“3 Tips for Crafting an Impactful Digital First Impression”
In a letter to the editor, a churchgoer complained that going to church every Sunday made no sense. The letter reads:
“I’ve gone to church for 30 years now. In that time, I have heard something like 3,000 sermons. But for the life of me, I can’t remember a single one of them. So, I think I’m wasting my time, and the pastors are wasting their time.”
To the editor’s delight, this sparked a real controversy in Letters to the Editor.
Any young person who has left Sunday Morning worship could have written this letter today. I am not here to bash anyone but to offer you encouragement and practical solutions.
The Barna Group has conducted some interesting research about Millennials with that disclaimer in mind. Here are some practical ways to reach Millennials.
The Barna Group found:
- The unchurched segment among Millennials has increased in the last decade from 44% to 52%. This mirrors a larger cultural trend away from churchgoing among the nation’s population.
- Nearly six in ten (59%) of these young people who grow up in Christian churches walk away from their faith or the institutional church at some point in their first decade of adult life.
- Third, when asked what has helped their faith grow, “church” does not even appear on the top 10 factors. Instead, the most common drivers of spiritual growth, as identified by Millennials themselves, are prayer, family and friends, the Bible, having children, and their relationship with Jesus.
The church’s messages don’t seem to be connected with them anymore, according to the letter written over 30 years ago. It is very likely that we are still operating with a churched-culture mindset that contributes to the disconnect. Christians who have drifted away are still being preached to and taught the same way they were decades ago. This generation, however, faces challenges to its faith that previous generations did not. Despite this, hope remains. It is possible to connect with this younger generation looking for answers.
The New Front Door
It is important to know who your audience is. Historically, you could send out a mass mailing and expect to reach one to three percent of the population. The world has changed.
In today’s digital world, people need to stay connected. Our shopping habits change as a result of that cultural change. For example, before going to a restaurant, I check out their website, read reviews, and check out their menu. When it comes to church shopping, Millennials enter through this door first. Millennials can be reached through your website. In a world where time is precious, millennials will use your website to determine whether a face-to-face interaction with your congregation is worth it.
Key Website Features
Think of your website as a welcome center. What information would you include to make first-time visitors feel welcome on your website? Create a front page that reflects that.
Not only is having an easy-to-navigate website a good idea for Millennials, but it is a good idea for everyone. Is it really worth spending all day trying to figure out your website? Additionally, millennials often access information on the go. Amber van Natten for News Cred states, “Despite the value of long-form content, 41% of Millennials abandon content because it’s too long.” Keep context in mind when writing content – are they searching for real, in-depth information or on their mobile device?”
Keep your content short, informative, and to the point. This means that the front page must be designed so that outsiders can understand it and navigate it easily.
Make Your Web Presence A Social Gathering Place
It is also important to note that Millennials meet outsiders online. By engaging and connecting with them in this realm, we can make them our greatest advocates for spreading the Gospel to their peers. When millennials are passionate about something, they tell the world about it – through social media and face-to-face interactions. A Millennial who loves your product is your best marketing tool. These evangelists will sell your product for you if you give them a forum and the means to do so.” – Joel Kaplan for Mashable
A further reason Millennials want to connect online is that they want to belong to a community. Imagine them sharing podcasts of your sermons, Bible studies, and blog posts with their unchurched friends. As Dr. Martin Luther did when he put the word of God into German common people’s hands, it could have a similar impact. Consider the global impact. Most churches now have a volunteer or paid staff member who manages digital and social communications since this is where members and outsiders live.
Finally, in the opening letter about the effectiveness of preaching, the discussion went on for weeks until someone wrote the following clincher:
“I’ve been married for 30 years now. In that time, my wife has cooked some 32,000 meals. But, for the life of me, I cannot recall the entire menu for a single one of those meals. But I do know this: They all nourished me and gave me the strength I needed to do my work. If my wife had not given me these meals, I would be physically dead today. Likewise, if I had not gone to church for nourishment, I would be spiritually dead today!”
Today, the Word of God is still effective and powerful. It is our challenge to connect God’s Word with a population who longs for community but may not be ready to enter our buildings. In the digital world, they travel, and we meet them where they are.