Here’s an easy and cheap growth tip:
Put some people in your church, online that is!
I’ve been looking at a lot of UU websites lately and have seen many medium and large congregations with sites that don’t show people.
If you want to grow, make sure your website speaks to the people you are seeking to bring into your community. And that means seeing a bit of themselves in your community.
Want Young Adults? Make sure there are some Young Adults in photos on your site. Want a thriving RE program? Show one….
Your website should not tell who you are, it should show who you are. And that means people!
Here is an exercise to try. Print out your website, at least the main pages. Then cross out everything except for the graphics, photos, video and the headers (the big bold text). What does this content say about your congregation?
Here is an example. Take my home congregation. And I single them out because I’ve talked to them about adding people to the website and they will be doing so in the not too distant future.
As of today (11/12/09) their website has these images on its main pages:
Front page: THE BUILDING
Worship Page: NO IMAGES
Lifespan Faith Development: THE OTHER BUILDING
Get Involved Page: AN EMPTY SANCTUARY
News & Events: A WINDOW
About Us: The Video Amy & I made. Better!
Newcomers Page: AGAIN, THE EMPTY SANCTUARY
Newcomers > Our Faith & History: THE PULPIT
Newcomers > Video: EUREKA! THREE VIDEOS with HUMANS!!
Do you hear what I’m saying? People go church shopping first online. They see the website as a virtual representation of your congregation. Has my beloved home congregation closed its doors to the public only opening for building tours?
Look at the site. No people except a couple links to the “You’re a Uni-What?” video.
Again, I’m singling out my home congregation because I’ve pointed this out and we can use the before and after for educational purposes. I’m also going to be helping them make a welcome video which will also help.
So if we look at the site now, what does the website say? To me it says the congregation is all about the building…
Is your church empty online?
What does your website communicate to visitors?
Here are some photos of the congregation from 2002, accessed via the internet archive. Note both pictures were previously on the website and were taken by me. Also, approximately the same membership now vs. then.
A few examples of people on and “off” UU websites.
- UUA.org has people on every page.
- UU Church of Berkeley has a welcome video with ministers and parishioners on the front page, smiling staff photos and other people images peppered throughout. Nice!
- Our Nantucket, MA congregation has added a facebook fan widget instantly adding people to their site — all its fans!
- UPDATE: And take a look at the amazing website of Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, VA. There site has had a major revision since I last saw it. Thanks to June for pointing this out.
You can instantly add people to your site by adding the Voices of a Liberal Faith video to your front page. If you have a Facebook fan page, and these days you should, place that on the front page too… Both are free and can be added immediately.
If you read this post at a later date and find that my home congregation has people in it (online), please comment below and I will update this post.