Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. These words would have sounded funny to our ears 15 years ago, but now they have become a regular part of our everyday conversation.
I regularly ask my husband if he is aware of a piece of news that I saw on social media - either at a personal level, relating to a friend, or at a global level, relating to the world at large. Family and friends comment about how cute my kids are, and how they love the pictures I post of them to social media. This is the new age of technology.
As a millennial Christian parent, I am hyper-aware of the growing use of technology in how it relates to my life, my marriage, my kids, my friends, and how it impacts my relationships. I realize that what I see online shapes my thoughts and perceptions of the world around me. My virtual world affects how close I feel to a particular person at any given time, how I receive information about my surroundings, and how I interact with brands - locally and globally.
My natural reaction to an unknown person, place, or thing is to google it.
Now, imagine I am driving past your church. I have never heard of or seen your church before, so I google you. (This is especially important if I am looking for a new church.)
Worst case scenario is that I only see your address and phone number under the google contact listing. I flip through the first page of the google search results, and if I don’t see a website for your church or any social media accounts relating to your church, I will not visit your church.
You are outdated.
You could have the coolest interior design, the best preaching, the greatest music, and the most awesome community or small groups the world has ever seen, but if your online presence does not reflect your physical presence, you have lost me. And if you have lost me, chances are you’re losing others who will ignore you for another church they can “find” and “get to know” through their website and social media before they ever step a foot in the building. This is the new age of technology now. This is how we relate to the world.
In this new age of technology, having an outdated or non-existent website/social media account is like me virtually visiting your church and seeing that you have interior design and music selections from the 1970s, no young families, and no community mindset.
Social media is about reaching out to others in the community where they are. It’s missional outreach. Where are your future church members hanging out? Facebook. Twitter. Instagram.
An updated website is about creating a virtual online presence that reflects your physical one. Some churches spend a lot of time crafting their interior design, crafting their music, crafting their sermons. But what does that matter if nobody can find you? Or if they find you, they don’t feel like they know you?
You wouldn’t want people to think your church family is cold, distant, and aloof in real life, so why are you portraying that online?
People value online connection. Community is made and found there. As the pinnacle of community, the church should be at the forefront of the online community, pioneering this new frontier.
My husband is a pastor, and for the past few years, almost every single new visitor has mentioned that they found our church online. If they did hear about us from a friend, they have visited our website first. This is why the online aspect is so important, and it can not be ignored! Visitors are visiting your website and related social media accounts first.
Their first impression of you is not your physical presence, it is your virtual one.
Maybe this information is depressing to you. Maybe you feel like your church is small, and will never get ahead in the virtual realm. Don’t worry! The greatest thing about websites and social media is that they level the playing field, so to speak.
A small to medium sized church can have a bigger and bolder presence online than a large church. Social media is free, and the only skill required to play is effort.
Bethany Loginow has been a pastor’s wife for 7+ years, and she is a mom to four children ages 5 and under. In her spare time, she writes Bible Studies for Women at The Happy Household (www.thehappyhousehold.com), and she runs a website design and social media company for small businesses (www.BethanyLoginow.com).