Stories of transformation inspire people to engage in matters of faith. But people rarely hear these stories unless they’re already sitting in the pews. Will Rice suggests featuring stories of transformation on your church website will help potential visitors understand the point of going to church in the first place.
Vital churches have long known the power of stories of transformation to inspire engagement, but few are using the power of narrative to inspire people to take the first step of visiting a church.
As I visit great church websites, I see significant effort put into exceptional hospitality. Great websites make it clear that guests are welcome and reduce barriers to visiting by clearly displaying worship times, offering clear directions, offering guidance as to what to expect, and answering frequently asked questions. However, that is only useful to someone who already feels some inspiration to visit a church. Stories have the power to fuel such inspiration.
People are looking for meaning, hope, purpose, direction, and salvation. Fortunately, the church offers those things. Your website can tell the stories of real people whose lives have been transformed through a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Why go to church?
Why should I go to church in the first place? We know that church attendance is seen as an obligation by many, so why should people come? And, if people do feel the tug of the Spirit to engage in a faith community, why should they come to your church?
The answer to that question should be, “Because, at our Church, Jesus transforms lives.” Therefore, we need to ask, “Are lives transformed at our church?” If your church can’t offer a response to that question, you have some soul-searching to do. Either the Holy Spirit is not presently at work in your congregation or, more likely, you aren’t looking in the right places.
Tell stories of lives transformed.
One church group thought they did not know of stories of transformation. Finally, someone told about a new family who was struggling when they came to the church. Their son found a place to belong in the church’s special needs program. Their daughter connected to new friends in the youth program. The adults found help through counseling and a small group. They even got a new financial footing through Financial Peace University classes. All this happened before any of them had joined the church. Then one Sunday the entire family was baptized and joined. That is life change!
If we want to convert website visitors to church visitors, we need to give them a taste of the transformative power of God. Of course, we want to be careful and sensitive with people’s stories. We always need to ask permission and make sure people are comfortable sharing the intimate details of their faith journey. However, I find that when peoples’ lives are changed by Jesus, they are more than willing to share.
The essential elements of a church website cover some important things: When do you gather? Where do you gather? What will it be like if I visit? What else do I need to know? How do I get in contact with you? As important as those things are, they may not address what people are most seeking. They are looking for meaning, hope, purpose, direction, and salvation. Fortunately, we offer those things.
Your website can answer those questions through stories — stories of real people whose lives have been transformed through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Those can be written stories or they can be video vignettes. The stories will move people from being a website visitor to a church visitor.
If you want to know how God is transforming lives, just ask.
It is common for churches not to notice wonderful things that God is doing. When we don’t notice, we don’t know, and we have no stories to tell. So how do we start looking? Ask.
If you want to know how God is transforming lives at your church, you need to start asking the right questions. What if, at every meeting and gathering, someone asked, “Where have you witnessed God transforming someone’s life?” Don’t feel like you have failed if people just sit and stare. Just ask again at the next meeting or class. Also ask that person who drops by the church office to complain about the temperature in the sanctuary. Don’t be discouraged if no one answers. But ask again and again. Eventually, they will realize you are not going to stop asking, and they will start looking around. When they do, they might find something. Don’t worry if those first stories aren’t great. Praise people for looking and keep asking. Eventually, they will get it. And, once they get it, they will love to share so they will keep looking.
It is very important always to ask permission to share stories. Some of the best stories will never be shared outside of the privacy of the space you first hear them. But you will find some who are happy to share their stories. We can be glad somebody took some notes when Jesus was changing lives around Galilee, Judea, and Samaria, or our New Testament would be rather dull.
Will Rice blogs on issues related to helping local congregations reach their communities at pastorwill.net. This article is adapted from that blog and used by permission.
- The Power of Stories by Jill Fox
- Reclaiming the Lost Art of Story Telling by Chris Ruddell
- Increasing Active Engagement Video Tool Kit