This is part 4 of a 6 part series on developing better church websites. Catch up here. • Post 1: Gospel Driven ideas • Post 2: Welcoming your Visitors: Location & Times • Post 3: Welcoming your Visitors: What the Church Does
What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe — as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. (1 Corinthians 3:5–8)
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Colossians 4:5–6)
Sowing your website
So in this post, I want to talk about seeds, and greeting cards.
Have you ever thought of your site as a gospel opportunity? As our culture becomes more individualised and isolated, many are turning to the internet for answers. Mondovo, a digital marketing company, states that people globally type the question “What is the Meaning of Life?” into Google 110,000 times every month. A spike appears during the week of Easter of people searching for the question “Who is Jesus?”.
We don’t know who’s going to visit our websites. We may have a good idea, knowing our community, and the people who step into our church. We may even make persona’s out of them and focus out time and energy reaching similar people on our websites. But still, we don’t really know who will look at our front door. We don’t know if they’re hostile to the gospel, and just needs to find out something about a ministry or the like. We don’t know if they’re interested because of a conversation they had with a friend. We don’t know if they’re just at the cusp of understanding and believing. We don’t know if they’re already believers looking for a new church. All we can do is make the most of every opportunity, and ask God through prayer to make his gospel grow.
And so all we can do is Sow and water our website, and let God do the growth.
When I first thought I would write this section, I thought I would be talking about creeds, summaries, statements of faith, and church visions. And although I think they still have their place, we should be reminded of the way in which our websites can be used for Gospel opportunities.
In 2016, the Sydney Anglican Synod (think of it as a council of all Sydney Anglican churches) passed the following resolution:
1/16 Salvation in the name of Jesus Christ
‘That this Synod, noting with gratitude to God the great blessing of salvation in the name of Jesus Christ and
• that there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved;
• that the gospel is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes; and
• that God calls all people to repent and believe,
acknowledges that it is our responsibility to give all people the opportunity to hear the call of God,
and calls on all Anglican organisations, schools and churches to ensure the home page of their website has a link to a simple presentation of the Gospel.’
When I got the email from my minister hinting that we need to update our website because of this resolution, I changed the site. This was because we hadn’t put anywhere on the site any explanation on what we believe, or any explanation of the Gospel.
But I felt that there was a problem. Although I followed the resolution, I felt that the point of the resolution was much more poignant. Steve Kryger from Communicate Jesus points out that your church website “is a great place to explain the good news, and invite people to respond.” But to just place a tract on the front page was just lazy. Were there other ways we can sow God’s word on our website?
Our church runs every year a stall at one of our local festivals. The Granny Smith festival has thousands of attendees descend on Eastwood to celebrate Mary Ann Smith. She was the lady who lived in the Eastwood-Ryde area, and created what we know as Granny Smith Apples. The festival is your local business festival & family carnival, and some local churches have stalls.
Each Church Stall hands out balloons, does face painting and the like, while chatting to parents & families. Sometimes, the conversation leads to “So, what are you all on about? Why do you meet?” It’s there when in only a few seconds you have to explain what your church is all about, usually only in one or two sentences.
One of the first things we did for this section was to explain who we are in as few sentences as possible. Every word needed meaning. What we came up with was the following:
We’re an evangelical Anglican church in Eastwood, NSW.
Our focus is on knowing Jesus through the Bible.
But this isn’t sufficient on their own. I think there are a bunch of different types and pages to show and explain what you believe.
Our family likes giving greeting cards out for Christmas and Birthdays. Some of us like pretty cards, while others like finding the card that will pull the biggest laugh when opened. And each year, we like to step up our card giving. Some of us spend hours looking at cards at different newsagents, finding the perfect card for the occasion. Others are more crafty, and so spend days on constructing the perfect card. Because of it, I keep some of these cards, as they have put thought and effort finding that perfect card.
I think telling others about Jesus is a bit like that. You can be spending hours looking for the perfect invitation to meet Jesus, while sometimes a personal touch is needed. Both take time, and together make a perfect invitation.
Finding the right invitation
One invitation is to state the facts. In some Churches, it maybe easy to explain what you believe through a Statement of Faith or a Creed. These are excellent summaries of the whole Christian faith. We often say this at church as a good reminder for Christians, and a chance for non-believers to see it all and ask questions.
One thing to keep in mind is that creeds a dense documents, filled with Christian jargon so they are usually hard for non-believers to understand.
