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Category: Church Websites (page 1 of 3)

2013 State of the Church Online Report

Our team at MonkDev released the Q1 White Paper – 2013 State of the Church Online Report. The State of the Church Online Report emerged out of a desire to build a standard for church website best practices and usage. The data included in this report has been cultivated from 2009 to 2012. This is the first report of its kind to include such a robust set of data, gathered from over 50 churches spread across the United States. These churches are both large and small, urban and rural, and every stripe of denomination. The one thing they all
have in common, of course, is a desire to serve their congregation through their website.

Every church has different personas that make up the congregational body. Each of these personas— New Visitor, Return Visitor, Engaged Member, and Mature Disciple —all need different things from portions of the church website. Additionally, we believe churches can use their website as a ministry tool. The church website has an active role in moving individuals from one persona to the next. For example, connecting New Visitors to directions on the website will allow them to find the church easily. Doing so reduces “visitor friction,” allowing for more opportunity a New Visitor will return and transition to a Return Attender. This is a very small example, but it illustrates the point: church websites are more important than ever.

We hope it is useful, download your free copy here: http://www.monkdevelopment.com/free-resource-state-of-the-church-online-report/

StateoftheChurchOnline

Best Practices in Church Website Design

Increasingly, we run into churches who invested in a website, but realized it did not help them do ministry. The website raised more problems than it solved. Stop Wasting Money on Church Websites by Starting with a Ministry Design Process. Our commitment is to ensure clients at MonkDev never experience this pain.

What is Your Ministry Design Process?
One of the ways we feel that we deliver tremendous value, is we approach things from a Ministry Design Process.
monkMPD
The Ministry Design Process identifies how your church does ministry and then works to translate this to the web. We do this as part of our Strategic Service offering during our Organizational Strategy Session. The image above is a small taste of the process. (If you’re interested, click here to learn about our Church Strategy Process.)

The goal is to take the mission of the church and walk through a process to discover key ministry initiatives which we help translate to the web environment. Sample ministry challenges we’ve helped churches with include:

The church has stopped growing or the congregation is aging.
Communications is not clear or reaching the desired audience.
People aren’t engaged or participating in community and they don’t know what is the next step for them.
Leadership development and discipleship paths aren’t clear.
Giving is down, serving is down and people don’t know how to get involved.

Learn more about our Church Website Strategy: Ministry Process Design.

Church Content Strategies, Websites, Multisite, Mobile and more

Over the last month the team at MonkDev has been quietly producing amazingly valuable content for churches.

Develop a Church Content Strategy to Create a World-Class Website – A great guide to understanding how to deliver content that creates ministry results for your church.

What is Your Church Online Giving Strategy? – Participate in our research and receive the results to learn how other churches are handling online giving.

Build Attendance For Your Church Events Using an iPad – Our free iPad give-away for churches that purchase a website.

Free Ebook: The Ultimate Guide to Ministry Process Design – Examining the home pages of 3 churches and the top content people click on.

The State of Mobile Church Websites – See the options people are selecting when choosing a mobile strategy.

Multisite Church Content Problems (and Solutions) – How do you navigate the unique challenges of a multisite church?

Churches – Designing Your Own Website – Do you plan to design your own website?

Communications 3.0 Trends that will impact your ministry.

Read the Communication 3.0 article at Outcomes

With the growth of the web, new forms of communication are becoming dominant. Old methods of communication are impacted by this change. For example, the U.S. Postal Service is considering the elimination of Saturday delivery because mail is down 26 percent in 5 years. Or look at the newspaper industry. We are seeing not only new ways to read the news, but a whole transformation of the industry. Technology’s growth creates behavioral and organizational change in deep ways. These changes require your organization to communicate and interact with people in new and different ways.

Let us look at a few trends that will change how you engage your audience:
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(1) The impact of the Internet is more than technological; it is about worldviews
As the web catches more of our lives in its grip, it becomes a layer through how we view the world. We are becoming more dependent on it. Behavior changes, such as forgetting people’s phone numbers as we keep them on our cell phone, continues with each new technology we adopt. Think about this: one-third of women aged 18 to 34 first check Facebook when they wake up, according to a 2010 study by Oxygen Media & Lightspeed Research of 1,605 young adults. Twenty-one percent of these women check Facebook in the middle of the night, and 57 percent of young women say they talk to more people online than face to face. Facebook is just one site that is changing the rules of how we behave.

