Most people in your area are going to look at your church web site before they choose to visit your congregation. So it is important that your web site be the best it can be. By this I mean your web site should speak to your target audience, not to your already members or already religiously affiliated people.
How do you create a web site that speaks to your target audience?
First, try looking at your website with fresh eyes. Imagine that you are a totally unchurched person, someone who has never been to a church and knows next to nothing about Christianity except for cultural myths. How does your website communicate with an unchurched person? With whom is your web site communicating? With whom are you trying to connect? Is your site focused on attracting people to your worship service or programs? How could you tweak your website to better communicate with those who would never come to your church on their own?
Ask an unchurched friend or family member, or even a complete stranger, to look at your web site and give you feedback on the questions above.
A website is not a magic bullet that will attract people to your church, but it is often the first impression people considering visiting will see.
Try to update your web site to include pictures of your congregation having fun. Include audio of your sermon. Information about your congregation needs to be simple and easy to find. Have a clear way for people to Contact you. Have clear Directions, including an interactive Google map. Include a FAQ section where you address questions that unchurched people may ask. For an example of a simple yet effective web site, check out www.word-of-grace.org
You can create and maintain a very effective and professional looking web site yourself using any number of available web site creators. I prefer Weebly.com because their sites are easy to create and maintain yourself and are very reasonably priced from free to just a few dollars a month. Don't break your budget with an expensive web site, check out Weebly and others like it and create your own web site that reflects well upon your congregation and mission in your community.
One of the principles I have discovered that help me understand the world we live in is the Stockdale Paradox. Lutherans love paradox's, or is that paradoxy? Admiral James Stockdale was the highest ranking POW during the Vietnam War. Seeing men lose hope and break due to a faith in false optimism, Admiral Stockdale developed his paradox that has direct correlation to our struggles in missional outreach today.
The Stockdale Paradox says:
"You must retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the present difficulties.
AND at the same time…
You must confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be."
Let's break that down in our context as people following Jesus in his mission to seek and save what was lost.
1. "You must retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the present difficulties."
We have faith in Christ. We have faith that the Holy Trinity is engaged in mission to reach people with the message of salvation, restoration, resurrection and eternal life. that the work of outreach, evangelism, reaching the lost, We have faith that no matter the struggles we encounter the Way of The Cross will prevail in the end and God the Father will be glorified in Christ and His Church at the end. We have faith that the church, your church, our church, is Christ's church and he will lead His Church in her mission through us. We have faith that the work of Christ will prevail, regardless of the present difficulties.
And at the same time...
2. "You must confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be."
What are the most brutal facts of your current reality? Lets ask some brutal reality questions to find out:
When was the last time your congregation saw an adult come to faith through your ministry?
What was the last year your congregation saw numerical growth in membership?
How long before your congregation can no longer afford financially to continue ministry?
If nothing changes, where will your congregation be in 10 or 15 years?
What is the average age of your congregation?
Where are the young people?
What other brutal facts must you confront in your current reality?
Once you have completed #2, you are ready to take action, trusting that you will prevail in the end, regardless of your present difficulties.
Good News! Despite your current difficulties, there is good news. God is on your side. Jesus wants to use you to lead your people out of the church building and into your community. God is at work in the lives of people in your community who he wants you to engage and connect them with Christ and your church! God is already doing his work in the lives of people all around you, and he is preparing you and your people to connect with your lost family, friends, neighbors and co-workers.
So go ahead and put the Stockdale Paradox into practice. Have an unshakable faith that Jesus wants to use you and your congregation to reach people. He wants to revitalize, to resurrect your congregationa to once again live a lively and vibrant life of faith in your community. Christ wants to help you prevail in the end, no matter the present difficulties. Confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, then in faith begin to do something about it. God is on your side, he wants you to succeed in reaching people and bringing them to faith, baptism and discipleship in your congregation!
Yesterday one of the baby's in our congregation was proudly showing off his new skill set, he was learning to walk! I love watching little ones learn to take their first steps of bipedal independence. The look of determination in their eyes. The look of wonderment and excitement as they take those first fleeting steps between seat rows, the shear joy in their little faces as they celebrate each advancing step. We all watched, encouraged and celebrated with cheers, hand clapping, and smiles!
Do you know how a child learns to walk? By trying and failing. Through embracing failure as a natural part of the baby step process, a baby gets up after every fall and tries and tries again until they succeed. Baby's learning to walk start off failing far more often than they succeed. But each step and faltering failure ultimately leads the child to grow and learn. Soon the baby learns to walk, to run, to skip and jump. Oh the joy that comes from those first little baby steps!
Stepping out in mission, we can learn a lot from baby's. One of the most powerful principles I've discovered in becoming missional is the principle of baby steps. I cannot emphasize the principle of baby steps enough. A congregation that is just starting out in mission MUST start with baby steps. Baby steps are High Grace and Low Risk. A congregation that hasn't been active in outreach needs to start off small with simple outreach that is easy for people to do (high grace, low risk).
Baby Step: Get together with a few people in your congregation who you think are the best candidates to help start reaching out. Have a dinner or BBQ at your home and sit down with 3 to 8 people to talk about simple easy way to reach out to the community. What can you do that will be High in Grace and Low in Risk? Could you offer free cold bottled water at a soccer game or local event? Could your congregation host a Free Family Carnival for the community? Could you find an elderly, disabled or single mom in your community that needs their yard cleaned up, free of charge? These are all easy, Baby Steps out into the community that are High Grace and Low Risk.
Get together with a few like minded people in your congregation and see what Baby Steps you can come up with to step out into the community. Then see what the Holy Spirit can do through your simple Baby Steps outside your church building and into the community. You will be AMAZED at what God will do!