5 Things You Can Do to Make Your Church Website More Welcoming to Visitors

Thanks to all the technology at our fingertips, people are more likely to check out a business or organization’s website before they ever step foot in their physical location. This means potential visitors are scoping out your church website and using the information they find there to decide whether or not they want to visit. Your website’s most important job is to welcome newcomers. Below are 5 simple things you can do to make your website a more welcoming place to potential church guests.

1. Define Your Audience

Is your website overloaded with information? You may be thinking “Of course! Why wouldn’t it be?” Well, too much information is overwhelming to newcomers. All that info is great for your existing church members, but they’re not your focus. The goal of any good website is to connect with its target audience. For churches, that’s people who aren’t already a member. Maybe they’ve never been to church or they’re looking for a new church. Either way, you need to make sure you’re speaking to them and giving them only the essentials. Which leads us to our next point.

2. Give ‘Em the “Inside Scoop”

Your regular churchgoers know that the “Ascent” ministry is for college-aged young lightstock_435447_full_kate.jpgadults or that “Move” refers to your spiritual formation or Sunday school. Newcomers won’t have any idea what those words mean, though. These terms are common knowledge for insiders, but they can alienate your potential visitors. This doesn’t mean you can’t get creative with the names of your ministries. It simply means those names shouldn’t come without an explanation of what they mean. Giving this information freely to potential visitors will make them feel more confident when they decide to attend your services.

3. Have a “New to [Insert Your Church Name Here}” Section

If you haven’t already done so, create a page on your website that’s dedicated entirely to visitors. This page should offer up specific information about worship times and locations, directions, parking, kids’ ministry, where they can find guest information, and contact details. Don’t shy away from other details either. Guests will appreciate knowing whether they should show up in their Sunday best or if jeans are acceptable. The more specific you can be here, the better, but remember: don’t overload this page with information. Potential guests don’t need to know about your sports leagues or fundraisers. They need to know where to go, how to get there, and what time they should be there. For more ideas about what to include on your visitor page, click here.

4. Include Visual Content

Visual content drives engagement. In fact, nearly 90% of the information transmitted to the brain is visual. People don’t just want to visit your site; they want to experience it. Adding high-resolution, quality images or videos to your website will give potential guests a feel for who you are. Whenever possible, avoid stock photos. Show your visitors actual photos of the inside of your church, your members, and worship services. Not only will this help them feel more comfortable when they arrive, but it also makes your website more enjoyable to peruse. Without those images and videos, your church website tells visitors you’re, well, boring.

5. Make Your Site Mobile Friendly

Did you know nearly 60% of the traffic to your website comes from a smartphone or lightstock_173620_full_katetablet? Even if a potential guest already checked your website out from their desktop at home, they’ll probably pull your webpage up on their phone to get your address or directions as they’re headed out the door. Your site needs to be mobile friendly so it’s easy for them to find the information they need quickly. If they have to click a bunch of links or zoom in or out, they may become discouraged and give up entirely.

When was the last time you took a look at your website? Have you ever checked to see how it looks on your smartphone? Do yourself a favor and go take a peek. Then have someone else take a look, too. Find areas where you can improve and incorporate the above tips to make your website more visitor friendly. A clean, organized website shows your guests you care about making them feel welcome. As a result, they’ll be more likely to actually come visit your church.

If you’re worried your church website is making a bad first impression, our mystery guest program can help. We send people who don’t attend church regularly into churches as mystery guests, and we have them start with the website. In addition to finding out how your website is performing with potential guests, you’ll also learn a lot of other valuable information about how welcome visitors feel when they attend your services.

3 Ways to Honor the Whole Family this Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is one of the most highly attended holidays, coming in third behind Easter and Christmas. Why is it such a popular holiday to attend church? One probable reason lightstock_340788_full_kateis many moms tell their family all they want for Mother’s Day is to have everyone attend worship together. Another is it’s a simple, yet meaningful way to honor mom. Although most churches do a great job of honoring moms on this holiday, they fail to make the whole family feel welcome. Fortunately, you can honor moms while also honoring the rest of their family.

