Wow – it’s been a long time since I’ve posted. Sorry about that! We were on vacation for most of July and I’m just getting back into the swing of things…
As a corollary to my research, I have been leading a team at my church to develop a “Web presence” strategy. Our current web site is primarily a static page maintained by one staff member and a volunteer and desperately needs updating. My team is working to develop a strategic plan for the development of an updated or new web site and will be presenting it to the Elder board later this year. As part of this process, I feel that it is critical to understand how those who are the primary users of the web site, the church body, use the Internet and to get their input into possible features. Now, an argument can be made that a church web site is NOT primarily for those who already go to the church, but I will leave that argument for a different post.
On two consecutive Sundays this past spring, my team passed out a survey to the church members asking them several different questions on how they use the Internet. The surveys were done on paper and handed out inside the church bulletin. They were also handed out in all the Sunday School classes (Junior High and older) and during mid-week meetings. Of the 500 or so weekend attendees, we received 249 surveys back – a tremendous success! I’ve just finished compiling all the results this week and found some interesting, though not necessarily unexpected, results.
The survey confirmed our suspicion that Internet use is a way of life for those who attend our church. 95% of our church body use a computer a few times a week or more, 86% check their email “a few times a week” or more, and 87% surf the web a few times a week or more. Interestingly, these numbers did not change much when filtered for gender or age. This validates our notion that our church is an Internet-savvy church and is experienced in web activity.
But would they be interested in visiting our church web site and what types of things would they find useful there? The survey found that 81% would be read a blog by the pastor or their group leader, 84% would register for events online, and 48% would do their giving online. Additionally, when asked to comment on what features they would like to see, many respondents put that an online events calendar would be the most useful.
And what about Web 2.0? The survey also asked about the types of activities that the attendees participated in online. A large number are viewing media (pictures/video) on the web, with 59% reporting viewing pictures of family or friends in the last month and 49% watching an online video. 32% reported uploading pictures to the web recently and 9% have uploaded videos. As for blogs, 30% read them and 7% write them. 26% reported accessing a social network site in the past month, with 7% updating their profile in the past month. When analyzed by age group, the Web 2.0 numbers do show a marked difference, with the younger set (under 30) being more likely to participate in these activities.
Near the end of the survey, we asked one big question: how important is the church web site. 72% of the respondents stated that it was “very important” or “important, with another 23% stating “somewhat important”. This gives credibility to the project and some leverage come budget time.
So what did we accomplish by getting this data? First, I think that we now have a better understanding of who attends our church and the level of sophistication they have for using the web. Second, this will give my team a starting point for conversations with church leaders. For example, when I meet with the head of women’s ministries, I can now say “Did you know that two-thirds of the women in this church go online to look at pictures? What can we do to get the women’s ministries to begin posting pictures on the web?”. Finally, by surveying the church in such a public way we have communicated to the church body that we are doing something about the web site and that their input is important. Many, many of the surveys had comments and ideas on them that will be useful as we move forward.
The next step in the process will interviews with church leadership, reviewing the results of the survey and focusing specifically on the responses of those for whom each leader is responsible. I will be doing that this week and then working with our team again to start developing priority lists of features for the web site.