go this latter route, read ahead and find ways you can naturally weave into your conversations discussions about Jesus—but don’t force this if it doesn’t fit. 

#4 – Provide a date night

Parents need to go on dates. 

Just because people get married and have kids doesn’t mean they don’t want to or shouldn’t go out. 

But here’s the deal:

It costs a lot of money to go out on dates, and the cost of childcare can make it cost-prohibitive for many couples. Give parents a night out by providing free childcare, and ensuring their children have a great experience too. 

Here’s another thought:

Provide a gift card to a local restaurant or elsewhere for couples. This can be a total surprise for parents. But a tremendous blessing. 

#5 – Serve schools and families

During the summer, your church has two BIG opportunities to serve the schools and families.

First, is there a school in your community you can serve? Is there a school in need of restoration? 

Identify the local schools in your area, and reach out to them to see how you can help them during the summer months. From cleaning to painting classrooms to providing general repairs, unearth the problems they have, and then reach out to your congregation to see how you can help. 

In this scenario, see if a member of your church can spearhead the work. He or she can work with the school to nail down what needs to be done, then he or she can put together a list of what you need to purchase, and then you can get to work raising the money and recruiting volunteers. 

Second, you can purchase school supplies for families. 

Let’s be honest:

It’s expensive for families to get ready for an upcoming school year. 

From purchasing new clothes to buying the supplies they need, the expenses add up. 

As a church, you can provide real, tangible support by purchasing the school supplies families need. 

Here’s what you’ll need to do:

  • Coordinate with local schools
  • Get a list of supplies
  • Set a goal for how much you want to purchase
  • Raise financial support
  • Go to the store!

After you collect school supplies, you can donate these to families in your church, or you can work with the local schools or shelters in your area to coordinate delivery. 

Over to you

The summer doesn’t have to be a time of retreat. 

It can be an opportunity for you to make forward progress with the gospel. 

For additional ideas, check out 7 Summer Outreach Ideas

 
5 Ways to Immediately Improve Your Church Website

5 Ways to Immediately Improve Your Church Website

Your church website shouldn’t be static.

It's not something you can “set and forget.” 

Rather, it should adapt to updated technology and how people interact with websites, which is continually shifting.

This doesn’t mean you have to revamp your website every month. 

Far from it. 

But there is a precedent for keeping an eye on how well your website is performing. 

Is your website leading people to visit your church? 

Is it helping visitors to engage with your church community? 

To help you assess whether your church website is serving a purpose and not collecting dust, here are five things your site should accomplish—today. 

#1 – Clearly display your purpose

Your website must be (really) clear. 

I’m not talking about the quality of your images. 

Instead, what I have in mind is the communication of the ONE step you want your website visitors to take. 

Do you want them to visit your worship service? 

Do you want them to listen to the most recent sermon? 

Do you want to promote what ministries you have available? 

Ultimately, what ONE action do you want visitors to take? 

Now, let me ask you these follow-up questions:

Is this ONE thing made crystal clear on your website? Can your website visitors easily find this ONE thing? Or is it buried in one of your website’s internal pages, toward the bottom of your homepage, or crowded out by 10 additional calls to action? 

If you don’t make your ONE purpose clear on your site, then you’re making a big mistake. 

Here’s why:

Based on a recent study, when someone first visits your church’s website, he or she will only spend 5.59 seconds reading your homepage’s written content.

What’s the moral of the story? 

If the ONE step you want people to take isn’t clearly displayed, then the majority of your website visitors will not take that step. 

Action: Ask five people (friends, colleagues, volunteers, staff) to look at the homepage of your website for six seconds and answer this question: After looking at our website, what would you say is the ONE thing we ask you to do? 

#2 – Improve your website load time

Your website has to be fast. 

Like, really fast. 

According to the same study I mentioned above, nearly half (47%) of the people visiting your website expect it to load in two seconds or less. If it takes your church's website longer than this to load, then your website visitors will bounce. 

Here’s the deal:

You can have a slick website. It can have killer images, crazy good copy, and stunning design. But if it takes longer than two seconds to load, then your website will be more like an online trampoline. 

Action: Go to PageSpeed Insights by Google to see how long it takes for your church’s website to load. This is a free service, and Google will provide you with some tips on how to improve your website’s speed. 

#3 – Help people find your church

Your website doesn’t have to be complicated. 

In fact, most people visiting your website are looking for practical information. 

Based on a report by GreyMatter, here’s what visitors are looking for: 

  • What time are your services?
  • What activities or ministries do you offer?
  • Where are you located? 
  • Can I listen to or watch a sermon? 