Organizations need to see that the impact from the web is larger than the technology itself because it reflects a new worldview. There has been a change in how new generations see the world. In his 1993 book, Post-Capitalist Society, the late Peter Drucker worded it this way:

“Every few hundred years in Western history, there occurs a sharp transformation . . . within a few short decades, society rearranges itself – its worldview; its basic values; its social and political structure; its arts; its key institutions . . . Fifty years later, there is a new world and the people born then cannot even imagine the world in which their grandparents lived and into which their own parents were born. We are currently living through just such a transformation.”

Technology is accelerating this process of change. For example, do you think social media would have taken off as it has if it were around in the 1950s? Or was there a different view of authority that would have discouraged people from posting their opinion online? Part of the explosion of social media is that it aligns with a postmodern worldview. It is important for organizations to see what is underway as more than just technological; it is about a worldview change that is reshaping industries and organizations. The next generation of digital natives is being made in the image of the web.

(2) Mobile requires your attention
According to Google, by 2013 the desktop computer will be irrelevant. The mobile device, be it an iPhone, an Android phone, an iPad, or something we have not even seen yet, will be the primary way that we do computing and interact online.

Mobile is different; unlike a desktop computer, it is always with us and available. This leads to different habits for its use. Google now estimates that 20 percent of its searches are for things that are nearby, and that percentage is even higher for searches conducted on mobile phones. According to Facebook, over 250 million users access its site via mobile device. And those that do are more active than those who access it via desktop. So what should ministries do? As a ministry, imagine that the entire world has a smart phone (like an iPhone), and will want to access information about you using it. Then plan accordingly.

(3) The “appification” revolution is underway
The number of apps available in Apple’s application (app) store now exceeds 500,000 and these apps have been downloaded over 15 billion times. According to Flurry Analytics, in June 2011, mobile users spent more time on apps than they spent online.ÊAs these apps embed themselves into our daily life, they bring changes to our behaviors. The drive to build web and mobile apps will increase as organizations seek to engage users.

The next frontier for organizations is to build mission-focused web apps. Already these apps are being developed for the church (e.g., YouVersion). As you consider an app, think about going beyond presenting information. Use apps to engage users in ways that matter to your ministry, whether it is discipleship, volunteering, or other valuable activities.

(4) We are in a post-website world
We live in a “post-website” world. The advent of social media, including the massive popularity of social networking, has changed the game. The power of social media is clearly seen in Twitter. Founded only a few short years ago in 2006, Twitter became a critical social media tool to the regime changes that recently swept the Middle East.

The primary use of the web is about becoming more relational, not informational. Our focus should be to go where the people are, not to expect that they will come to us. The question you need to answer is, How do we become integrated into the online habits of our audience? Websites are still valuable to accomplish the goals of your organization, but a website is meaningless if no one visits it.

(5) Focus on the fringe that is central to your success
Traditionally, the basic organizing principle of communications has been the pyramid, but that is changing. For example, according to Altimeter Group research, most novice organizations engage social media through a centralized person or a department. However, today, those who have the most advanced and effective strategies are more decentralized. The web allows you to flatten your organization and reduce the friction to communicate and engage people. An example of this is Compassion International, which does its best to get out of the way and connect the sponsor with children around the world. Or Salesforce.com, which launched a peer network called Chatter to connect peers within an organization in a real time environment, removing unneeded bureaucracy to achieve results. How are you using web technology to connect and empower people at the far reaches of your organization?

(6) Research needs to drive your online strategy
Your decisions about online tools should be driven by strategy. And strategy should be driven by research. Use research to understand how your target audience uses the Internet. Do they use mobile devices? Do they prefer e-mail or a Facebook message? Forrester Research has developed Social Technographics, a way to classify people according to how they use social technologies. This helps you to determine if your customers are creators, joiners, critics, spectators, collectors, or inactive. This type of research can help you determine if your ministry should invest in certain social media sites and how to best engage your audience.

If you design your research well, you will probably find some new insights that will surprise you. For example, when David T. Bourgeois, associate professor of information systems at Biola University, worked on a project to determine the best way to reach staff members in their early- to mid-20s, his assumption was that a Facebook page and wall posts were the best solution. However, research showed that they preferred e-mail and actually did not want the organization to use wall posts.

There are several methods of research available to you. If possible, directly surveying your target group is probably the best way to understand them. Creating a well-thought out survey is not simple; if possible, I would suggest that you find a survey used by a reputable research organization and modify it as opposed to creating one yourself. Using third-party data (such as that from the Pew Internet Project or the U.S. Census) will also give you some ideas of how to reach your group. I would also recommend working with someone who has experience doing research in this area.

