God’s heart will always beat for people who feel far from him. He longs for every lost soul to hear and know how much they are loved by their heavenly father. Because of this love God sent his own son to share good news, that every searching soul can be reconnected to God; every wandering child can come home again. Jesus paved the way for every person to reunite with their heavenly father, never to be separated again.
Sharing the good news of Jesus with a lost world is the mission of the church today. But it’s not easy. A few weeks into 2020, COVID-19 changed everything, including how we “do church.” Before, churches could invite people to physically attend their buildings in order to share God’s good message of love. Today, many people are afraid or unwilling to physically attend a local church for fear of contracting COVID-19.
Churches scrambled to navigate this new normal. Many scurried to take crash courses in new technologies as churchgoers began watching church online. Pastors also had to figure out new ways to connect with those outside of the church- in a primarily digital world. Digital evangelism has become one of the most important and essential ways to share the message of Jesus in the 21st century. Those churches investing time and energy into learning new online outreach strategies will be poised for future growth while those who refuse risk decline or even eventual closure.
Developing a Church Online Outreach Strategy
Reaching new people won’t happen by accident. It takes energy, time, and probably some money. If a church is serious about reaching new people, they should first consider their overall strategy. An online outreach strategy can look like a funnel.
(Funnel picture- top of funnel online outreach strategies, smaller part of funnel, church website, bottom of funnel, church attendance, maybe an arrow leading down. We might already have a picture like this somewhere)
Churches must first find new ways to let people know they exist. This can happen through advertising, increased search rankings, or effective content built to meet people’s needs. These options will lead people to your church website. Your church website should be built to move people to attend your church for the first time digitally or in-person. A person’s experience with your church will determine whether or not they will return.
As many churches are looking for online outreach ideas, below is a list of the ultimate church online outreach ideas.
Besides an effective church website, Local SEO is one of the most important projects a church can focus on to reach local people. Local SEO relates to how easy it is for local people searching for a local church to find your church. Google pays attention to a church’s name, address, phone number, along with how many places they are found online. Churches should do everything possible to become a top result for local people searching for a local church.
Picture of a Google Search with the Google Map Pack showing. Have an arrow pointing to the Map Pack saying, “Local SEO helps your church show up here”
Online advertising is an important part of evangelism in the 21st century. It’s a way to reach out and invite individuals in your community to experience the truth of God’s love. If you invite them, they may be willing to come. Ads can be shown on Facebook, Youtube, or Google. Ads can be a mix of video, pictures, and/or words. Churches should consider running online ads for Christmas, Easter, and any other major event where churches with to invite the community.
Social media (Facebook, Instagram, etc.) can be an excellent way for church members and attenders to share church events with their friends. Church posts also show those searching for a local church that your church is active and engaging. They also present an easy and direct way for people to reach out to your church. However, social media should not be used as a church’s primary outreach strategy because not everyone is on every platform and posts are more likely to reach people already connected to your church.
Google offers nonprofits and churches up to $10,000 each month in Google Search advertising. These ads show up as people search for various topics in Google. The amount of money a church can use each month depends on the quality and number of ads they run, along with the strength of the content they have on their website. Getting the grant is not too difficult, but making it work well can be tricky. If your church does not have someone trained in running Google Search ads consider hiring an agency trained in managing Google Grants for churches. Overall, using the Google Grant can be the best bang for your buck when it comes to online advertising.
If you’ve ever looked up a pair of shoes on a website and then noticed ads for those same shoes showing up as you searched online, then you understand retargeting. If it truly takes 6-10 interactions before a person is willing to attend your church for the first time, then every “touch” matters. Your church can add a code to your website that tags visitors, enabling you to retarget them later with an ongoing campaign in Google Display and/or Facebook. Retargeting is a powerful way to connect with people who found their way to your church website and keep your church on their minds.
Sermon Video Library
Churches create some of the best content on the internet every single week through their weekly sermon. Pastors share ideas that could help people searching online for all kinds of topics. Missional Marketing’s Sermon Video Library is a way to set up your weekly sermons in a way that Google understands and can actually find them. Combining the Sermon Video Library with the Google Grant will ensure sermons you preached two years ago will be just as relevant today as they were the day they were first shared- while reaching thousands of new people each month.
Felt-Needs Content for Church Online Outreach
Google loves great content. Churches should write content built around topics people in their area want to know about. Imagine what would happen if people searching for help with their marriage or parenting found your church while looking for help. Your church should build pages for topics you are prepared to support. Posts should be at least 300 words, include the topic keyword at least 3 times. A sermon blog could be one way to add right content to your website each week.
Website On-Page SEO
Does Google understand your website? If your church is looking to reach more people, you need to make sure Google understands who you are and who might enjoy your page. It’s important to understand that Google can’t ready pictures or video, but does understand words. Make sure every page on your website includes keywords and accurate metadata. It’s like helping your website speak Google’s language.
Effective Website Strategies for Church Online Outreach
Your website is the front door of the church. People searching for spiritual answers will visit your website long before they’ll ever consider attending your church for the first time. In order to reach more people online there are a few things you can do to make sure your website is ready.
Build with an “outsider” in mind
If your church is looking to reach new people, make sure your website is open and easy to understand for someone who hasn’t attended your church yet. Stay away from language only “church” people understand. People like to feel included. When visiting your church website for the first time people should feel like your church can’t wait for them to attend.
Intentionally moves people to attend
Church websites should clearly invite people to attend physically or virtually. Without thinking a person visiting a church website for the first time should clearly see the next step they should take to engage with the church. Every church website should have a “plan a visit” page or a similar page built to answer every question a person might ask about attending for the first time.
Offers options to connect with the church
Your church website should offer opportunities for people to connect with and interact with your church. This could include a prayer request page, chat feature, or other forms an individual could submit to connect with your church.
Missional Marketing: Ready to Help you with Church Online Outreach
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused churches to bolster their digital presence, whether they’re ready or not. Now more than ever, churches are relying not just heavily, but sometimes exclusively on their web capabilities and their chances of being seen in search engine results.
We can’t say for sure what this year, or indeed the next several years, will bring. But we can be certain that a strong web presence, a robust website, and the flexibility to quickly alter service delivery methods will largely determine whether churches sink or swim this year and beyond.
Missional Marketing is a one-stop-shop for digital church growth and has become an expert in all things Google-for-churches. Through a combination of technical capabilities and considerable expertise, Missional Marketing has been able to help hundreds of churches to maximize their efforts and increase their digital impact. Schedule a call and one of our church growth experts would be happy to discuss ideas to reach more people in the digital age.