Be Inclusive

No matter how you choose to incorporate Mother’s Day into your Sunday service, remember to honor moms in all stages of life. Some women are trying, and perhaps struggling, to have a child. New moms may be struggling with all the changes and adjustments that occur as a new parent, some of which can be especially hard such as post-partum depression. Others may have lost a child. There are stepmothers and adoptive mothers. Others have young children or teenagers, while some are empty nesters. Some women have healthy children while others have a child with an illness or disability. By honoring all types of mothers, you’re honoring each family and the many different blessings and challenges they face.

Honor the Kids

Mother’s Day is a day to celebrate mothers, but keep in mind that not everyone in attendance is a mother. You may also have adult children who have lost their mother or lightstock_325774_full_katehave a strained relationship with her. Some of your attendees may now be their mother’s primary caregiver due to an illness or disability. Adopted children may long to know their biological mother.

Be just as inclusive when talking about children as you are when talking about mothers. Acknowledge their struggles and hardships. Honor their losses and grief. Being a mother isn’t always easy, and neither is being a child. These relationships are complicated, so recognize that. In doing so, you’ll make everyone in attendance feel welcomed and accepted in your congregation, which may make them feel more comfortable returning for worship on non-holidays.

Share & Connect

Honoring mothers and their children is important, but you also need to find ways to connect with them on a personal level. There are several ways to share and connect:

Increase the number of people serving on Mother’s Day. This is a highly attended service and we read often in our Mystery Guest Reports how guests are ignored because the church is so much busier than they are accustomed to being. lightstock_169732_medium_kate

Prepare your volunteers. Coach your first impression teams in the parking lot, at the door, and anywhere else to be cheerful yet sensitive to all your guests on this day.

Include personal testimonies. Consider asking in advance if a few mothers (or their children) would like to share their experiences and journey in faith with everyone. This could be done by video or live.

Give them something to come to. Plan a future family-friendly event they can participate in, like a spring festival or fair. The mothers in the congregation can pull the “mom card” one more time and ask the family to come.

Don’t forget to follow up with mothers and their families in the days and weeks to come. Ensure they know they’re welcome back and suggest programs or events that might interest them. For example, new parents may be interested in bringing their children to Sunday school, so they can enjoy fellowship with other parents.

Honor moms this Mother’s Day, but don’t forget to honor all moms—and their kids—by providing them support and making them feel welcome and accepted year-round. If you aren’t sure how effective the services you provide mothers and their families are, consider our mystery guest program. Through this program, we send mystery guests into your church to provide unbiased feedback on a broad spectrum of services, from parking lot volunteers to Sunday school. You can then use this feedback to improve and better serve your community. Contact us today to get started.

The Do’s & Don’ts of Church Announcements

Church announcements are an essential component for building and sustaining your church community, but there’s a right and wrong way to do them. Over the years, we’ve seen multiple complaints about lengthy or irrelevant announcements in our mystery guest reports. One guest reported,

“The church spent eight minutes passing the mic around for announcements and another eight minutes giving ‘family updates’ (joys and concerns). I felt like I was at a social club rather than worship.”

Making a few short announcements from the pulpit is a great way to communicate the same message to everyone at once. If they’re too long, however, you risk putting people to sleep or seeing them leave early. To ensure your church announcements are informative, yet concise, here are some do’s and don’ts to keep in mind.

Do:

  • Be brief. The congregation is there for the main attraction—The Gospel—not to lightstock_378331_full_katelisten to 10+ minutes of announcements. Keep them as brief as possible, otherwise they’re merely a frustrating distraction.
  • Focus on the essentials. Don’t try to cram a bunch of details into your church announcements—no one will remember them. Instead, focus on what matters most: the event, time, and place. Those are the most important things people need to know.
  • Have engaging volunteers share announcements. These volunteers should not only want to share these announcements, but they should be excited to do so. Their excitement will show, making the process—and the information—more enjoyable and memorable for everyone.
  • Invite people to join. Instead of asking people to participate in an event, invite them. Rather than saying something like, “We need volunteers to help serve dinner to the homeless,” say “Our church is blessed each month to serve meals to the homeless and you are invited to take part.” Be sure to also include where they need to go for more information.

