If you’ve been in the church for any length of time, then you surely know about the Connection Card. They’ve been an important part of how churches stay in contact and connect with members or new guests for a long time (as far back as I can remember anyway!). However, things have changed drastically over the last 20 years and the way the world communicates has shifted.
As part of this shift, it’s increasingly the norm for people to go about their day without:
a) a pen
We’re even getting close to going fully wallet-less.
What we all do have on us, however, is our mobile phones. And regardless of how you feel about that, we need to provide a way to leverage that and not lose out on Connection Card conversions just because someone doesn’t have a pen!
This doesn’t mean to throw out the Connection Card all together, but it certainly means that we need to supplement it with an online solution. No different from the way that retailers who have survived the internet age have adopted online versions of their stores. So we ought to learn from the likes of Sears and others who were not willing to shift with the trends of our current age and paid the expensive price.
The Next Steps Page
The Next Steps page will be the place that your congregation goes to for any type of Next Steps they need or want to take. You can call it whatever you want. Some may call it Connect, but the main idea is that name should:
- Be easy to remember
- Be short
- Make sense with what you’re trying to accomplish on the page
For the church that I attend, we call ours “Connect”.
You’ll also want to ensure that the URL of your page is the same as what you call it! For example:
What the Next Steps page should include
There are 4 main actions that we wanted to make available on our Next Steps page.
1. New visitor connection
Ideally, you want to give visitors a reason to actually give you their information. We live in a day where people are constantly being bombarded to give up their email/phone numbers, so we need to ensure that there’s actually an incentive for visitors to do so.
Perhaps you could provide a 14-day e-devotional written by your pastor, where each day they receive a short devotional in their inbox. This can even be completely automated with an email newsletter service like MailChimp.
You could also offer a free ebook written in-house.
But if you want to just get your page up and running and aren’t able to do something like above, then something is still better than nothing and just give visitors the option to connect if they are new.
2. Get updates
At my church, this is where people can sign up to receive text and email communications from the church. We let people know of upcoming events and sometimes just send out an encouraging message. It’s a great way to keep the lines of communication open during the week.
3. Prayer requests
Pretty self-explanatory but important! Ensure you have an online way for your congregation to submit prayer requests.
4. Contact us
And of course, a way for people to ask questions or contact the church for other information.
You may prioritize your list of actions differently, and that’s totally fine. When Small Groups starts up, it might be great to make sure the Small Groups sign up is near the top, so you can always move things around. Experimenting and testing is what website development is all about.
In addition to the four main actions mentioned above, we also provided links to other actions that are often forgotten or people simply don’t know where to go to sign up for these things. Things like:
- Small Groups registrations
- Baptism registration
- Signing up for the Foundation Course
- Child dedication registration
It HAS to be mobile friendly!
As of 2019, more than half of your online traffic will likely occur from mobile devices. That’s why your website absolutely has to work great (and look equally as good) on mobile as it does on desktop.
One of my biggest grievances is how so many developers still build their websites desktop-first. Mobile-first is not just a catchphrase but a way to develop sites. It means designing for the mobile experience FIRST and then styling with breakpoints as you scale up — not the other way around as most developers do!
I would go as far as saying that if your website is not mobile-friendly, you’re better off having a single-page site that provides your church’s basic information. Because otherwise, you’re not providing functionality to over half of your site’s visitors, not to mention to the fact that your first impression is damaged every time someone new checks you out online. Most users will take a quick look and leave (that’s called your bounce rate). If your website traffic is showing a high bounce rate, that means something isn’t working.
Here’s what ours looks like (with the graphic that we use on our slides to promote it):
Promote it in your services
Make sure you’re promoting it in your services. If you announce that people can fill out Connection Cards or can submit prayer requests, this should be announced even before that.
At my church we rolled it out so that our Connect page is now the primary way to submit online connect requests, prayer requests, etc.. Then the announcement also explains that you prefer just filling out a physical copy, those are still available on a seat nearby.
Like always, if you’d like help with any of these things, feel free to reach out with any questions!