Some churches I know use this. Soma Church, which was a small church plant in Macquarie Park, used a ‘Formal’ Doctrinal Statement (which they explain). They also provide a which they use to explain what they believe. They warn you about all the jargon! They also have an easy to read format for those who want to get a vibe on what they believe but may not be familiar with that type of language.
Another easy way is to use a Gospel Tract that are freely available online. Gospel Tracts summaries of the Gospel, but written in a way to entice the listener to investigate more.
There are many different Gospel Tracts available written for different audiences and worldviews in mind. However, they may not be personable for churches.
Here in Sydney, we mostly use “Two Ways to Live”, provided by Matthias Media. This is a popular tract which has been used and reused for the last 30 or 40 years by different members & preachers here in Sydney.
Some churches I’ve seen have used a new Tract called “Three, Two, One: The story of God, the World, and You” written by the evangelist Glenn Scrivener. He’s produced well done explainer videos that maybe worth linking to on your site. I like it, but I can see that it could be a bit too nerdy for some audiences.
Finally, if you run a Christianity Introduction course at your church, and having it’s own section on your site is another great way to invitee enquirers to find out more about Jesus. For the churches I’ve been to, it’s common to run a course such as Alpha, or Christianity Explored, as a way to explain the entirety of the christian faith. Again, Communicate Jesus has a list of these courses that are available.
We used to put a bit of effort into our Christianity Introduction page, where we would put a form and the like on our front page. We put a trailer (most of these courses have an video trailer) and a short blurb, as well as a sign up form.
Developing your own Invitation
But it’s often better to make your own invitation if you want to reach out to your local community. Having at least one of the following ways that your church has explained the good news can be helpful and make your church stand out.
The most common way I’ve seen this recently is through a About Jesus page. In Australia, people know more about Jesus than they do about their local church. But although they believe he’s a great historical figure, they may not see him as important to their life. What this page does is show how important Jesus is in history. But it gives an appetising way to find out why he is so important for Christians, and for their life as well.
Australian church “City on a Hill” has as one of their first things you see on their site is a blurb about Jesus. It then links to a page which explains why he was so important in only a few paragraphs. Below that there is an invitation to find out more through one of their services, at an Christianity Introduction course, or to begin the process of Baptism.
Others aren’t as long. St Paul’s Castle Hill just have a small blurb, followed by an link to their Christianity Introduction course.
Some have also chosen a Sermon from their archives as their invitation to find out more. For some people that might be the thing that tips them over the edge. Sometimes, Picking one sermon to give a taste of the Gospel may be the thing God can use to bring someone to faith. We’ll get into developing your Sermon archive in a later post.
There are also other churches which have written their own Tract! Church by the Bridge uses some examples of Australians giving self sacrificially for their families, and how that links to the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross. It ends with a way for you to contact them to ask a question, or to come along to a Sunday service, or a Christianity Introduction course.
One thing I was going to put in was the Welcome Video. This is a video that welcomes enquirers to the site, and to extend a welcome to one of their services. St Paul’s Castle Hill used to have that video. The senior minister would talk about how he was welcomed into this church, once as a kid, and now as the senior minister. He then invites you to be welcomed by this congregation. This was one of the best Welcome Video’s I’ve seen. But I think it’s fallen out of favour these days as they take a long time to get right. There might be better ways to welcome them in.
What does our invitation look like?
I really wanted to do a video. I think that this can be a great way of showing what you’re church can look like as well as giving a brief understanding on what to expect. But we didn’t get the time to do one.
What was decided was to write our own About Jesus page. Our senior minister wrote a few paragraphs summarising the Christian Gospel using Jesus’ name & title, and pointing it to the first sermon given by Peter. It transitions to 3 different invitations to find out more about Jesus; through a course, a bible study or though our sermons.
Finally, to follow the resolution, we did put in a link to Two Ways to Live.
So, In Summary
- Recognise that your church website can be sowed ready for any audience. Take the most of this opportunity.
- Describe your church in a sentence. How would you describe your church in 20 seconds to a stranger?
- Spend time looking for the right invitation for enquirers to investigate more about Jesus,
- Through an Easy method, by placing your Statement of Faith, Gospel Tract or Christianity Course, and/or
- through a harder but more personal method, though writing your own About Jesus page, a sermon that explains the importance of Jesus, or through writing your own tract.
- Although thrown out of favour, using video for this section might be a way to break things up on your site.
In Part 5, we’ll look at pieces of content that should be on your Church site, but I haven’t got around to talking about. I’ll talk about contact forms, Leadership & Staff, and Support.