Don’t:

  • Forget your guests. As you saw with the mystery guest quote earlier, church announcements can turn an okay experience into a negative one. Your announcements should always include a welcome to guests, as well as information on how they can get connected.
  • Avoid insider language. You want to be brief, but don’t be so brief that only a few people know what you’re talking about. Make sure you include essential information, like a contact person or where to find out more, like on the church website. Don’t assume your guests—or even regularly attending members—will know where to find that information.
  • Stick to a singular platform. One size does not fit all. Every generation has their Website Viewing on Smartphonepreferred communication style, so you’ll need more than one platform to make your announcements. In addition to your in-church announcements, you may also want to consider videos or rotating slides playing before and after service, bulletin, emails, and even social media.
  • Leave out the good stuff. We’re deluged with bad news and people are constantly asking us for something, all of which is exhausting. Remember to include some good news in your church announcements that everyone can celebrate.

“The worship pastor gave announcements about the connection card, how to share joys/concerns, and other announcements that were on a monitor at the front of the church. I really liked that the announcements were done first. This prevented anything from being done once the service officially started that would have interrupted the worship mindset.”

Your church announcements don’t have to be long and boring, and your members and guests will probably thank you for making them shorter and more exciting.

Is your congregation snoozing through the announcements or are guests left scratching their heads in confusion? Our mystery guest program can help you find out. We send unchurched mystery guests or mystery worshippers into churches of all denominations all over the country to provide unbiased feedback. Armed with this feedback, you’ll know exactly which areas your church excels in and which areas need work.

6 Ways to Boost Post-Easter Engagement

You probably already know Easter is the highest-attended church service of the year. Hopefully you’ve prepared your church and website to ensure guests can easily find you this Easter and that they feel welcome when they attend your services. If you don’t have a proper follow-up plan in place, however, attendance will drop again in the weeks that follow. To keep guests and non-regulars coming back for more, create and implement a follow-up strategy using the suggestions below.

Boost Your Post-Easter Engagement

1. Draw them Back In

Don’t let your Easter sermon stand alone. Consider making it into an intriguing series that will pique the interest of your guests. At some point during the service or church announcements, tell the congregation what they can expect to hear during next week’s sermon. Choose topics that address the real-life struggles your attendees and visitors may be facing, such as divorce or addiction. The more relevant the topic, the more likely guests are to return.

2. Provide Details for Future Serviceslightstock_80197_full_kate

Many churches offer additional worship times for their Easter services to accommodate the larger number of attendees. This can lead to some confusion for guests who want to return but did not attend a standard worship time. Make sure your guests know exactly what time worship will be held in the coming weeks, along with any other information they may need, like where to park or Sunday school times.

3. List How to Connect

List all your contact information in several locations, such as on a guest information card and in any bulletins or brochures you hand out. Be sure to include any relevant phone numbers and email addresses, plus how to sign up for an e-newsletter and where they can find you on Facebook and other social media platforms. The more options you give them to connect, the more likely they are to do so.

4. Get their Contact Information

lightstock_115845_full_kateDespite giving guests numerous ways to connect with you, they may not want to “make the first move”, so it’s important to get their information in return. Consider leaving guest cards in every seat or put them in the bulletin, asking for their name, email, address, and phone number along with their preferred contact method. To encourage guests to fill these out, offer them an incentive such as a gift or a small donation made in their name to a particular charity.

5. Make the Connection

Getting contact information from your guests is only half the battle. You have to actually use that information if you want to make the connection and turn those visitors into regular attendees. Put a plan in place to follow-up with every guest who left their information. Connect within 24 to 48 hours of receiving their information. Ask how they liked the Easter services and ensure they know the time and place for next Sunday. If they provided an address, consider mailing them additional information on your church and the various ways they can get involved.

6. Stay Connected

lightstock_319320_full_kateDon’t forget about your guests after you make that first connection! You don’t want to bombard them with so many emails that they unsubscribe, but you also don’t want to give up after the first try. You never know when that one touch will happen at just the right time and drive them to come back to your church. So add guests to your monthly newsletter, send them invitations to upcoming events, and keep them informed of special services coming up. For more ideas on following up with your church visitors go here.

Every church sees a bump in attendance on Easter Sunday, but due to poor planning and lack of follow-up, attendance drops again in the weeks that follow. Don’t squander your opportunity to connect with newcomers and turn them into regular attendees. Our mystery guest program has shown just how effective those follow-ups are:


“I received a follow-up card a few days after my visit, from the pastor. It was a nice handwritten note thanking us for visiting and inviting us to come again.”


