By Bill Belew
Jesus was so good at what he did that crowds hunted him down, ran to him, brought folks to him, and prepared for his visit.
Jesus’ teaching, works, and methods were so appealing that people were attracted to him. He did not need to advertise: “Come hear the sermon on the mountain by the Sea of Galilee.”
“Great crowds came to him,” (Matthew 15:30, emphasis mine).
The church—your church and Jesus’ church—should be producing such high-quality content that people seek it out.
People are looking for answers. Americans spend an estimated $16.6 billion annually looking for answers in the self-improvement industry.
Why shouldn’t people find those answers in the church?
The church should be taking on the self-help industry and winning.
Jesus Was a Master Content Marketer
The church doesn’t see Jesus as having a marketing strategy.
Marketing sounds “salesy.” It smacks of hype (“The consumer will enjoy life more if they will just buy ‘this.’”) It’s like a person wearing a sandwich board or a biplane pulling a sign as it flies over the stadium. Jesus certainly wouldn’t engage in such activities, would he?
Jesus most certainly would not engage in bait and switch tactics, or any other unethical shenanigans.
But marketing need not be evil. Take, for instance, social media and content marketing.
Social media marketing is tapping into media that allow the content to be shared and interacted with. Readers/users of the content leave comments and pass it along to their friends.
Content marketing is the science of getting your “stuff” in front of as many people as possible.
1. Content marketing is when an agency, in this case the church, creates content with a good and relevant message. The church then does its utmost to push that message in front of as many people as possible. In the 21st century, think social networks: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, and their ilk.
2. Content marketing is creating such highly appealing “stuff” that your content does your marketing for you. Think social media: dynamic websites, blogs that have search engine appeal. In other words, you, the church, are so good at what you do that people search it out, find it, and are pulled in because of the quality of what is offered.
Search happens. A lot. Google searches occur more than 1,100 times per second! Why shouldn’t the searcher be finding you?
How Can the Church Be Found Online
Truth: It is cheaper, more time-efficient, and more cost-efficient for people to find the church than for the church to find the people.
Truth: When people come looking for the church, they are more likely to convert.
Make no mistake. The church is to go into all the world. It is not to sit and wait, unto all the world. But what does the church do when they get there? Wherever “there” might be.
Jesus became so popular that he no longer needed to go. He could have just sat and waited. But he didn’t. When the disciples hunted down Jesus and told him everyone was looking for him, Jesus responded by saying, “We must go.”
It’s what Jesus did after he arrived at places that the church should imitate.
There are some tremendous resources available to the church in the 21st century that Jesus didn’t have in the first century. For examples, the church . . .
• can have an Internet address that people visit and explore.
• can easily broadcast its efforts locally AND worldwide.
• can immediately match its efforts with those in need.
• can instantly facilitate the gathering for fellowship of two or more people—even people thousands of miles apart.
• can immediately avail itself to people anywhere who are seeking a solution to a need.
• can provide real answers to real questions from real people . . . anytime, anyplace.
Six 21st Century Strategies the Church Can Employ
1. Have an online address
The church needs only to buy a domain name to serve as its web address. GoDaddy, Bluehost, and HostGator are among the companies that can help with this. Domains cost $9.99 or so per year, while hosting is $6 or $7 per month, depending on how active your site will be. For less than $100 a year, your church or ministry can have an online presence.
The next step is to install WordPress software; it’s free and flexible enough to do anything you might want to do with your website.
2. Broadcast efforts locally and worldwide
Add a blog to your website. A blog is a free way for any person or group, including the church, to share the things it considers important: message, mission, and service. (The online version of this article will include an infographic that explains how to create a well-read blog.)
3. Match efforts with those in need
The church can write about a number of things on its website: what it can do, who it can do it for, when it can do it, who it has done it for, and what has happened to the persons and families for whom it has done it.
Imagine someone sitting at home alone on their computer with an “ache.” Rest assured, they will begin to look for and find answers to their ache in all the wrong places. When those answers don’t satisfy, they will start looking for real answers. Why shouldn’t the church, your church, be there online to provide the right answer? The first time. A church website done correctly can do that.
4. Gather two or more together for fellowship
Facebook has groups. Google has hangouts. The church can provide a forum via its website where people can log on and interact in real time on any appropriate topic. The church website becomes the medium. The interaction on the church’s website is the social in social media. Of course, people can and will physically come to the church, too.
5. Offer something
There are four reasons people go online and share what they find! People want to be inspired, educated, entertained, and led.
Does your church do any, some, or all of these things? Put them on your website and people will find your church.
6. Provide real answers to real questions people have
Remember when you thought your kids would never talk about “that” with their friends? Only they did. Make no mistake, kids and adults alike are still asking the same questions. Only now they are using Google to find the answer. Google doesn’t give the answer. Google just serves up answers. If the church is answering questions that real people have, real people will find the church.
All of these tactics are great:
• Use content marketing
• Display what your church does best.
• Take your church’s message into all the world.
• Allow web visitors to search, find, and learn that the church is the answer to what ails them.
Do These 21st Century Tactics Work?
Isn’t the web already inundated with so much stuff that nothing new will be found? If the church puts something churchy and Bible-y online, can it still be found?
Yes, these approaches still work.
Consider these four recent case studies of organic search results from real people who visited websites looking for answers.
In the first five months of 2015:
• The Hooked on the Book website (http://hookedonthebook.com/) devoted to “Getting Kids Excited about all 66 Books in the Bible saw 26,689 visitors!
• Project Teach a Child (http://projectteachachild.com/), devoted to teaching Hinduism to children, had 1,231 visits.
• Bible Story Boards (www.biblestoryboards.com), launched in January and devoted to sharing the Bible in 15 simple pictures, was visited by 735 people.
• Inbound Church (http://inboundchurch.org/), which provides an interactive worship experience online 24/7 (and which was also launched in January), saw 408 visits.
What does your church do that nobody else can do?
Get that message up on your website. Then watch . . . people will come.
Bill Belew is a content marketer and missionary to Silicon Valley, California. Contact him at http://forum.billbelew.com.