It was September 2016 and I was on a flight to Atlanta. I was headed to a conference where I would be delivering a keynote. Speaking events weren’t something I was accustomed to then, so I was determined to use the time on the plane to prepare and rehearse my talk.
The creative side of my brain had a different idea, though.
Almost immediately after takeoff, an idea popped unbidden into my head. For the duration of the flight (YYZ-ATL), my upcoming speech neglected, I sketched out the bones of this idea.
The next day in the Buckhead neighborhood of uptown Atlanta, I met three friends at a co-working space. By the end of that day, the fledgling idea had a name, a domain, and input from various pastors on how to make it workable and useful.
The conference wouldn’t even start until the following day.
Every week my team and I work with 125+ churches creating their video announcements. This puts me in the unique situation of not only hosting announcements at my own church, but also hosting for dozens of others.
A little bit of quick math … 125 churches x 5 announcements each week x 52 weeks = 32,500 announcements
Yes, we hosted 32,500 announcements in just one year! And we’ve been doing this for close to 5 years. Suffice it to say, I’ve presented tens of thousands of church announcements on camera.
To give you an inside look, here’s how most church announcements go.
A church will promote their event and then present their congregation with a call to action. A call to action explains here’s what to do next. During my tenure presenting tens of thousands of announcements, I’ve found that churches generally use 5 different destinations to send their congregations to take next steps.
Some churches will use all 5. Some will use just 2, 3, or 4. But I have yet to partner with a church that uses only one destination. Why? Because each of the 5 traditional next step destinations is inherently flawed, so churches find themselves forced to use more than one.
Let’s briefly look at each destination.
1. The Website
Churches send their congregations to a page on their website. Wanna sign your kids up for the overnight trip? Head to mychurch.com/summercamplivingwater
The Flaw: Nowadays, most church websites are built for potential new visitors (which is, by the way, how it should be). Land on a church’s website and you’ll see service times, locations, what to expect, etc. But next steps are usually buried in the back pages somewhere with complex, easily forgettable URLs with forward-slashes.
2. The Lobby
Since churches recognize that obscure website pages are tough to find, they generally push people to their lobby as well. Wanna learn more about the upcoming Men’s Retreat? Head to the desk in the lobby.
The Flaw: The Lobby works exceptionally well on Sundays when everyone is gathered. This destination is useless during the other six days of the week though.
3. The Bulletin
Bulletins are still alive and well in many of our churches. They are frequently used in church announcements as next steps. Wanna learn more about the prayer gathering this Wednesday? Check your bulletin.
The Flaw: Bulletins require heavy printing costs and physical assembly each week. And sadly, most bulletins still end up in the garbage.
4. The Mobile App
It always surprises me how many churches use apps as the main next step for their congregations. Wanna give online? Just download our app.
The Flaw: Church apps are expensive to build and carry a hefty recurring cost each month (usually $75-$150/month). Half of U.S. smartphone users download zero new apps per month. And even if you can convince someone to download your app, it’s usually a vanity metric, because 80% of people who download an app never become active users (Source).
5. Email Addresses & Phone Numbers
The fifth destination for next steps I see churches use is an email address or phone number. Want to learn more about our Wednesday Night program? Call the church office or email Pastor Sheila.
The Flaw: Manual methods like phone numbers and email addresses don’t scale. They require vast amounts of volunteer/staff hours and can only function on a 1-to-1 basis. Moreover, much like having to remember long URLs, long phone numbers and email addresses are a tough ask for your people.
The 2017 Church Website Trend You Can’t Afford To Ignore
If you can’t easily promote what’s going on in your church, you’re going to have a difficult time compelling people to take next steps. And perhaps the most important element of any promotion is the next step.
One church I’ve always admired is Church On The Move. They do tremendous work with their church’s announcements.
Coincidentally, I ran into the Communications Director of Church on the Move while speaking at the conference in Atlanta I recounted earlier. The conference hosted a rooftop after-party for attendees, and a mutual friend introduced me to Stephen Posey, the Communications Director of Church on the Move.