If you’d like to find out just how well you’re connecting with visitors, our mystery guest program can provide you with the unbiased feedback you’re looking for. These mystery guests will come into your church and evaluate everything from the parking lot to the greeters to any follow-up they receive after leaving their information. They report back on how well your church performs in each of these areas so you can make adjustments to better connect with future visitors.

How to Make Your Church Easier to Find this Easter

Easter is the highest-attended church service each year and Google searches for “church” spike in the weeks leading up to the holiday. People that don’t attend regularly but try to show up on holidays and special occasions will go looking for a church nearby. Your church could be exactly what they need on Easter and beyond, but will they be able to find you online? Moreover, will they find the information they need to feel comfortable coming to your church? If not, consider the steps below to make your church easy to find and attractive to newcomers this Easter.

Clean Up Your Website

startup-photosFor many potential visitors, the website is their first impression of your church. Is yours cluttered and lacking a clear site structure or is information easy to find and placed in logical locations? Proper site structure makes it easy for visitors to navigate your site and find the information they need, but it’s also crucial to showing up in Google search results in the first place. A well-organized site improves search engine optimization (SEO) and ensures Google understands who you are and what you do. You’re more likely to show up in searches with a clean and organized website, and visitors are more likely to peruse it for information. Make sure all the information they need, particularly for Easter services and other special occasions, is easy to find.

Evaluate Your Name

What’s in a name? According to Matt Morrison, if your online name doesn’t include the word “church”, Google may not recognize you as one. So, if your name is “St. John’s”, you might not show up if someone searches “churches near me”. Adding “church” to the end of your name is a simple way to make sure you show up in those search results. While you’re at it, update your Google business account to ensure the right name, location, and hours are listed, along with contact information and your web address. The information should not only be correct, but it should also reflect the information on your “contact” page on your website. (You do have a “contact” page, right?)

Provide Clear Directions

choose-the-right-direction-1536336_1920Helping potential Easter attendees find you online is only half the battle; you have to help them find your physical location as well. Provide clear directions on your website so newcomers can easily find their way. Better yet, embed a map on your contact page. Visitors can simply click on the map and get directions to your location from wherever they are. Plus, an embedded map can further improve your search rankings. A mystery guest at one church said:

“Prior to my visit, I checked the church’s website. I also used Google maps to determine their location. It was easy to find, both on Google and Google maps.” – church visitor

Promote Your Church

lightstock_231553_full_kateYou can restructure your website, update your name, and add a map to your contact page, but if you aren’t advertising, you still may not be easy to find this Easter. If you’ve long-held the belief that marketing is “bad”, it’s time to change your perspective. Instead of viewing marketing as “good” or “bad”, view it as the tool it is, and learn to use it. Post regularly on Facebook and your other social media pages, and try promoted posts, particularly those pertaining to Easter. Doing so will get the post—and your church—in front of more people, and they may feel inspired to spend their holiday with you.

You’re bound to see some new faces at your Easter services, but the easier you are to find online, the more new faces you’ll see. If you’re curious how and where your website is showing up in search results and whether or not it’s attracting visitors, we can help. Our mystery guest program sends thousands of guests to churches across the country to evaluate everything from their websites to parking to the atmosphere, and more. You can use this unbiased feedback to make changes that will make guests feel welcome, accepted and want to return.

3 Reasons to Add a Parking Ministry to Your First Impressions Ministry

Unless you have a church with multiple parking lots, people don’t typically need help finding a place to park when they’re arriving for Sunday worship. As a result, most churches often lack a parking lot ministry and fail to recognize the impact and influence it can have on both their regularly attending members and guests. This ministry is the first opportunity to connect with people and the first chance to make someone feel truly welcomed as soon as they drive onto the property. When done right, this ministry welcomes guests and helps set the tone for the rest of the worship experience. If your church is lacking a parking lot ministry, here are a few reasons you should start one.

