Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to work with advising several churches on their marketing strategies. These churches ranged from quite small to rather large – but they all had one thing in common: they were investing their bulk of their marketing dollars in mediums that brought them exactly zero results.

Take First Church of the East Coast … obviously not their real name. This church had actually been tracking their visitors carefully and interviewed the majority in order to discover how they had found their way to the church. While being invited by a member was still the number one answer, none – not one – had come as a result of newspaper or Yellow Page advertising. And yet the church chose to budget several thousand dollars in 2010 to continue this “investment.” On the other hand, they didn’t specifically ask how many had come as a result of their website, but with current research showing that upwards of 80 percent of all first time visitors consulting the congregation’s website before setting foot into the church, it’s a pretty safe bet to guess that most of their visitors had been there first. But search their budget for internet marketing and you won’t even find a line-item. “Our secretary keeps up with all that.”

Every single church had similar stories and every single church continued their marketing investment policy in 2010. And with the exception of one church, that had given their internet ministry a line item to track the costs of domain registration and hosting (but no upkeep), all the rest were had similar stories to First Church of the East Coast. The unspoken attitude by those making budgeting decisions seems to be that the internet is either a passing fad or that it’s highly overrated.

The upcoming issue of Net Results has a number of articles on marketing the church – and I don’t want to repeat what is there. In a nutshell, though, if your church isn’t investing more in their website than they are in the Yellow Pages and newspaper combined, it’s time to make a serious change (and if you need help making those changes, don’t hesitate to contact us and we’ll be happy to point you in a helpful direction).

For those churches who have a web presence and who are committed to reaching those under fifty, it’s time to be rethinking your website for a different kind of user – the cell phone user.

Mobile phones that can surf the web effectively aren’t going away any faster than the internet is. In fact, smartphone sales are up 193 percent since last year and that number is rising quickly, Indeed, by 2011, analysts are confident that 50 percent of all cell phone users will be using smartphones with iPhone leading the charge. That means there will be at least 138 Million smartphone users next year, and with Apple expected to release a CDMA enabled iPhone, those numbers are likely the tip of a growing iceberg.

What does all this mean to you and your church? If your website isn’t mobile enabled, you’re already missing out on one of the most important (and least expensive) marketing and evangelism tools of this decade. If you’re ready to get started, here’s the low-down.

  1. First, make sure your website is carrying its weight. On the home page make sure the church’s location and worship times are prominent. Make sure you have fresh content – pastor, you or someone on your staff needs to be writing a blog or devotional or something that generates interest on a regular basis … like weekly. Remember, a good blog post only needs to be about a half of a page worth or good writing. Also, don’t forget that images of people trumps images of your building.
  2. Unless you’re a web-whiz, plan on hiring someone to do your web work – especially creating a mobile environment. If you’re wondering where to get the money, begin by robbing the Yellow Pages and newspaper advertising line items. And if you’re going to hire someone, may I suggest first reading chapter 3 of Hitchhikers’ Guide to Evangelism where you can get some pointers on how to make the most of hiring a vendor and engaging in evangelism as you do.
  3. If you’re a novice do-it-yourselfer, start at www. MobiSiteGalore.com where you can create a basic mobile website in a few minutes. You can add both audio and video if you’d like and the whole thing is free.
  4. If your web content is managed by a content management system, such as WordPress or Joomla, it’s generally an easy matter to “upgrade” to a mobile site. Indeed, I upgraded my WordPress blog site to enable mobile browsing in less than ten minutes (www.BillTennyBrittian.com).
  5. If you have a low to mid level tech team (or a couple of savvy teenagers), you can probably get your site mobile enabled without too much difficulty. There are some excellent articles and blogs out there and this one seems to cover the bases well: http://www.mikeindustries.com/blog/archive/2005/07/make-your-site-mobile-friendly

Regardless of how you mobile-ize your website, the future isn’t tomorrow … it’s today … and you simply cannot afford to allow your church to get behind in technology. Though the message never changes, how we communicate that message has to.