I remember asking him, “What next step do you push your congregation to? Is it your main website? The lobby? An app? Email addresses? Phone numbers? Maybe even a bulletin?”
Stephen responded, “COTM.info.”
Stephen went on to explain that, rather than use their main website or another destination as their church’s main call-to-action, they built a website specifically to solve this problem.
COTM.info is essentially a web app parked on an easy-to-remember domain. It serves as the primary call to action for every promotion at Church on the Move.
You get the idea.
The Central Hub
For the last 18 months, I’ve been teaching a concept called The Central Hub: The idea of creating a single landing spot for every next step in your church. It’s essentially what Church on the Move is doing with their online hub.
Why is a Central Hub so important? It streamlines communications by eliminating confusion and distractions from your church’s promotions. And after working with hundreds of churches presenting their announcements, I can tell you that simplicity and clarity is something most churches struggle with.
This is the new church website blueprint. And it’s the 2017 web trend that you cannot afford to ignore.
Instead of just one website (ie. mychurch.com) serving two unique audiences (potential new visitors + your existing congregation), I highly encourage you to follow the Church on the Move model and create two unique sites for your two unique audiences.
Imagine this …
- Everyone in your church knowing exactly where to find information at all times
- Eliminating conversations where people come up to you and say, “I didn’t even know that was happening!”
- Always having a unified, identical next step for every single promotion in your church
When I was sitting with my friends in the common room of Roam, a co-working space in Atlanta, we were debating three different names for my nascent Central Hub idea. Justin Dean of That Church Conference still thinks we should have called it Pivot. The other name we were considering was Swivel.
Eventually, the majority voted for Nucleus. I immediately purchased the domain Nucleus.Church.
Nucleus is the all-in-one Central Hub for your church. The only call-to-action destination that your church needs. The single landing spot where people in your church can take their next step.
It’s a 100% customizable web app built mobile-first, accessible through a single URL.
This means that after every promotion you can simply say, “Wanna learn more? Head to mychurch.info.” Just replace “mychurch.info” with your preferred domain name.
You can capture information, build forms, and customize your Nucleus. however you see fit. You eliminate the distractions and confusion from your church’s communications.
Imagine … your connect card, message notes, calendar, ministry signups, event registrations, giving, prayer requests — all taking place at one single location.
- Nucleus is not a bulletin so it won’t be thrown out
- It’s not a mobile app with barriers to downloading
- It’s not your lobby which is unavailable most weekdays
- It’s not an email or phone number that can’t scale infinitely without manual work on your part
- And it’s not your main website so you don’t need to try to use that platform to serve two unique audiences
Your Nucleus is accessible 24/7/365 through any device. And you can also set it up on tablets in your church’s lobby to offer a physical Central Hub on Sundays.
Your Next Step
It took a long time for me to figure this out. For years I’d seen what churches were doing with their promotions. I’d seen their confusion and distractions firsthand. The question that kept repeating itself in my mind was, “So how can we fix it?”
I was 30,000 feet in the air somewhere over Pennsylvania when the answer came to me.
I remember that a bunch of the conference speakers and their families were headed for a night out on the town the evening before the conference began. We all met at the hotel and called an Uber. We were a big group, so we had to get an Uber XL to fit us all.
We crammed into a minty-fresh Cadillac Escalade. I found myself in the very back seat, and we spent the next thirty minutes in Atlanta traffic. But during this time, while everyone else was joking and laughing, I was on my phone talking to pastors about Nucleus and asking for input.
(Okay, it wasn’t the best show of manners on my part. But if you’ve ever become obsessed with a creative project perhaps you can relate…)
And whether or not you sign up for Nucleus when we officially launch and build your church’s Central Hub using our software, please, build a Central Hub for your church.
This is the new website blueprint. This is the 2017 website trend that you cannot afford to ignore.
Create a Central Hub online, accessible through a single URL; set up tablets in your lobby with the Central Hub locked on (this step is optional); and use only this Central Hub as your single call to action for every next step in your church.
You’ll eliminate congregation confusion. You’ll remove distractions from your church’s communications. And you’ll see more next steps being taken by your church as a result.