With Easter quickly approaching, church leaders who plan for a long-term approach to retaining visitors as regular church members will find the most church growth during this season. In a way, the proper approach is much like the story of The Tortoise and the Hare. Deliberate planning can yield a result that extends far beyond the “event” of Easter.
Easter and Christmas are undoubtedly the biggest days of the year for people to go to church. In fact, according to Pew Research, Christmas and Easter indicate the highest points of interest for people attending church. With that in mind, did you know they’re heading over to Google to find out which churches seem the most appealing for them for these special days?
As a pastor or a church leader, you want to draw people in so that you can use the opportunity to connect with them and get them engaged with the church. There is a lifecycle involved with attracting new congregants, but proper engagement means strategizing a long-term campaign that yields true church growth. Many in church leadership may not realize that there is actually a process to accomplishing this task online, but the process involves three simple phases.
1. Getting People in the Door
At one time, it was enough to have a great church website that was positioned with the right keywords that people could easily find via any search engine. They went to your site, they read about your church, and many of them chose to visit if the information they found met their needs. Today’s church needs to become more dynamic, and that means adding various elements to your site to pique their interest and encourage them to take the next step.
Having the right keywords is still important, but what is it about your website that will draw people in? A digital strategy is essential, and that means capturing your website visitors from the moment they first visit your site. Many churches have done this quite successfully, and there are several ways to do it. A few of them include:
a. Including a Contact Us / Opt-in / Next Steps option on every page of your site
b. Including Call-to-Action buttons for new visitors to click so they can learn more about your church culture, activities and accommodations
c. Showcasing specific, major events on the Homepage of your website
d. Profiling recurring church events in a prominent place on the Homepage
These additions demonstrate that your church is active and growing. You’re reaching out to your community, and you’re pinpointing your target audience. In doing so, chances are pretty good that visitors to your site will be eager to catch the vision you have for your region.
2. Engagement is Everything
The key to getting people to get involved with your church is to engage them. You have to capture their attention if you hope to retain them and reach them for Christ. Technology offers us a variety of ways to accomplish this goal. Once they’ve visited your website a few times, they’ll be eager to dig in deeper to see what the church has to offer them. Imagine what will happen if they find:
- A way to connect with small groups online
- A webinar with distinct calls to action (or CTAs) included, as well as email follow-ups to get them to move forward
- An app with plenty of excellent information they can use to feel encouraged in their walks with Jesus
- Utilizing text messaging to offer a easy way to connect (minus the embarrassing “please stand”)
- Active and engaging social media pages that keep them involved in everything the church is doing
People love feeling as though they’re an important part of something bigger than themselves. By continuing to engage them, you’re giving them ownership of the vision of your church. This will not only encourage them to stay engaged, but it will spur them on to be the voice for God in their own families and neighborhoods.
3. Perfecting the Follow-up
Following up seems to be the area where many churches fall short. That’s because engagement has to be an ongoing process. The people who come to your church, or who are interested in your church are always looking for what comes next.
It’s important for you to be able to have an answer to the question, “Now what?” when they ask it. You can do this in a lot of different ways, including:
- Offering an email class that invites them to do homework each week and send it back to you
- Incorporating live broadcasts for services and other special events that include a live communication module for people to engage
- Ensuring that your website has plenty of CTAs that encourage them to get involved with giving, reviewing sermon notes and signing up for special events
- Creating small groups (either online or offline) where people can talk with each other and enjoy fellowship together
- Connecting with them via email to keep them informed about everything going on with the church
It’s important to remember that retaining people in your church is a lifecycle. Many pastors and church leaders know how to get people in the doors, but they, at times, fall short when it comes to getting them engaged and following up with them for continual engagement and support.
With the right amount of planning, Easter weekend can be an amazing time of ministering to the people in your community. Map out your own digital strategy and you’ll see that the number of people you retain after Easter is over may be significantly increased compared to previous years.