I mentioned in a previous post that there were two upcoming webinars related to the “State of the Church Online” survey which was put together by Drew Goodmanson. Last Wednesday I attended the first of the webinars, “The Truth about Church Websites and Effective Online Outreach.” I thought I’d pass on some notes about the webinar for those who may not have been able to participate.
The webinar was pretty good, though there were a lot of stats to take in pretty quickly. Boiling it down, the two main questions the webinar addressed were “Are church website’s effective in outreach?” and “What are church websites effective at, if anything?” Here are some notes from those questions:
Are Church Websites Effective In Outreach?
- 98% of people attending the church that found the church on the web were Christians before they attended the church.
- All of the former non-Christians (the other 2%) said that the website did not play an important role in their faith decision.
- From the data collect, it appears that church websites are not currently effective tools of evangelism.
- The most effective strategy they found was using the website to promote an activity or event that was not “Christian” to attract non-Christians and then using that event to share the Gospel. One example was a church that had weekend outdoor trips (hiking, etc). They weren’t “Christian” events, but church members had a chance to interact with non-church members, create relationships, and share the Gospel.
What Are Church Websites Effective At, If Anything?
- Most people went to a search engine before visiting a site.
- 27% of new Christian attendees found the church through the website.
- 77% of people said the church website was somewhat or very important in deciding to attend the church.
- 83% said the website helps them get involved in the church community.
- 82% visit the site once a week
- 43% said the website helped them in discipleship and deepening their faith.
- 73% use the website when sharing their faith or use the info from the website.
- Website users found it helpful to have obvious links like “I’m New” and “I’m a Church Member” on the homepage which led to sections with information or features that either visitors or members would be most interested in. For example, the “I’m New” link may take a visitor to a page with the church location, service times, and contact info, while the “I’m a Member” link may take the website user to a community section with forums, news, a blog, photos, and more.
The three key things I took away from the webinar were that according to the data, it appears that:
- Church websites are either not currently being utilized well for evangelism or are simply effective at evangelism.
- Church websites very important for helping people find a church as most people used search engines in their search for a church. This shows the need for churches to use search marketing in their church marketing strategy.
- Church websites can be effective in helping church members connect to the church and each other as well as grow spiritually. I would guess that features like we’ve been discussing in the articles about interactive church websites play a large role.
I should note that while these figures are interesting, I am a bit skeptical of the data presented. As far as I understand it, the churches used in the data are churches that voluntarily participated and I’m guessing the surveys were from people who voluntarily filled out the survey. Not only was it only churches that volunteered which would skew the data to begin with, but more than likely churches that don’t have active website participation from their members wouldn’t be very interested in participating. That would skew the data even more.
I also wonder how much information they were able to gather relating to how effective church websites are at evangelism. For example: if a person read info on the site or listened to a sermon and received Christ but didn’t end up at the church for whatever reason (maybe they live in another town), would the surveyor know? Even if the person did end up at the church, if they weren’t one of the ones who volunteered to complete a survey, then the data wouldn’t reflect the influence the website had on that person.
I have no doubt that Drew is genuine about his devotion to the Lord and to the church. I also think the information from the survey is still useful and, quite frankly, I’m not sure how a truly accurate survey could be done. I just think that we need to keep a realistic perspective about the data.
If you didn’t get a chance to participate in the webinar, you can read more about the information presented in the webinar here:
What do you think? Do you attend the webinar? What did you think of the info? Do you think church websites can be effective at evangelism?