Your Presence Is Requested

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In 2005, my family relocated to the Treasure Coast. We knew absolutely no one in the area.  I knew the most important thing we could do, to begin to foster community, is find our home church.  I made a list of things that I felt were important for our family in our search process.  One of the things that was important to me was that the church have an active Women’s Ministry.  Why?
*  There would be fellowship opportunities where I would meet Christian Women, building up a local tribe of friends.
*  There was a high chance that an active Women’s Ministry would go on retreats or to conferences (which I love).
*  There would be a ministry where I could eventually serve, as I rooted myself into our new home.
My next step, was to hit the internet.  Truth is, there are a lot of churches in the Treasure Coast.  It would be impossible to visit them all, and frankly I didn’t want to waste time visiting a church that was missing the elements that were important to our family.  I visited church websites, looking at what type of Children’s Ministry they offered.  Since I knew we would be into Youth Group before too long, I looked into that as well.  I also looked for what type of Women’s Ministry was offered. Some church websites had none of this info, some had a basic listing of the types of ministries offered at their church, and others were a bit more extensive.
I used this method to weed out a lot of churches.  To be very blunt, if you didn’t have these three ministries in your church… we were not even going to bother to visit.  In fact, our current home church didn’t make the cut when we first moved here.  It was a couple of years later before we would visit the church.  They were having a women’s brunch that month.  If it wasn’t for actually being in the building, I would have never known.  We may have never ended up there.
It’s been twelve years, social media has come a long way.  Our web presence is even more important today than it was then.  People use our church websites to learn a lot about our churches, the ministries we offer, and how they relate to community.  Potential visitors can watch recorded services and find out if they like the music, Pastor’s message, etc. before they walk through the doors.
In our digital age the concept of “coming in and experiencing it for yourself” is almost obsolete.  In fact, many churches today have been tested by visitors it will never knew existed because they checked out the service through a livestream on Sunday morning.  Our ability to measure guest responses to our church is impaired, because visitors are watching us through a two way mirror. We can’t see the guests, but they are watching and watching closely.
Not only is it important that your church has a website, for visitors to learn more about your church… but it is also vital that it includes information about the various ministries that exist within the church.
When the Women’s Ministry Council started, we utilized the internet to help us locate the churches in our area that had a Women’s Ministry.  We searched through the site for mentions of a Women’s Ministry or at least Women’s Bible Studies.  Three years in, our #1 question we are asked is always:  “How come I didn’t know this existed before?”.   If your church doesn’t have a website, or the website doesn’t mention  your Women’s Ministry … that might be the reason why.  As a small start up ministry, with zero budget, we couldn’t afford to pay for a mass mailing and hope for the best.  We had a search strategy that helped us zero in our target.
Potential members may be crossing your church off the list based on the lack of information on your website.  The photos on the site, the content, and even the church calendar tell the story of your church.
Once you have added your Women’s Ministry to the church site, then you need to look at how information requests are funneled to the Women’s Ministry team.  This is usually the second reason why local churches with Women’s Ministries have not learned about our group.  After we would determine a church had a Women’s Ministry our next step was to reach out via email and postal mail.   Not only do guests in your church need a way to reach out to the Women’s Ministry for information, but so do the people within the body.  We need to make sure the information is making it to the right people.
I can’t tell you the number of WM Leaders who I speak with, who I personally addressed the mailing to their church, who never received it.  The email didn’t get forwarded on, or the invitation was never passed on.  A clear pathway of communication means that people requesting information about your Women’s Ministry have a direct way to reach YOU as the leader, or that those who receive general inquiries know to pass on the requests appropriately.  I also suggest letting that person know that you would prefer they pass on all inquires and you can filter through them.
As a Women’s Ministry leader, if you didn’t receive our mailing… I wonder what other information you may have missed out on?  Understand that it is not that the information is being purposefully kept from you.  Churches receive a lot of email and mail, from all sorts of organizations and businesses.  Someone is sorting through all of that mail, tasked with weeding out the junk mail.  A simple conversation can help this staff member or volunteer understand how you want your ministry mail handled.
Some key points to consider…
* Does your church have a website?  If your church doesn’t have a website… anyone who may be trying to find a local church might be missing out on what you have to offer.
* Does your church mention your Women’s Ministry on the site?  At minimum, it should be included in the list of ministries.
* Does your church have a clear path of information that funnels requests, mailings, and information to the Women’s Ministry leader?   Where does your mail go? Can you get an email address at the church that can be shared on the website and automatically forwarded to you?
* If you do not have an official “Women’s Ministry” ask your church office what happens to materials sent in address to Women’s Ministry leaders.  You never know what amazing things your church or women could be missing out on.

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