Are You Disconnected?
Church planters love to see Jesus free people from sin and death. This begins by connecting with real people in your city. Connecting with the people in your community is the first step to further connecting them to Jesus. And Jesus loves to free people.
Like every church, you use your website as part of your overall strategy to connect with those you are trying to reach. But is your website doing everything it could to help guests connect with your church plant? Or are you missing out on providing clear connection points?
The Pitfall That Leave Guests Disconnected
It is easy to assume you are providing clear connection opportunities on your website. The cause is a fundamental problem in every organization I call the “Knows + Nose + No’s”. (Let me briefly explain so you’re in the know.)
The fundamental problem in every organization is that we assume everyone KNOWS what we know about the subject because it is ‘so obvious’ to us. We cannot see things from their perspective because our NOSE is so close to our organization. We are all up in our own ‘bidness.’ If we asked outsiders a series of Yes/No questions about our organization we would be flabbergasted at the number of “No’s” we get from them.
I’ve had the opportunity to live in the world of both the insider and outsider. My years of experience inside church plants as a full-time paid pastor enables me to understand and empathize with the deep desire you have to connect with people. I know what it’s like to eat, sleep, drink and think like an insider. On the other hand, I have the privilege of working with numerous churches and church plants with my design business. One of the things I bring to the table is the perspective of a guest or visitor. Or to put it another way, I can be “normal”. This enables me to switch glasses and see things from both angles. And I’ve learned a thing or two (mostly from my own mistakes.)
So when it comes time to help guests connect with your church plant from your website, keep these tips in mind to put your best foot forward.
Tips to Better Connect Your Website Visitors
To get rid of the potential pitfall of the Knows + Nose + No’s phenomenon, answer these questions for guests and visitors looking for opportunities to connect with your church plant.
First, make a list of your intended connection opportunities.
Do not assume your website offers visitors clear opportunities to connect. When we’re putting together a website amidst the mountain of to-do’s involved in planting a church, stuff falls between the cracks. You are all for your church plant. You’ve been thinking about it for months or likely years. Plus, you are a “go-getter” by nature. If you and your family moved to a town and found a church you felt called to, you would make a connection point even if it didn’t exist. Most people aren’t you, though. Make a list of intentional places and spaces you intend as connection points. Then make sure those are obvious on your church website.
Next, for each connection opportunity, answer these five questions (and apply the antidote to your ‘nose’)…
1. What are the clear connection opportunities you offer guests? On your website, organize and list out your one, two or three connection opportunities for guests, making sure the title or name is not dependent on insider knowledge or language. But don’t stop there. Give them a one sentence description of what to expect. Your goal is clarity. Bonus, if you can tie your connection opportunities back to your vision and mission, that is even better.
The Knows + Nose + No’s Antidote: Be explicit. Make the connection back to your vision for visitors. Do not assume they will connect the dots. For example, if you vision includes being “family”, say something like “Come experience family…”.
2. How will this make their life better? In other words, what will someone get out of it if he or she takes you up on this opportunity? Will they meet other like-minded people in the same stage of life? Will they connect with leadership? Will they sit and listen or will they mingle and talk? Is it formal or informal? Small group or large group? Short or long? Kids or no kids? Think like an outsider and make it crystal clear what he or she can expect to gain for himself/herself or his/her family.
The Knows + Nose + No’s Antidote: Give visitors a clear benefit showing how this will serve them in their desire to connect. Try to do this in one sentence. Use words like “Meet…, Hear…, Share…, Learn…, Discover…”.
3. Do our connection opportunities appeal to both men and women? Notice all the ‘he/she’, ‘his/her’ language in the paragraph above? That’s more than proper grammar, it is your reminder to think about how your church creates opportunities for both men and women to connect. As male leaders, we can get stuck in our own silo and forget there are men and women who need opportunities to connect in ways that serve them. If one of your connection opportunities is a round of golf with you the church planter, that could get awkward to a single mom (and hopefully your elders/leaders and wife).
The Knows + Nose + No’s Antidote: Ask your wife and some other faithful females if the connection opportunities meet women’s needs. If not, ask for her help coming up with one that does.
4. What does your website visitor need to do? You’ll leave visitors hanging if you only name and describe the connection opportunity or event. Make the action step clear. Do they call someone, email someone, register for something, show up somewhere? You’ll help visitors by making the action step clear AND by making it visually stand out. In other words, a visitor should be able to glance at this content on your website and know instantly what action he or she needs to take.
The Knows + Nose + No’s Antidote: Grab a stranger at your favorite coffee shop and have them glance at this section on your website for a few seconds (like 3–5 seconds). Then ask him or her what they need to do next. If they struggle to tell you, rework it.
5. Will a normal person feel comfortable taking this step? Remember, most folks are not like you. You are a church planter. You are abnormal. (Hopefully, you’ve figured this out about yourself by now.) Your connection opportunities must feel doable for real folks. If you ask too much of visitors, they will feel overwhelmed or frustrated. The golden rule of Connections is: do everything you can to make it easy on others, even if it is more difficult for you. If anyone has to take a hit or go above-and-beyond, it should us…not them.
The Knows + Nose + No’s Antidote: Make the action step as small as possible for visitors and make it one-step, not multiple steps. You do the heavy lifting.
No one likes feeling disconnected. Free people to connect with your church plant so you can connect them to Jesus. Serve your website visitors by making your connection opportunities clear and compelling. Spend a little time and figure out if you are communicating each opportunity in ways that speak to normal people, serve normal people, and are doable by normal people.
‘I cannot believe no one signed up.’ This frustration has simmered in my soul on many occasion. I came up with a perfect opportunity for new folks to connect with our church and got crickets in return. What follows is frustration and anger towards the new folks who neglected to sign up and show up. Then I apply the ‘icing’ of judgment on the proverbial cake. ‘They must not love Jesus or his church.’ ‘They must not be serious about discipleship and reaching our city.’ ‘Typical consumeristic American Christianity.’ Now, some or all of that could be true, but that is a problem for Jesus to address. My connection event cannot touch their heart. (But my own heart sure gets exposed.) I end up being more concerned about myself—which enslaves me—and less about seeing Jesus free people to enjoy him.
Jesus is a pursuer who connected with you and I while we were enemies. He looked for opportunities to love, connect, and serve others. When he was ignored or rejected, he chose to trust the Father and follow the Spirit’s lead. His love is so wonderful that it can cool our anger and melt our hardened hearts towards others who appear to avoid connecting with our church. Sure, we can be sad and heartbroken when people choose not to connect with Jesus. But we can continue to love and serve them because our ultimate goal is not to connect them with our wonderful church, but with our wonderful Savior. We also freed from blaming others because the cross says we are fully loved even though we are wholly to blame. Instead of blaming, we can evaluate how we might improve on the ways we can connect with others and trust Jesus with the results. If he connected us to his church, he can do the same for those he’s called you to serve.