Make this information easily accessible. 

Fight the temptation to bury this deep within your website. 

You want your website visitors to quickly figure out where you’re located and what time they need to be there. 

Regarding your sermons, uploading your most recent content is a bonus. 

Here’s why:

Based on a survey conducted by the Pew Research Forum, 83% of respondents said that the “quality” of the sermon influenced whether they chose to visit a church.

When you first read this, you may be tempted to compare  yourself to the local megachurch pastor. 

DON’T. 

The definition of “quality” differs from person to person. 

Be faithful. 

Preach the Bible. 

Upload your sermons. 

Call it a day. 

Action: Make practical and useful information available and easy to find on your church’s website. 

#4 – Make your church website is easy to find online

“Churches near me.”

“Easter service near me.”

“Churches in Atlanta.”

“Baptist church Charleston West Virginia.”

These are common phrases people use to find a church in their town. 

If you want these potential first-time guests to visit your worship service, then it’s best for your church’s website to appear on the first page of results. 

Here’s why:

Per MOZ, a leader in search engine optimization, the majority of organic clicks (71.33%) take place on the first page of search results. 

Know what else?

Results that rank in the 1–5 range will receive 67.6% of EVERY click. 

To get the attention of these would-be visitors, you’ll need to brush up on what’s called “search engine optimization” (SEO). I understand this sounds technical. But you don’t need to be a software engineer or have a considerable budget to boost your church’s ranking in search results. 

There are practical things you can do to improve your church’s SEO. 

Action: Read 3–5 articles on church SEO, and see if you or someone in your church can help improve your website’s SEO. If you hit a dead-end, consider hiring an SEO expert to boost your church’s rank.

#5 – Show people what your church is all about

There’s one last way you can make it easier for people to visit your church:

Let them see what your church is like. 

To do this, it’s essential to include photos of your church on your website. 

From pictures of your church staff to candid shots taken during worship services or church events, include as many images as you can. 

Adding photos of your church to your website will help people see what your church is like. It will help them get a better feel for your style of worship, what to wear, and what they should expect. 

Action: Get someone to take high-quality, professional photographs of your staff and candid shots of services or events. This person can be on your staff, a church member, a volunteer, or someone you hire. Upload these images at relevant locations on your church’s website. 

Improve your church’s website

There you have it. 

The five things you can do to improve your church’s website today: 

1. Clearly display your purpose

2. Improve your website load time

3. Help people find your church

4. Make your church website easy to find online

5. Show people what your church is all about

After reading this post, take 10–15 minutes to walk through the action steps above. These short exercises will place you well on your way to making your church’s website a more effective tool for communicating with your church members and community. 

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6 Ways Pastors Can Equip Millennials to Evangelize

6 Ways Pastors Can Equip Millennials to Evangelize

Evangelism is scary for most Christians.

Despite the fear evangelism creates within Christians, most believe sharing their faith is essential—especially millennial Christians. A recent report by the Barna Group illuminated this reality about millennials:

  • 96% believe part of their faith means being a witness about Jesus
  • 94% said the best thing that could ever happen to someone is for them to come to know Jesus
  • 86% expressed confidence in responding to questions about their faith

Even though Christian millennials possess an urgency for evangelism, like every other generation, there is a gap between intention and reality. In other words, many Christian millennials don’t evangelize.

Talking about generational differences, the challenges millennials face are different. They experience unique internal and external objections. So, to equip Christian millennials to evangelize, the strategy you use must reflect these differences.

In this post, I’m going to share six ways you can equip millennials to have more faith conversations. Use these tips to create a custom evangelism training plan for your church.

#1 – Cultivate an evangelistic culture

You cannot turn people—especially millennials—into evangelists.

There’s not a program you can provide, a book you can share, or a message you can preach that’ll turn people into evangelists overnight.

For most people in your church, a desire to evangelize will slowly develop over time.

The best way to grow this desire among millennials is to create an evangelistic culture. But let me warn you: Building an evangelistic church culture isn’t easy, and it takes (a lot of) time.

What is an evangelistic church culture?

In short, evangelistic church culture is when the members of your church share the gospel because it’s just what your church does. Like attending a worship service, joining a small group, or bringing food to a potluck, evangelism is what your church pulls together to do.

But my church culture doesn’t support an evangelistic lifestyle. Now what?

If this is what you’re thinking, hang tight.

All hope isn’t lost.

Thankfully, your church culture is something you can influence.

Below are several ingredients you can knead into the life of your church to compel your millennial church members to share the gospel.

#2 – Treat evangelism like a spiritual discipline

As a church leader, you’re called to make disciples.