3 Reasons to Form a Parking Lot Ministry

1. They are the First Point of Contact for Guests & Members Alike

The volunteers in your parking lot are the first point of contact for guests and members alike and are the first to recognize and greet newcomers. Visiting a church for the first lightstock_424776_full_katetime can be uncomfortable. Having someone welcome you from the moment you drive onto the campus, help direct you to an appropriate parking place, and guide you towards the correct entrance or who to speak with inside to get more information about the church helps eliminate that initial anxiousness a guest might feel on their first visit.

2. Keep Traffic Moving Smoothly Before & After Services

Imagine sitting in church and suddenly seeing groups of people get up and leave before the service has ended. A church we worked with in Virginia said it took an average of 8 minutes to exit their lot. As a result, people left services early to avoid the traffic lines. That’s not a great first impression for visitors. You’ll always have people who arrive late and leave early, but you can reduce that number with a parking lot ministry. Another way a parking volunteer can play an important role is by managing and directing traffic safely and effectively, so everyone gets in and out of the parking lot in a timely manner.

3. Farewell Impressions

Farewell Impressions matter just as much as someone’s first impressions. Parking volunteers have a unique opportunity to send people off in the same cheerful manner they were welcomed with. Recognizing people with a smile and a wave or saying, “Have a great week!” leaves your guests feeling valued and they’ll be more likely to recall their experience and your church fondly. lightstock_246174_full_kate

Do you have a parking lot ministry? If not, start one. Gather a team of your most cheerful volunteers and provide them with the necessary tools to ensure every guest and member feels welcome and safe. For larger churches, this may include golf carts, traffic cones, and signs. For smaller churches, they may simply need some reflective vests. The most important tool of all, however, is that a church sees this work as a ministry and understands the impact it can have. You never know who you’ll encounter on a given Sunday and what brings them to your church. A parking lot ministry gives you the chance to make someone feel welcome before they even enter your church and let them know they matter before they head back out into the world.

 

At Faith Perceptions, we provide churches unbiased feedback by sending mystery guests to their services. Churches with a good parking lot ministry often receive the most positive feedback because this ministry makes guests feel welcome before they even set foot inside. If you’d like to find out how your church’s parking lot ministry is impacting people, our mystery guest program can help.

3 Things Your Church Greeters are Doing Wrong & How to Improve Your Greeters’ Ministry

“The person who handed me the bulletin actually did not greet me, which I thought was very odd. The children’s minister came over to me and introduced herself, which was very welcoming, but she was the only one who interacted with me before the service. I thought that the greeter should have at least said hello to me and welcomed me.” – Faith Perceptions Mystery Guest

Have you ever walked into a store and the salespeople don’t even acknowledge you? They don’t ask what brings you in or if they can help you find anything. Instead, they completely ignore you. It makes you feel uncomfortable, particularly if you do need assistance.

Now think about how newcomers feel when they’re brushed off or completely ignored by some of the first people they meet at your church. It’s not a stretch to say they probably feel just as uncomfortable and unwelcome. They may even be reluctant to come back.

3 Things Your Church Greeters are Doing Wrong

1. They Don’t Make Eye Contact
At some point we’ve all been “greeted” at church by someone who never even looks at us. Instead, they stand at the door, eyes toward the floor, mumble a “good morning”, and hand out bulletins without so much as a smile. This doesn’t make regular attendees or guests feel welcome.

2. Avoid Conversation or Answering Questions
Some church greeters make eye contact and even say hello, but they do their best to Greeter1avoid answering questions or getting drawn into conversations. Perhaps they assume someone else will help any newcomers, so they don’t have to. Regardless, it’s not a good first impression. People who don’t want to engage in conversation or offer any assistance don’t have a knack for hospitality and shouldn’t be serving on your greeters’ ministry.

3. Engage in Conversation with their Friends
This is probably the worst mistake church greeters make: getting caught up in conversations with their friends and just casually handing out bulletins to guests. It makes newcomers feel as though their attendance isn’t worth anyone’s time and attention. Plus, it gives off the impression that your church is cliquey, which is off-putting to newcomers who feel left out.

3 Ways to Improve Your Greeters’ Ministry

1. Recruit the Right People
Start by getting the right people to serve on your greeters’ ministry. These people should be naturally friendly, outgoing, and excited to share this ministry with guests. Creating a ministry description (like you would for a job) outlining the mission and vision will help volunteers understand what’s expected while weeding out members who aren’t a good fit for the team.

