Living in a post-web site world

February 17, 2010 — 6 Comments

Whenever someone comes up to me requesting help for their church or ministry’s Internet effort, I usually get asked a question such as: “How can we make our website better?”  In my opinion, this is the wrong question to ask.  We are now living in a “post-website” world. I don’t know when this happened, but over the past year or so, there has been a shift away from the organization website being the centerpiece of the online world. We need to go where the people are; they are not going to come to us. The advent of social media, including the massive popularity and mainstreaming of Facebook, has changed the game. The question should now be: “What should our online strategy be?”

This is not to say that you don’t need a web site. A web site is your stake in the ground, it is how people will find information about you if they are looking for it. But it is not going to be your primary means of interaction. Sure, you can build your own social network or your own photo-sharing site, but what is going to draw people to it? They are already on Facebook! They are already on Twitter, YouTube, Buzz, MySpace, LinkedIn, and many others! Do your research and find out where the people whom you want to reach are going and then go there yourself! Your strategy should include an intentional focus on specific social media sites based on your research.

So what does this look like? For many, it means Facebook, absolutely. For others, it means getting on board with mobile technologies. Looking forward (as you must do) it should include location-based technologies such as FourSquare or Yelp! And be sure you are getting on board with the augmented reality applications starting to appear! It can be overwhelming, but by making intentional choices, you can move forward in a strategic way that will bring success. If your ministry is struggling with strategic decisions regarding online ministry, consider working with someone like me who is keeping on top of these technologies and can provide strategic planning and advice.

So what do you think? Is the web site as the priority Internet presence a thing of the past? Can an organization get away with a minimal website if they focus on social media sites instead?


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Online ministry researcher and educator. Associate Professor and Director of Innovation for the Crowell School of Business at BIola University. Author of Ministry in the Digital Age.

6 responses to Living in a post-web site world

  1. Dave, that's a great question. I think like you said, "A web site is your stake in the ground, it is how people will find information about you if they are looking for it." So, you have to have a website and have all your info there for people who are looking for it. However, it's critically important to be able to deliver the specific info people want using the each person's preferred medium (e.g. email, RSS, SMS, RSS, Facebook, Twitter).

    And that's just for the goal of informing people who are already connected with the ministry. Beyond that, one has to consider goals like connecting with new people outside the ministry (marketing), building relationships among people within the ministry (community), and possibly other ministry specific goals like education, training, coordinating volunteers, online giving. For some of those goals, the org's website may be the best tool, for others another site may have the best tools, and for others a combination of the two may be the best strategy.

  2. These are good points, Paul. And it gets to the heart of the matter: connecting with new people outside the ministry is most likely not going to be done primarily via the website. If they are looking for you, then yes, the website is a key ingredient. But if we want to get their attention, then we need to understand how to build relationships with them via all these other tools. We need to understand how to build trust and deliver them the information that they need without coming across as "click this link to see more".

    Thanks for your comment.


  3. Even in the "website" age, I think most churches didn't have much of a vision for reaching others with their website more than a 'bigger, cheaper, more informative yellow pages ad'. To develop a site that draws people to it, you need to provide something of value to them. That is only true of course if the purpose of your site is to reach out beyond your natural contacts (people who are looking for you.)

    For myself, I have been something of a skeptic about the internet as a meaningful outreach tool. We designed our church website with our own people in mind, primarily to make the audio of our messages easily available. A few others stumble upon us and seem to benefit, which is great, but that isn't our main objective.

    Don Johnson
    Jerimiah 33.3

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