I read an interesting summary of the state of Media and the Catholic Church by Greg Erlandson from OSV today. It’s well worth a read with Greg providing a very good overview of media and the Catholic Church and where we need to go.
One statement he made just caused me to stop in my tracks, “half of all Catholics have no idea that the Church has any presence at all on the web”. Now, I can’t really say if this is true, but unfortunately it rings rather true to me.
My unofficial, but probably statistically accurate, survey of my company’s , Liturgical Publication Inc (LPi), 4100 church customers suggests to me that at least 20% of all Catholic Churches still don’t have a website. Those that do, may have a good website, but may not be telling their parishioners that its there.
Your website is an important marketing and communication tool for your parish. It should be the place to find the most updated information for what’s going on in your parish community. Upcoming events, mass times, info on stewardship opportunities (yes, online giving but more importantly how to get involved), and notes from your pastor all need to be there. We’ve talked about this before on this blog from how to market your church on the Internet to things that need to be on your church’s homepage.
What may have been missed is how to communicate to your parishioners that your church is there. This is really a communication challenge with just one technical hurdle. Over 20% of all church website traffic is now coming via mobile phones. You need to make sure your church’s website is mobile enabled. Can you find upcoming events and mass times on your smartphone? If not, you need a website solution that will do so. As I said 20% of all church website traffic is coming from mobile phones and even more importantly, its the next generation of parishioners who are doing so. Beyond that technical hurdle its more a communication message that needs to be continuously reinforced. Here’s a few simple steps to help reinforce this message:
- Bulletin – Make sure your website address is prominently featured in the directory section of your bulletin.
- Email Signatures – Corporations almost always list their website under their email signatures. Why not your church email?
- Email Content – If you send out any email newsletters or email communication, linking back to your website for more information is a great added value and a way to inform your parishioners that yes, your church is indeed online.
- Become a Broken Record – In words and actions. Where’s that signup form? Its on the website. Upcoming events? Its on the website. …and so on…
- Create Some Links – Make sure your church’s website URL is listed on its Facebook Page if you have one, sign up for Google Pages so Google knows exactly who and where you are, and review the 3rd party Catholic directories such as ParishesOnline, Seek And Find, and The Catholic Directory. Make sure these sites have updated information on your church. These sites can help Catholics find a mass and find your church, but the data their needs to be maintained.
Don’t Have a Website?
If you’re reading this blog, I’m pretty sure you have a website, but if you know a church who hasn’t yet purchased one and falls into that 20% category of churches without a website, please send ’em my way. I’d love to talk to them and help them understand why they need to be part of the most important communication revolution since the Gutenberg Press. If price is truly an issue and they can’t afford the $20 – $80 / month that many good Catholic website providers charge, I’ll donate them a website on LPi’s WeConnect product. In an effort to give back to our faith, my organization has started to offer free websites, through our charitable arm, to churches with less than 350 parish families.
Remember, Get the Word Out?
If Greg is right and really half of all Catholics do not know their parish has a web presence, then we still have a lot of work to do. Remember, the Internet, websites, and social media are all really communication mediums. They can help spread the Word, but one needs to know that they’re there!