Churches aren’t listening to potential church visitors on social media

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Translations: Deutsch (Deutschland)

Since a few years, I am observing how churches are using the various possibilities the internet offers such as websites, newsletters, social media accounts, online ads, video channels, online streaming, podcasts, e-Books, and many others, in order to keep connected with their members and attract new visitors and potential members.
Some churches are doing it very well, in such a professional level that even companies can get jealous, and other churches aren’t doing it at all, but most churches have a least a simple one-page-website or a Facebook fan page where visitors can see the church address.

I don’t know where your church is found in this spectrum, but if you are reading this, certainly you are a little bit interested in the theme “Communication for Churches”… so am I! For this reason, I decided to run an experiment and my findings were very surprising!

Method

I randomly chose 23 churches (free and state churches), located in cities with 30.000+ residents in Germany, that have their official Twitter or Instagram accounts linked in their websites. All accounts should have at least 3 posts in the last 45 days to be considered “active”. Some churches had only a Twitter account, others had only an Instagram account and some had accounts in both platforms, in this case, I choose the platform where the church was most active on. I basically googled e.g. “Church Berlin” and visited the websites of the churches in the first page, saw if they met the criteria and added them to the research and then did the process over again, searched on Google for another “Church + city name”.

A first message was sent on a Thursday afternoon asking: “Hi @ChurchName, what time is your main service this Sunday?”
A second message was sent two weeks after on a Friday afternoon asking: “Hi @ChurchName, do you have a service for kids this Sunday? Greetings.”
In theory, the churches would have enough time to reply until Sunday.

Results

  • From all 46 sent messages, only 14 were replied by 8 different churches.
  • The first message was replied only by 6 churches, which means 73,9% of the churches didn’t reply (17 out of 23). 🤯
  • The second message was replied by 8 churches.
  • Only 6 churches replied both messages.
  • 3 churches replied both messages under 3 hours.
  • One church replied both messages under 35 minutes! 😎
  • The average time to reply to a message was 8,5 hours.
  • One church replied to the message 11 days after. 😅
  • One church read both messages and ignored both of them, even while posting frequently… 🤷🏼‍♂️

Comments

This was a simple test with a small portion of churches and I didn’t expect to have over 80% of the response rate, but I have to say that I was very shocked by the lack of responses, especially because the accounts were active and many churches posted new content, pictures of Sunday services, events announcement (including special Easter services) during the period this test happened. This means that lots of churches are posting (or “saying” something online), but aren’t listening (reading and replying) to potential church visitors and possible future members. I believe churches can do a better job connecting with people online!

I would also like to highlight a few good examples I came across during these weeks.
@resetchurch_germany is a good example of a short and friendly message with a clear answer, they even added a “we are looking forward to you”. This way the chances of a good first contact with the visitor are higher.

Another good example was the message reply of @alivechurch where they gave very clear directions of where to take the kids and who to look for, also very friendly and already saying “see you on Sunday”. It tells the visitor “come, we are ready for you and for your family!”.

Last but not least, was the message reply from this church that wanted to remain anonymous, where they also gave clear directions but after my reply even gave more information and tried to create engagement by telling me they have coffee if I get there earlier! A clear and welcoming invitation to spend some more time and meet new people.

Suggestions and ideas for improvement

I want to finish this article giving you some ideas to be shared in your communication team:

Engagement: Your goal in social media should be to create engagement with your followers and visitors. Reply and react to all online interactions, and comments. If someone interacts with you and you simply ignore them, it is the same as saying “I don’t care about you” and then boom, a first bad impression is created. I am pretty sure you don’t want that.
Why have a social media account if someone doesn’t reply to people? 🤔

Call-to-action: Suggest a clear action with first-time visitors that want to know more about your church e.g. “We would love to meet you, the person X will meet you at our info point, by the way, we have the best coffee in town and you are invited 😊”.

Be friendly: Use a few emojis, be nice and open to the potential visitor. This means “we look forward to having you with us, you are welcome in this church!”

Content balance: I saw many churches posting lots of event announcements but not so much content that shows what to expect when visiting your church. By that I mean, use pictures that show how your church looks like, your teams of volunteers, your staff, your various services, tell stories of people that were transformed, show what the teams are doing throughout the week, the small groups/connect groups meetings and other activities that may happen outside of the church building.

Use all opportunities social media gives you to reach out to new people and engage with potential new visitors!
That’s it! See you next time, peace!

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