2. Have a Team Rotation
Even some of the friendliest, outgoing people will resort to some of the mistakes listed above when they’re feeling tired and burnt out. Having a rotating team of church greeters can prevent feelings of burnout while also providing appropriate coverage and backups when needed. This ensures you’ve always got a team of greeters who are ready and excited to welcome guests, answer their questions, and point them in the right direction at each and every service.

3. Meet Regularly
Regular greeters’ meetings are also a good idea to keep everyone informed, discuss Greeter2schedules, and explore areas for improvement. They allow you to provide ongoing training of best practices for engaging in conversations with both members and guests. They can discuss the good and bad at their meetings to see if there’s anything they can implement and improve upon. These meetings also give your volunteers time to get to know each other and build strong relationships, which only further serves the overall mission of making everyone feel welcome.

Too many churches overlook the importance of their greeters’ ministry and this first impression. If you want to make people feel welcome, you need a team of church greeters at every service ready to answer questions and offer up important information with a friendly “hello” and a smile. These volunteers will transform your ministry from cold and distant to warm and welcoming, encouraging guests to return.

 

How is your greeters’ ministry doing? Are your church greeters friendly and inviting or are they making one (or more!) of the mistakes listed above? If you’d like an unbiased perspective on your greeters’ ministry, our mystery guest program can help. Each week we send hundreds of mystery guests into churches across the country and they report back on their experiences with everything from the parking lot to the church greeters to the services themselves. Contact us for more information or to get started.

5 Ways Your Church Can Stay Connected to Guests After They Visit

Last week, we revealed data on the research we’ve been doing over the past year concerning how churches are following-up with their visitors.  Here’s what we found:

“More than 75% of the time churches aren’t following up
with visitors that leave their contact information.”

Churches are missing out on following up with first-time (or second, or third-time) guests in a big way and the message being sent is that people who want to get plugged into a church aren’t important. In business (yes, I know churches aren’t businesses, but hear me out) they understand that if a customer expresses interest in something and doesn’t get a response, they likely aren’t going to do business with that company. The same is true for our churches. If a guest hears your call from the pulpit encouraging them to leave their contact information and then you don’t contact them, they take that to mean you aren’t interested, and they likely won’t come back again.

We are approaching one of the highest attended services of the year (Christmas) and this year, Christmas day happens to fall on a Sunday. Many churches will be holding services on those days and seeing a lot of first-time guests. Now is the right time to prepare for that so you aren’t wasting your opportunity. Things you need to remember:

  1. Don’t Wait. Remember that if someone leaves you their information that means they WANT to hear from you. Follow up quickly (within 24-36 hours).
  1. Make contact in a unique and personal way. People are desensitized to emails and form letters. They are impersonal and don’t leave a lasting impression. Consider a brief front-porch visit with a small gift in tow, such as fresh baked bread. If a visit isn’t something you want to do, consider a hand-written note. Either of those set you apart from the barrage of communication they receive each week.
  1. Don’t quit. Invite them back the following Sunday. Another contact on Thursday or Friday is a great way to remind them about the church and that you are hoping to see them again. Too often, churches send out a one-time letter thanking a guest for coming and then the outreach ends. While we certainly don’t want to bombard people with communications, we also don’t want to stop after one try. You never know when that one touch is going to be what drives a person to consider coming back to the church.
  1. Stay connected. Add guests to your monthly e-note or newsletter, invite them to upcoming events, seeker-friendly message series, and special services such as Easter and Christmas. You never know which time could make the difference in getting them to return.
  1. Do it. Make guest follow-up part of your weekly tasks. The only bad follow-up is not following up at all.

Remember the part in the book of Matthew where Jesus tells His disciples to go and make disciples of all nations? That’s exactly what this is. Following up with guests is a ministry outreach arm of the church. You’ve succeeded in getting them to come and to leave their contact information. Here is where ministry can start to happen, but it won’t happen if you aren’t intentional about doing it.

About Faith Perceptions
Faith Perceptions is a market research firm that provides churches and faith-based organizations with research about their target market. We send mystery guests into churches across the country each week to report back to us on what their experiences are like. We use this information to help churches improve the way they welcome and connect with guests. Faith Perceptions has been evaluating the first-time guest experience since 2008.