To make disciples who live and love like Jesus, you have to teach them Christianity 101: reading the Bible, prayer, biblical community, and baptism and communion, to name a few.

Why state the obvious?

Simple.

To help millennials embrace an evangelistic lifestyle, show them that evangelism is a spiritual discipline similar to praying and reading the Bible. Per Jesus, sharing the gospel is one way we can live like him (Matt 28:18–20).

Let’s be honest:

Sharing the gospel isn’t always fun.

Often, the people we talk to about Jesus will not be open to hearing what we have to say. What is more, many millennials fight the fear of “offending” someone, which makes sharing the gospel … tricky.

But here’s the deal:

The gospel will be offensive to some people (1 Cor 1:18). But we don’t have to share it offensively. There’s a big difference between the two.

Arguably the best way to share the gospel with someone else is in a relationship, which leads us to the next point.

#3 – Build bridges with people

Millennials highly value relationships.

Most millennials grew up with divorced parents, and they’ve experienced the pros and cons of developing friendships in light of social media and unfettered access to the Internet.

What is more, based on the survey by Barna, many millennials (40%) feel judged if someone disagrees with them.

Here’s what you need to know:

Millennials will be more open to hearing about the gospel if they know who you are.

Practically speaking, to equip Christian millennials to share their faith, encourage them to build bridges. In general, evangelism is most effective when the person you’re sharing the gospel with believes you have a genuine interest in their well-being.

Sure, there will be times when you’ll feel prompted to share the gospel with a stranger or acquaintance directly. But equipping millennials in your church to start faith conversations is enormous.

Encourage them to ask questions such as:

“Do you believe in a god or God?”

“What do you think about religion?”

“Have you read the Bible before? What did you think?”

These simple questions only scratch the surface. But asking questions is a great way to encourage millennials to engage in conversations about faith.

Equip the millennials in your church to ask good questions and listen well. If they don’t know how to answer a question, let them know that’s okay. They can tell their friends, “I don’t know. But let me look into it for you.”

Here’s another practical idea:

Encourage millennials to share how Christianity is relevant to their everyday life.

From sharing how God is leading them to ways he’s influencing their life every day (forgiveness, reconciliation, overcoming sin), transparency goes a long way in deepening relationships, and it also helps non-Christians see how Jesus is real and relevant today.

#4 – Start a mercy ministry

The gospel is good news.

To share the gospel, we have to use words.

This doesn’t mean doing “good” deeds isn’t necessary.

Far from it.

Acts of mercy are an essential part of living and loving like Jesus. But we don’t want to confuse the gospel (good news) with the fruit of the gospel (love, kindness, feeding the poor, etc.).

With that being said, here’s one way you can lead millennials to build relationships with people in their community:

Start a mercy ministry.

Think about it.

When you help people in your community, you will naturally build relationships with people, which will place you in a better position to have faith conversations.

#5 – Model evangelism

As a church leader, you have to model evangelism.

As you know, most of what you share will be caught—not taught.

If you want to lead millennials to have more faith conversations, you and your leadership team will need to hit the pause button and take a long look in the mirror.

Do you regularly have faith conversations?

Do you want your church members to model your evangelistic behavior?

If you answered “no” to either one of these questions, then you’ll need to prayerfully consider whether you can serve as a better model. Remember, it’s hard to ask a millennial to do something that you don’t do yourself. They’ll sniff out your hypocrisy a mile away.

#6 – Share evangelistic stories

Sharing stories of God’s work goes a long way toward inspiring millennials to evangelize.

Here’s why:

  • Stories are relatable
  • Stories help people “see” God’s work
  • Stories are contagious
  • Stories are memorable
  • Stories are motivational
  • Stories appeal to everyone

Don’t stop reading this if you don’t have an “epic” story to share.

Millennials aren’t interested in hearing something fit for the big screen. Instead, they want to listen to stories they can easily relate to in their everyday lives. As they see God at work in your church, they’ll become more inclined to share these experiences with their family and friends.

Not sure what to share?

Think about the answers to these questions:

  • Did someone recently commit his or her life to Jesus?
  • Is someone getting baptized?
  • Have church members recently built new relationships?
  • Can anyone share how they overcame the challenges of sharing the gospel?

As you share stories, you’ll inspire people to evangelize.

Know what else?

You’ll reinforce an evangelistic culture in your church. As a church, you will celebrate what you cultivate.

Over to you

Remember, evangelism training isn’t as easy as downloading software, recommending a book, or running a one-time program. It takes time to cultivate an evangelistic culture in your church, and for Christian millennials to grow in their ability and comfort in having faith conversations.