Conclusion
How can your organization prepare for the communication changes ahead? A friend of mine, ministry online technology consultant Cynthia Ware, often quotes 1 Chronicles 12:32, where “from Issachar, men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do.” As leaders we need to learn about the shift in worldview and in the technological landscape.
The first act in the story of the Internet has been the vast availability of information. We are just beginning the second half of the story – the pervasiveness of the web in every aspect of our life. This pervasiveness includes but goes beyond our mobile phones to all the things in our life, such as our cars, our living room, and even the appliances in our house. All of our life will become increasingly brought online.

These trends can be positive even though they often require changes in how your organization operates. To succeed, ministries must adjust and adapt to this new environment. For example, an increasing number of churches are exploring online worship services and are hiring digital pastors to interact with their congregation online. One large ministry built a private community site to engage users to learn, serve, donate, and increase participation, but they had to shut it down after a year because it required more community management than their staff could handle. This organization did not want to change and thus closed down the online community website. In most of our strategy work with organizations, there are changes people must consider to implement effective web strategies. Often these include making new hires, retraining staff, and letting people go as the organization’s needs change.

For many organizations, particularly established ones, there is a significant tension between maintaining the current technology and the need to innovate. But with change occurring so quickly, there is a vital need for ministries to innovate and to be willing to fail. Who is leading your organization to translate your mission, strategies, and goals into the web environment?

At Monk Development (an organization that does this for many ministries and churches), we understand this is full-time work. Most ministries have been on their own in navigating their web strategy. Our desire is to see this change. We lead the Ministry Internet and Technology Summit at the CLA National Conference, which brings together experts in technology and social media from across the ministry world. I invite you to send your teams to participate in this conference in Orlando, Florida, April 10-12, 2012 (ChristianLeadershipAlliance.org/2012). The summit will offer sessions on building the right social media strategy, how to increase online donations, best practices of mobile or application development, and other topics presented by thought leaders in the ministry space. In addition, each year research is conducted and presented at this summit that will enhance your ministry’s online engagement. Please plan to join us.

Second, in partnership with CLA we will launch a new CIO Forum. These forums will include peer-learning to share best practices and discuss the challenges we all face. At stake is the ministry impact we make and how we steward our limited time and resources toward things that will deliver the most value.

We as leaders need to think deeply about the transformation that technology is enabling. We should embrace change, but remember the good news that we do not have to put our hope in keeping up with the changes around us. Our hope is in Christ alone and that Jesus promised that he would build his church. Christ will guide us through, even as the transformation of communication and technology continues at an exponential pace.

6 Ways Churches Fail with their Website

Over the last 5 years I’ve had the privilege of serving numerous churches and organizations to help them translate their mission into a web strategy. We’ve met with the key leadership of some of the largest, fastest growing churches in North America, turn-around churches and church planting networks through our Church Web Strategy Sessions and Communication Roundtables.

Here are the 6 most common ways I’ve seen churches fail when they seek to translate their vision online:

1. Skymall Syndrome – This syndrome often strikes when someone in leadership sees something shiny and (usually) unnecessary, like when while flying we think we need to buy something in the Skymall magazine (confession: I’ve done this once). After seeing this flashy object, a church leader wants it for their church. The failure of this strategy is that often people spend a lot of money on a flashy website but it does not make a substantial impact on their organization. Pretty websites are a waste of time and money because they are not enough. Today, a thought out strategy is essential because a new generation of digital natives are growing up, where the new front-door to your church is the website. When we work with churches we like to see goals created that drive the design/strategy process. For example, one church wants to go from 60% of their church in small groups to 80% and their website design facilitates this. Another church sought new visitors, people visiting the New Visitor info more than doubled based on the redesign and emphasis on this (see screenshots below).

2. Ministry Schizophrenia – Ministry schizophrenia often strikes in larger churches with many ministries. Too many cooks are in the kitchen and they all want their ministry front-and-center. In our strategy sessions, we often uncover that as the senior leadership clarifies their vision/mission that ministries either don’t know how to connect what they do to this or have competing agendas. It’s incredibly powerful when an organization can align their ministry leaders behind the key strategic initiatives of a church. As one person on our team said, “It’s amazing how often an indicator of problems and communication is within the church by looking at the website.” How are you aligning your ministries to work together to achieve what God is calling your church to do?

3. Enough about you, let’s talk about ME – Would you like to join the Elevate ministry? Or how about Oasis? I’m guessing you don’t know what those are. Often churches become too organization focused, designing for internal people & ministry leaders not end users/visitors. How can a new person find what they are looking for without knowing your internal language?

