When I first sat down with Ross Thomas Johnson, the newly appointed Pastor at St. Stephen's United Methodist Church in Marblehead, Massachusetts, it was clear that we had a monumental task ahead of us. Since 2004 the church's average Sunday attendance had decreased by nearly 60% and they had been struggling to reach potential new members, as well as the community they serve.
With the appointment of Ross as the new Pastor, it seemed like an ideal time to create a strategy that would help the church grow its online presence, improve their Sunday attendance, and expand their recognition in their community. Our first task was to bring the power of data analytics to the church as a means of understanding our audience and what areas of improvement we could identify. Almost 20 years of church attendance data was digitized in order to analyze average attendance over time and to examine trends in attendance and how those trends are affected by factors such as holidays and weather.
Next, we looked at analytics for the church's social media and web presence. Unfortunately, there was no tracking data for the website, but we were able to take a look at the church's social media to get a picture of the online presence. On Facebook, over a six month period, there was an average post reach of a little over 100 people with an average of 14 users engaging on each post. In addition, the page had only grown its base by less than 4% over that same period.
Armed with the information gleaned from our data and analytics, it was time to formulate a strategy that would address each part of the proposed growth strategy (presence, attendance, and recognition). From this, we identified the three areas of focus for our strategy: web, social media, and video. The first and most pressing task was to create a new website for St. Stephen's. At the time, the website was out of date, confusing to navigate, and in dire need of an image refresh that would represent the church's values and vision for the future.
The new website was created through Wix and was designed to be straightforward, easy to navigate, and focused on the most important information that potential parishioners would need to know. We made a point to test the website with individuals of all ages in order to ensure it would be easy and logical to navigate, and we also included multiple ways to get to information that appealed to the sensibilities of different generations. In addition, videos rolled out over a longer time period were designed to augment information on the pages of the website.
The new website is generating approximately 30 unique visitors per week - and for a small town church, that is making a world of difference. You can check out St. Stephen's new website by clicking here and make sure to stay tuned for our next blog post, where we'll discuss how we grew St. Stephen's social media reach from just over 100 people per post to nearly 700 people per post - with an engagement increase of over 300%!