With the technology of the world evolving, the technology of the church has evolved to keep up.
From video integration to search engine optimization to rebranding and app development, the modern church faces many new creative challenges over its forefathers. Churches now face declining memberships combined with less money, all while focusing on attracting the next generation to the pews.
So, what can be done?
Many are reaching into social media and onto the Web like never before. No longer is it good enough to have a Facebook page and a church bulletin.
The Crossing difference
In Columbia, The Crossing has strived to stay ahead of its congregation’s technological reach. Years ago, a youth-orientated service was a big attraction; today, it’s an iPhone app.
The Crossing has set its message apart by using an iPhone app and crisp imagery and videos to tell stories on its website. Its look is fresh and pops. These images draw in your eye, lead you through the website, encourage you to watch the stories of the congregation and help you learn more about the services.
Churches have to cross the technological divide and understand the ins and outs of marketing using the latest tools and techniques to keep butts in the seats. The path ahead is not clear, but three keys stick out in my mind: flexible websites, video and a growing social footprint.
It’s surprising, but no church in Columbia has gone with a responsive website, the latest bit of technology aimed at helping reach users across all devices. A responsive website takes your message truly mobile and allows you to reach visitors, whether at home, work or on the go. This replaces the need for a mobile app and allows you to reach more visitors. Along with the added search engine optimization benefit, a responsive website helps you reach the congregation throughout their day, anywhere.
It’s sad, but websites for many local churches seem to be an afterthought. From cheap templates to poorly executed navigation schemes, the websites just don’t work.
Video is another great way to reach the next generation. YouTube has become the second-largest search engine, so why not post sermons online? Create rich video content that’s easily searchable, indexed by Google and accessible everywhere.
But be careful; video does bring pitfalls. Quality is key. Just because you can use your iPhone to record something doesn’t mean you should. Invest in a larger video strategy that looks great and has lasting benefits.
Where do you share these videos? Along with your website and YouTube, use social media of course. Social has changed the marketing mix of companies small and large. No longer is it enough to just have a Facebook page; now you have to actively curate it with information, service and rich content.
Expand your social footprint. Try Vine, Instagram, Tumblr, etc., and reach for the younger untapped generation. The best social plan is the same as any marketing plan: consistency. Have a message, and be consistent with it.
Technology is always changing, and churches have to pay attention to keep spreading their message and values. Although the messages might not change, the venue and tools do. Have a plan, be prepared and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Not every pastor is a social media expert.
One to Follow
@messagetime: Reporting on the news of the city government, Andrew Denny of the Columbia Daily Tribune is the one to follow this month. Follow him on Twitter for musings about city government and breaking news.
Apps of the Month
Politifact: The leader in fact-checking politicians has an app to easily see who’s telling the truth on the decisive issues.
Poll Tracker: Although it’s not an election year, the polling continues. Developed by the folks at Talking Points Memo, this app gives you a look at polls so you can see where your favorite candidate stands.
Open States: Ever wondered who funds certain politicians? Want to know where a bill stands? Curious how someone voted? Open States can give you insight into the states’ political workings.