When you navigate to a church website, you are likely greeted with one of two images (or both on a rotating carousel): the church building or the graphic for the current sermon or series.
First, ditch the carousel. And the building picture.
Now that you have done that, let’s get into the reasons why your sermon/series graphic should not be the first image people see when they arrive at your website:
1. Many sermon titles and imagery don’t make sense to those outside the church.
Preachers like to be creative—sometimes creatively vague—with themes and titles. Often there will be some play on words or allusion to the Scripture passage on which it’s based. While the goal is to make people want to come and find out more, the growing Scriptural illiteracy in our culture means many people won’t have a clue what you’re talking about. You don’t necessarily need to change the way you do your titles or artwork, but if you are relying on them to draw people in, there may be a disconnect.
2. Sermon titles and graphics are not the best first impression your church can make.
One of the best thinkers and teachers on communicating with people outside your organization (church or business) is Donald Miller, and he advocates viewing your outreach through the archetype of the hero’s journey. The catch is, you and your church are not the hero. You are the guide that helps the hero (the interested visitor) along their journey (connecting with God). Featuring your sermon—or building—casts you as the hero. Instead, show real people/families from your church and utilize text that conveys what is possible if they join you on the journey.
3. If someone comes to your website organically, it is unlikely that a sermon series or graphic will be what convinces them to come—but it could stop them from coming.
If someone has made the decision to check out churches in the area, or even your church specifically, the topic you will be preaching on is not likely to be a game-changer. What they want most in that moment is details—address, worship times, what to do with their kids, etc.—and subconsciously they want to see the vision of the journey we talked about in point 2 above. On the flip side, it is possible that a sermon or series topic that doesn’t make sense or doesn’t seem relevant may cause them to rethink coming. If your rebuttal involves specifically crafting sermon/series topics to be attractional, see point 5.
4. If someone is interested in learning more about your sermon or series, they are likely willing to click a menu item or button.
I’m not trying to say that your sermons aren’t important. Having the ability to watch or listen to a previous sermon can be vitally important to some who wish to visit. Especially for millennials and younger, the ability to “sample” ahead of time is built into almost everything, and they expect this of the church as well. And with web design, we are constantly fighting two opposing battles: you lose more people as the number of clicks to find what you want increases, and you lose more people as the number of options and clutter on a single page increases confusion. The generally accepted best practice right now is to have the primary call to action (the most clear option when looking at the page) be about learning more or planning a visit, and then you have an option like “sermons” in the menu.
5. If you are are using a sermon/series topic as attractional advertising, such as through social media or a printed piece, the link should send them to a specific page (NOT your homepage).
By clicking the link in your post or ad, people are telling you exactly what they want: more information about what is being promoted. So, if you have an ad for a sermon and/or series, the link should, at the very least, take them to the “sermons” section of your website. Even better, create a page specifically for the sermon or series. Start with images, text, and/or a video that spurs interest, and then further down the page, link to or copy-and-paste the content from your “learn more” or “plan a visit” page.
Theme/graphics for major services, such as Christmas Eve or Easter, could be effective. During these times of the year, even the visitor who stumbles onto your page is likely looking for information about these services. Again, you have to keep in mind whether your theme and imagery will make any sense to those unfamiliar with church or the Bible. Perhaps a better approach would be to make slight Christmas or Easter themed tweaks to your general welcome screen and/or include a specific call to action button for those services. And as stated in point 5, all advertising, whether online or in print, should send people to a specific Christmas or Easter page on your site.
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