Big deal, your church has a website. What good does it do if it doesn’t provide the essential contact information? And what good is contact information if there’s no one to respond? Today we look at some simple steps to insure you’re not accidentally ignoring your online visitors.
I recall an instance some 10 or 11 years ago, when one of my favorite pastors called me on the phone about a printer problem. I remarked (from my cubicle) that was I was impressed that he too was working on a Monday holiday. He quickly replied that Monday was the most important day of the week for a pastor because of the urgency to return calls and otherwise contact those who responded in one form or another to invitations, queries and questions posed during the service or during Sunday school. He cited as his motivation the ‘Parable of the Sower’ (Matthew 13:1-8,18-23).
What jogged my memory of this exchange was a recent survey at Barna Research Online entitled “Most Churches Did Not Answer The Phone.”
Many churches gear up for outreach-oriented ministry during the holiday season. Thousands of churches offer seasonal musical or theatrical events, most churches have special holiday services, and a concerted effort is made to attract and welcome visitors.
But a new research study indicates that most Protestant churches have overlooked one important matter: nobody is covering the phones!
Last week, we talked about having someone as the ‘Designated Domain Manager.’ That is, an individual who works proactively to make sure any contact from a registrar is properly routed and responded to.
It should be no surprise that this week; I’m suggesting that you also have a designated point of contact for incoming Internet queries. At Redland, we aim most general email at an administrator who knows how to forward and route questions, comments and problems to the appropriate church staff member or layperson. We also employ form-based email that sports a drop-down list of specific contacts for specific things such our recent ‘40 Days of Purpose‘ campaign.
Likewise, as Redland’s webmaster, I have a list of who gets what when an outgoing mail gets bounced or incoming mail is horribly typo’d. Such messages go to a catchall email address.
This is more important than you may realize. Our youth minister receives inquiries sent to steve@, youthguru@ and a few other obvious names. Sometimes though, people typo, most notably when that someone is in distress, such as a tearful teenager on the verge of self-destruction. If I don’t check the catchall email address every night, then this teen’s hour of need turns into days.
Likewise, you need to make sure your church website has a contacts page with the phone number. In fact, I would suggest putting the phone number on the footer of every page. Yes, email is convenient, but if a person is surfing your site during office hours, having a phone number that is easy-to-find is not only inviting, but my make a world of difference to a member or seeker in need.
I’m also a big fan of pages that offer directions to the church, especially when they include step-by-step driving instructions, the hours of service and are hyperlinked to online maps. Make sure it’s easy to print on one page. Oh yes, and include the phone number so someone attempting to visit on a Sunday morning can cell phone your office when they get lost on the way … that is provided someone is there to take the call.
That last item reminds me of when I was attending Metro Baptist Church now located in beautiful Hell’s Kitchen, New York City, NY. At that time, they were still about a month or two from purchasing an old Polish Catholic Church building, so they met at the SBC’s Metropolitan New York Baptist Association on 72nd Street. A large room, just adjacent to the offices.
I think I was all of 23 or 24. Sitting with some of other young singles, who were somberly sharing communion when a phone call came in. I leaned to the friend next to me and whispered “carry-out communion?” Needless to say, the repressed laughter of my friend was worth the harsh looks from some of the elderly ladies nearby.
Yes, I was bad. I don’t do that now. In fact, I’m the old geezer giving the looks these days. That said, if you have some other steps you take to insure online inqueries don’t go ignored, please feel free to share them as a comment.