In an "Open Letter to Churches Seeking New Members" blogger Lyda from "See Lyda Run" details her and her husband Brian's expectations (and reactions) to the ways that congregations go about caring for visitors.
She makes a number of useful suggestions that mostly involve keeping appropriate boundaries (like reminding congregations that it can be a little creepy to go running down the street after a visitor once they're leaving).
And she includes some clear suggestions about the need for congregational online presence:
"Have a website – if you don’t have a website, we wont be coming to your church. Nothing personal, but that alone tells us enough to know you aren’t ready for new people. You can get a basic website for free and your own URL for about $25 a year. There is simply no excuse not to have one. (Unless maybe you are Amish, in which case you aren’t even reading this post and we’re probably not coming to your church for a variety of other reasons anyway.)
When, Where, What – there are basically 3 things we want to know when we come to your website; when your worship services are held, where you are located, and what you believe. And we’d really like to see all 3 on the home page, but at least make them SUPER easy to find and no more than one click away. If you are having special services like Christmas Eve, Ash Wednesday, Easter (that visitors like us are likely to attend), please put those special worship times on the home page. We have encountered any number of church websites that seem to be more interested in looking pretty than actually being useful. You don’t have to be fancy-shmancy super-tech in order for us to get what we need to decide whether to come visit. (Here’s a great example of a simple, but effective, website from a church in Michigan that has all three covered on the home page.)
Tell us what you really believe – be proud of what you believe and s-p-e-l-l it out on your website. Progressive? Great! Theologically conservative? Super! But what do those things mean in the life of your community? It’s really helpful before we show up waving our rainbow flags to know that you’ll be petitioning for an Intelligent Design curriculum in the local schools. And if that is your community’s belief, that’s wonderful, but we both know we’re not going to be a good fit there so we might as well save each other the frustration. We’re going to find out soon enough, so why don’t we get that awkward part out of the way online. Besides there is someone out there who would love to find a community like yours if only they knew it existed."
So, how are your congregations doing? Got a website? Is it update? Does it list special services right up front? Does it explain your place on the theological spectrum?