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Church marketing

Relatively recently I sought to go to a church service. I checked the church’s regular service times on their website. I could not go at the times provided on the site. Apparently, I later discovered, no one could. The regular service times had, quite some time ago, been changed. No one had updated the site. [Obviously all the regulars knew the new times…]

On another occasion, also relatively recently, I went to another church website of quite a large community for the service times. Nowhere on their site were service times given. But their office telephone number was given. I rang the number. The first person to answer did not know the church’s service times and passed me to another. The second person also did not know the times – but helpfully went to check.

Someone recently was effusive about their experience at a particular church. I immediately looked at the website. The last time the vicar had updated the message was dated 2009.

Are there still sites showing Advent and Christmas services for 2011? Or worse?

Remember, if you want to check when a website was last updated, just paste the following code in the URL address-bar for that webpage and press enter:

javascript:alert(document.lastModified)

This does not work with all browsers. So if it doesn’t work in the browser you are using, try some others.

Regulars will know that I am concerned that the church’s presence is not only in cyberspace, but also in good old-style newspapers. The newspaper’s wedding-planning I Do supplement came out again recently. Over recent years there has been no church presence in it. This time there was one denomination that had put an article in. Well done to the Presbyterians! You get this week’s communication prize.

Our diocese has recently employed a second communications expert. I live in hope…

ps. if your community does not have a website – here’s how to make your own free website. This site is run on WordPress powered by Headway, the drag and drop WordPress theme (review of Headway).

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13 Responses to communication

  1. Oy vey, the problem is so widespread it’s laughable – so your Cartoon Church dig is a smart choice. Every rector and vestry should appoint a Vicar for Information Technology (the younger the better) not just to update service times but to say, “Here’s what we look like to the real world. No wonder the roof leaks.”

    • Thanks, Josh. Yes – in previous posts on this idea, I’ve suggested get young people together, buy them pizza and drinks and leave them to it. They feel valued. They get pizza. The community gets decent web presence. The young people have fun together. Everyone wins! Blessings.

  2. I agree!! As you may know, my late dad was very active in website development in both Christchurch and Dunedin and, thanks to him sharing his knowledge with me, I have run several websites of my own over the years. (Though I am quite sad to see that his parish’s website has not been updated by those who are now in charge even though I know service times have changed – we designed and built it together. http://www.dn.anglican.org.nz/parishes/greenisland/index.shtml)

    I am now facing a similar problem with the choir I belong to – if you want to come to our next concert, don’t bother checking out our website for relevant info or you will be disappointed! I am treading very carefully so as to not squash any Luddite toes but I am hoping my fellow choir members will come around to some of my ideas and communication with the public – and consequently ticket sales – will improve. There are so many tools out there and it’s criminal not to use them, especially when all it requires is a bit of time and nous and the ability to learn.

    • Tragically, YES! Annelise. The website looks lovely – but then when you go to find what it calls the “current” information we find it is Advent 1 2010!!!

      You are so right that what is available makes it all so simple. I use WordPress and fit in running this site in gaps between a very busy life and ministry. Yesterday about 3,000 people visited about 5,000 pages here.

      Blessings.

  3. Hmm. In our parish the “Vicars for Information Technology” are 64 yrs old and the website is right up to the mark. Can’t find any younger people with the know how!

    • Brilliant, Brian! Yes – let’s not be ageist about this. There is no reason why an older person (like me) cannot be up with the technological play. There’s only one thing missing on this magnificent site… a link to this site 😉 (the nice fish one would look cool on your home page!) Blessings.

  4. oh yes, I just realised, our web address should really be on our signbooard. That shouldn’t be hard to add.
    Mine is a very small country parish but I find the website a really good way to map the parish.

    Love the cartoon.

  5. Bosco, it’s not just websites and newspapers either. There’s a parish near here that I wanted to attend one Sunday while I was in seminary. They advertised their service time (the correct one) in the local paper. I showed up at the correct time but the door to the church was locked. There were a few cars in the parking lot, but I couldn’t see any signs of life or figure out how to get into the church. Turns out they had all been inside, but all of the members of the small congregation were used to entering through the back door to the parish hall and going through that into the church. They were all so used to it that they no longer unlocked the front doors. When I was assigned to this church for field education, I asked them whether or not they wanted to attract some new members. They said yes, but despite their adds in the paper no one ever came. I then asked them if they might want to unlock the doors. You should have seen the shocked looks. It just never occurred to them that anyone might not know to walk around back and come through the unobtrusive door into the parish hall and then wind through the hallways to find the church proper.

    • That is an astonishing story, Jim. Or it should be! What is possibly more astonishing is that I am not astonished. Communities need to turn from being surprised when a new persons turns up at a service to being surprised when new people don’t. And let me not start on stories about how a new person is treated by the regulars… Blessings.

    • It’s not just new people who can be fooled either. Recently I lost my job, and decided to go to the Wednesday 10am service (which I can’t usually go to because I am at work). The door to the church was locked. I was aware that they met in the lounge, but had no idea that the church entrance was not used, and that I had to enter in the north side and not the south side. And I am a member of the LSM team and a synods rep and the Sunday School teacher, and yet I didn’t know that. It makes me wonder how anyone else would manage to find their way to this service.

      • Thanks, Dorothy. Last year I went to a newer church building – not gothic style, so without the West-door-type template that we might take for granted how to get into (or at least where to look and in your case find locked). There were no obvious signs and I found myself trying doors that, when I peered in, were to offices, meeting rooms, and more than one hall. I did find the way in – by working my way round the building trying all the doors. Blessings.

  6. My church is in a busy-ish urban neighborhood, and if anything, we often lock the doors that most people typically use right before service starts, but leave the doors to the main worship area unlocked. That way, if people come in to visit, they have to enter our worship service, instead of just the lobby area.

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About This Site Welcome to this ecumenical website of resources and reflections on liturgy, spirituality, and worship for individuals and communities. It is run by Rev. Bosco Peters.

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