4. The Blind leading the Blind – This occurs when no one has thought through the reason for a website, there is a clear lack of clarity of vision and purpose. Sadly, we’ve seen several churches hand-off the website design process to people who do not have the experience to navigate the complexity and buy-in to lead the vision to succeed. The end result is noise/clutter and unclear direction for the website.

5. Death by Committees – Many churches we’ve come across suffer from this bureaucratic malaise. It seems like by the time you make a decision on the web strategy, because of the process (committees/bureaucracy), what you originally planned is already out of date by the time you finish. The web changes so fast, it requires a more responsive approach. Who can lead in this agile environment? Who is going to ensure you have your Twitter handle or you have a Social Media Policy to respond to criticism?

6. Volunteer Hostage Situation – This is the most dangerous of all the six listed. I cannot tell you how many times we’ve run into this situation (in fact this one will deserve it’s own post to expand further), where a volunteer in the church has control of the website and it leads to failure. Usually it is a techie or key member. If I had a nickel for every time someone shared a story of a church member who managed the website and then moved away, leaving the church in a lurch. Or a techie who programmed something only they could use. We’ve found very few churches who succeed when they have volunteers lead the online communication channel. We often coach communication teams to act as consultants to ministry leaders not gatekeepers. If only one person has control to add content online, churches have a serious bottleneck. Another time a church with a school I know with had a key giver run the website and be unwilling to relinquish control. The school was not able to be found online because of poor programming and code and the website looked like it was from the 90’s in a bad way. When a separate website was built that was able to address several of these shortcomings for their elementary school, it led to an enrollment increase by 1/3 . This leads to tens-of-thousands of dollars each year added to the school budget as they’ve hit capacity on Preschool and Kindergarten since the launch of this new website.

Conclusion: The web no longer is a nice thing to have. Today a presence online has become an essential element of interacting with new people as well as your existing congregation. Churches need a clear leadership plan to establish their vision, align their ministries and build a plan with specific goals in mind. With how fast things are changing, this can’t be a roadmap that becomes obsolete by the time it’s created, it needs to be a learned rhythm that constantly triages the situation to focus on where the church needs to go.

If you need help, we offer a 3-step consulting framework for Church Web Strategy Sessions that address these concerns and give you a way forward based on what we’ve learned leading many organizations successfully through this.

Hawaiian Islands Ministries Honolulu 2011 Conference

Hawaiian Islands Ministry Honolulu March 24-26, 2011 | Hawaii Convention Center –

Join me, I will be presenting 3 sessions:

A Look into the Near and Distant Future of Online Ministry
In this session leaders will learn how to develop web strategy to address a ministries’ needs. Learn what is on the horizon that will impact your ministry. This session is designed for strategic leaders regardless of their technological level of understanding. In this session participants will 1) learn how to plan for an effective ministry online strategy, 2) explore key emerging technologies that will impact their ministry and 3) hear how cutting edge organizations are implementing revolutionary practices today.

Websites/Social Media and Your Church
In this session you will get behind the scene access to the real world results of several church web strategies. We’ll look at the church website, social media involvement, mobile, content creation and more to see what is really happening. How effective are they? What are the best practices or common mistakes a church makes? This valuable session will equip you with practical insight, best practices & strategies that your church can implement whether you are an online expert or a beginner.

Forming Missional Communities
In this session you will learn how to build “Missional Communities.” We will discuss how churches have planted or transitioned to include living as a community of people who are united around a common, local mission. Also, how these communities are local expressions of Jesus and his church in the world, living out the gospel in all ways. Learn from one of the founders of the GCM Collective (Gospel Community Mission) about how these movements are changing cities and reaching the lost.

What is your Church Web Strategy?

It is increasingly obvious that an organization’s online presence is the new front door for many people. In 2010, according to Edison Research the Internet has become the most essential medium (from options such as television, radio and others). In fact, this research found that now more people would give up their TV for the Internet if they were forced to only have one of these. The rapid pace of our interactions moving more through the web demands greater attention from the key leadership of your organization.

This shifts holds from the research we’ve done as well. Let me give you two supporting findings:

  • 27% of respondents said the church website was how they first learned about the church of those who have attended their church less than 1 year.
  • 61% said the church website was somewhat to very important in their decision to attend the church from the above respondents.

Sadly, developing an online ministry strategy doesn’t seem to be as important to many church leaders. MonkDev interacts with hundreds (if not thousands) of churches and ministries every year about the web. Often these conversations can include questions like, “Should we be on Twitter?”, “Are all-Flash websites a bad idea?”, “How do you get better placed on search engines to be found?” “Should we have a large image rotator on our website?” While these questions aren’t bad per-se, too often churches have seen the web from a tactics point-of-view or an add-on tool rather than what it is, a radical paradigm shift.

