Thanks in large part to Taylor Swift’s record breaking tour, the term “era” is experiencing a huge rise in popularity right now. However, eras have been defining history long before Miss Americana’s pop culture takeover. Maybe you’re familiar with the Renaissance Era or the Beatles Era or, if you’re a college football fan, the Saban Era.

According to Webster Dictionary, an era is “a period identified by some prominent figure or characteristic feature” or “a stage in development (as of a person or thing).” In my opinion, America has entered a new period with a prominent characteristic feature: the digital era. The pandemic brought a lot of things to light in our culture and one major one for churches is their need for a digital presence. Is your church entering the new era or are you caught trying to do things how they’ve always been done?

The Field of Dreams Era has Ended

In the classic 1989 baseball film “Field of Dreams,” Kevin Costner’s character Ray embarks on a quest to turn his ordinary cornfield into a place where dreams can come true. What sparks this pursuit? He hears a voice tell him, “If you build it, he will come.” 

I personally believe that many churches in the 90’s and 00’s developed a “Field of Dreams” mindset of if we build it, people will come. If the facility is updated or a new, larger one is built, people will come to fill it. If the program is new and exciting, people will come participate. If the events are big and elaborate, people will come to attend. And for a time, these were all true. However, as our society has changed over the last 20-30 years, I believe this era has ended.

Does this mean churches shouldn’t build facilities or start new programs or put on big events? No, because these are not bad things. Instead, churches must realize that they cannot do these things with expectations that simply by doing them people will come. The American church must shift from building physically to inviting personally, and one form of personal invitation is now through digital communication.

Your Church has a New Front Door

Have you bought a new TV recently? Though they aren’t nearly as expensive as they used to be, purchasing a television is an investment and most people do a bit of research before putting one in their cart to bring home. What size should you get? What brand is best? Does it offer all of the features you’re looking for? What do people who have purchased this TV say about it?

Before setting foot in a store, most people are seeking the answers for these questions online. Guess what? Before setting foot in your church, most people are seeking answers to questions they have on your website. In fact, 80% of new visitors head to a church’s website before stepping into its building.

If your church website is the new front door for guests, you want to make sure it is inviting, welcoming, and answers questions people may have about your church. What does your church believe? When are your services? What can I expect if my family visits? Who is your pastor? Can I hear some of his sermons? Can I contact him before I visit? Your website should enable guests to easily find these answers!

On average, 17 million Americans who do not attend a house of worship on a regular basis will visit church websites. Your church’s doorway has turned digital. Does your website provide a virtual glimpse at who your church is and, as a result, invite visitors to take the next step with a physical visit? 

Be Where the People Are

Growing up with a sister who had red hair, “The Little Mermaid” was a staple in our home. Among the many iconic songs from this movie, we have Ariel’s power ballad “Part of Your World.” Prince Eric was dreamy and King Triton just didn’t understand. Remember? “I wanna be where the people are…” Skip ahead a few scenes in the movie and (spoiler alert!) even though she was not of their world, she went into their world.

See where I’m going here? As a church, you want to be where the people are and that means going into their world. Data from the most recent studies indicate that people spend an average of 2 hours and 24 minutes per day on social media. If your website is the new front door of the church, then social media is the new front door of your community.

The days of going door-to-door to reach your community are coming to an end. Enter the days of social media outreach! Instead of church members handing friends a flier or knocking on a neighbor’s door, now they are tagging friends and sharing social posts as digital invites. Your community is on social media, is your church where the people are?

The world we live in is changing and shifting. While churches do not need to shift the truth of Scripture to match a changing culture, it is not bad for churches to adapt their methods to best reach the world they are in but not of. Is your church prepared for this new digital era? Does the digital world confuse or scare you? Dogwood would love to talk with you about how we can help your church transition to your church and community’s new front doors of the digital era!

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