Churches Improve Online Presence while Courting Congregants

( [email protected] ) Sep 30, 2004 01:51 PM EDT

Only five years ago, churches admonished its congregants of the internet’s many evils – of its stigma for providing X-rated materials. Since that time, churches have performed an about-face, not only driving churchgoers to their own websites, but also using their virtual webspaces to court potential members. And indeed, many interested churchgoers have logged online searching for the ultimate church experience.

Churches have improved their web presences for largely two purposes. The first purpose is to supplement the spiritual resources available to its parishioners. With increasingly available web site tools and scripts, churches are easily offering prayer boards, discussion forums, and even church-sponsored email accounts.

One popular feature for churches is to archive audio, video, and text sermons on their website. Reverend Jerome Wade, pastor of Destiny Center Church in Rio Ranch, NM, says that “A pastor knows that people forget about 95 percent of what they heard on a Sunday by Wednesday.” By using the church website to store sermons, it is hoped that congregants will review the messages that they heard, taking it with greater sincerity the second time around.

Wade adds, “Technology is one of our toys we use to share Christ and reach people… We expect it to be a key element for us.”

The second main purpose of a church website is to provide information about the church to potential attendees. Rather than attending a church where meeting an unfamiliar congregation and pastor may seem imposing, many people are turning online to scout a church before deciding whether to attend or call for more information. Destiny Center reports that they receive many more hits through its website than it receives calls from interested attendees.

The internet has been a great marketing tool since its inception, and it is not difficult to see benefits of having an effective online presence. “I believe that in the church of the future, (people) are going to check you out before they ever walk in the door,” says Rev. Eddie Howard, Pastor of Christian Fellowship Church, “particularly this younger generation.”

No matter how much of an online presence the church is able to build, most churches still rely fundamentally on its brick-and-mortar Sunday services. “The online stuff just adds value to Sunday services or any gatherings,” says Jeff Love, another Pastor in the New Mexico area.