Tel: 905–690–4709 dk@tfwm.com - Darryl Kirkland, Publisher

Engaging the Community

When I was growing up, my father was the 1960s equivalent of a “techie”. Our house was filled with gadgets: short wave receivers; stereo amplifiers; black and white television sets; reel to reel recorders; and transistor radios.
Video communication was simple then. We had three TV channels to choose from, and one of them didn’t come in very well. The whole world of television was relatively new and held everyone’s fascination.

Since those days video distribution has moved from terrestrial broadcasting – to cable – to analog satellite – to digital satellite – and ultimately to the Internet. In those days, there was no practical way to record television shows. However, in recent years we have progressed from VHS – to DVD – to hard drives.

Today, editing is done by computer, not by splicing tape; video cameras are a few hundred dollars; consumers now have over 200 channels delivered by cable or satellite; and the internet is quickly become the media of choice.
In last month’s column I stated that the web is the most powerful interactive tool we have ever had. The world is having a conversation and the church needs to be part of it! Yet most churches and ministries underutilize this cost-effective and pervasive opportunity.

Where else can you find over 70% over your community everyday? Where else can 70% of the community find you? The biggest question of all is why should they want to find you?

I’ve come up with a few ideas you may want to consider to begin the conversation.

Optimize Your Site
To properly utilize SEO (Search Engine Optimization) you must organize the content and keywords on your website to allow the search engines to properly index the content of your site. This process involves both providing the right keywords, as well as removing barriers to proper indexing. A common problem occurs by building a website completely in flash which limits the ability of the search engines to access and index the content.

Provide Resources

People use the web to look for information. The more information you provide the more valuable you become to the user. Here’s a radical thought – what if your home page provided the basic resources of web search, weather, news, maps, etc. With the click of a button people could make your site their home page and you instantly become integrated into their daily lives.

Capture E-mail Addresses
You should always try to build a relationship with the people who visit your site. One of the ways to do this is by simply asking their name. Offer a free downloadable resource in exchange for their e-mail address. Provide a free CD or DVD in exchange for their mailing address. Then begin to communicate regularly (weekly is typical) with your growing on-line family.

Update Regularly
The death of a website is dormancy. If there is nothing new, there is no reason for people to come. Systematize the weekly or daily update of the website. Find ways to provide new information and resources on a regular basis. Remember 70% of your neighbors may be watching.

Be Interactive
People love surveys. They love to vote. They love to know how they compare with others. Use this to create interactivity with your visitors. Short simple surveys that change frequently are easy to create and are quite effective. Find ways for people to post comments to your site (However, you may want to screen them first). Ask questions – seek opinions – value responses.

Start a Blog
Pastors tend to have strong opinions. Expressing those opinions on a daily blog can engage both the congregation and the community. Mix up the topics. Deal with current issues. Get people engaged in the conversation.

Drive Traffic
All of the suggestions above are worthless if you don’t drive traffic to your site. Use every opportunity to put your website URL in front of people. Don’t worry about the www anymore. My website infinityconcepts.net is featured on everything we do. There is a church along the freeway in Dallas that has the website on the side of the church. Put your website everywhere. Use landing pages to connect with people, and then lead them to your site. One of our clients in LA bought a billboard that simply said, “MyMarriageIsDying.com” and received thousands of visitors to their landing page. Most went on to the website and many became involved with the church.

Meet the people where they are and start the conversation!

Keep your knees down – your chin up – roll with the punches – and give God the glory!