What I see missing from many churches is a clear strategy for using the web. For example (and to be a bit extreme to make a point) a church that says, “We need to create a Facebook page because everyone is doing this.” This would show that your strategy is to become a copycat of other churches. Churches shouldn’t think about online tactics until they have a web strategy. Let me share a few things we communicate to help churches prepare for building a web strategy.

Principle #1 : A Web Strategy shouldn’t begin with thinking about being Online. – Being Online can be meaningless if you don’t know what you are doing or who you are. Churches we speak with often have an unspoken vision that is internal to a few key leaders, but this vision isn’t frequently communicated or thought through at a level where it drives the organization in a clear and focused direction.

Principle #2 : Ministries should align together toward the shared vision of the church. – It’s easy for churches with their variety of ministries and leaders to move from a place of ministry alignment behind the central vision of the church. Further, in larger churches there can be a level of staff and ministry buy-in to set expectations and work together on communicating toward this changed vision.

Principle #3 : Often what is the hardest part of a thought through web strategy is the changes offline Recently we met with a church who identified a few core goals in developing the community, discipleship, leadership training and connecting people into home groups. In the meetings it became clear no one currently owned this goal/process and it was decided they would have to hire someone. Further, many communication directors move from gatekeeper (often not intentionally this way but functionally) to consultant to release and consult ministry leaders to best use technology to achieve their ministry goals. All of this requires a rethinking of roles and responsibilities that go far deeper than building a website.

MonkDev has a strategic process to help churches build a plan on how they should use the web. This process includes a Vision & Strategy Session for the leadership team to unpack what they believe God is calling them to specifically. Secondly, we meet with Stakeholders & Ministry Leaders to have the leaders communicate this and we guide the team through a educational session that includes case studies to help them see how it might look. These stakeholders then work on their own ministry visions/goals that align with the overall vision of the church. Lastly, we gather all this information and work with the communication & implementation team to translate what was discovered to the web.

In the last three weeks we’ve been on-site of three churches (AL, CA & WA) helping them translate their ministry strategy to the online environment and are booking more into January & February, so it is good to see churches understand how important this is. At MonkDev we are passionate about serving churches in this way and helping ministries use web technology for the Glory of God is part of our calling. Also check out our web solution currently used by thousands of churches called Ekklesia 360.

Learn more about our Church Web Strategy Sessions.

Church Plant Website

Monk Development has partnered with Park Community Church in Chicago to give an amazing website to a church planter.

If you are a church plant that needs to establish a solid web presence and don’t have the resources or finances to make it happen, this is an opportunity for you to get a solid web design and 1 year of support and hosting with Ekklesia360.

To enter, simply leave a comment at Tim Schraeder’s blog, sharing a bit about who you are, where your church is/will be, and the vision of your church.

We’ll be accepting entries now through Friday, February 26. Tim and I will pick the winner and announce them on his blog on Friday, March 5.

websitegiveaway

Church Web Optimizer

church-web-optimizerMonkDev is doing a soft-launch of Church Web Optimizer, what we hope is a powerful service to help local churches do ministry online. Church Website Optimization is the culmination of years worth of research into what makes an effective church web strategy. Monk is the only company to base our website optimization recommendations off of real research from thousands of churches and ministries that we serve!

Our studies include the results from over 100 church websites’ analytics data and thousands of church member surveys, giving Monk a unique perspective on what makes an effective church website. This real world research provides the best insight on achieving desired outcomes with proven recommendations to help your church perform better online. This means our recommendations come from best practices.

Church Website Optimization includes:

  • Google Analytics Installation
  • Google Webmaster Tools Installation
  • Google Sitemaps Submission
  • Church Website Analytics /Pre-SEO Evaluation and Conference Call
  • Google Local Search Submission
  • Featured Directory Submission on Church Cloud & Sermon Cloud
  • Online Targeted Advertising (eg. Google Adwords)
  • Social Media Strategy Implementation
  • Full SEO Services: Link building, SERPS Monitoring and Custom SEO Implementation

Church iPhone and Mobile Phone Websites

Ekklesia 360 (or if your site was designed by one of our 50 designer parters or resellers) offers an iPhone ready website for your chuch.  More people have mobile phones than computers today and mobile web-ready phones are expected to grow by 50% over the next two years.  It will be increasingly important for churches and ministries to offer a mobile experience to your users as it is forecast that by as soon as 2020 mobile will be the most common way people experience the Internet.

View more mobile website screenshots on our Facebook page.

Park Community MobilePark Community Mobile App

Park Community Mobile MediaPark Community Mobile Events

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