Best Practices for Internet Ministry: Part 1

March 17, 2008 by

For the past year I have been conducting a research project on what makes a successful Internet ministry (see the specifics here). The goal of the research is to understand how churches and other ministries are implementing their web presence and then to use the results to develop a framework for successful Internet ministry.

I have spent many hours interviewing church web ministry leaders to better understand the various decisions they have made and processes they have used. Over the past couple of months, as many of you may know, I have surveyed over 240 ministries (which includes 88 churches) to try to get some deeper insights into their web implementations. The folks here at Church Marketing Sucks have graciously allowed me to use this platform as a way to share some of my preliminary findings (in the form of “best practices”) and to get feedback from you all. I will be presenting the full set of results at the Internet Ministry Conference later this year.

In order to determine best practices, I looked at the responses to several questions on the survey which would indicate the degree to which the church or ministry feels their web ministry to be successful. I can then compare the answers of the most successful web ministries to the answers given by the other respondents to determine the characteristics that separate them from all the others. It is also instructive to compare these answers against those organizations whose responses identified them as very unsuccessful. This blog series will be used to reveal some of the preliminary findings of these “best practices” as well as to get your feedback on your experiences with these issues. So, on to the first finding …

Internet Ministry Best Practice #1: A successful Internet ministry has a deliberate planning process.

In the survey I asked three questions which related to the idea of a deliberate planning process:

  • During the planning stages of your web site, did you create written goals and/or a mission statement? To this question, ministries that were successful answered “Yes” 55% of the time, while the rest of the respondents answered “Yes” only 39% of the time. Internet ministries whose responses identified them as very unsuccessful only developed written goals in 11% of the responses.
  • During the planning stages of your web site, did you collect any data to help plan which features should be in your web site (e.g., surveys, focus groups)? 60% of the successful Internet ministries answered “yes” to this, compared to the others at 37% and a very low rate of 7% for unsuccessful ministries.
  • During the planning stages of your web site, did you develop a profile of your target user? Successful ministries did this 60% of the time, unsuccessful ministries reported doing this only 11% of the time. The overall average response was 42%.

I can support these findings from my own experience as well: I am in the process of putting together a new web ministry for my church right now. One of the first things my team did was to survey the congregation about their attitudes toward using the Internet. This was a great process and really validated what we were doing. We also found out some things about our church that surprised us. It turns out that the seniors at our church are almost as active on the web as our young adults! And most everyone said they would read the pastor’s blog if he began writing one. This survey was the basis for how we prioritized the features on our updated web site. For more details about this experience, you can read the blog entry I wrote about it here. The post includes a link to the survey we used and a summary of the results we found.

So, how about you? When you were planning to build your church’s web site, did you do any of the three steps above? Did you find other planning activities to be useful? I will post additional results on CMS down the road, so stay tuned …

And hey, if you haven’t taken my survey, feel free!

Post By:

David Bourgeois

David is a professor at Biola University, a researcher and blogger. Dave lives with his wife, Marne, and their six children in Brea, Calif., where they have attended Evangelical Free Church of Diamond Bar for the past 15 years.
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One Response to “Best Practices for Internet Ministry: Part 1”

  • Jeremy Anderson
    March 18, 2008

    Awesome stuff. I’m in the middle of a new web project now for my home church (grace community) in Gresham, Oregon. This will be helpful info for getting the rest of the leadership on board with things I’m telling them they need.
    Interestingly, I’ve also been writing about best practices in developing church web projects in a series patterned after Andy Stanley’s book Communicating for a Change. My series is called Communicating Online for a Change and follows many of the same practices; know your users, create a map(or plan), and on down the line.
    Drop me a line if you get a chance, I’d love to know more about what you’re doing.

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