so the world may know (or at least that one visitor)

Yesterday, I noted the grumpy trend of not-so-great public communication among college ministries on my trip so far. Today, some thoughts on improving that, based on what I’ve seen.

I’ve visited maybe 75 ministries this semester (something like that), and always as a Visitor. So that means a lot of time surfin’ college ministry web sites and reading fliers. When I’m a Visitor, I wanna get “the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

The whole truth: Complete Info. As an outsider to your church or campus-based ministry, it helps me to have the maximum information possible! When I’m deciding what ministry to check out, I want to know about both the “regularly scheduled programs” as well as the special events. The more you can tell me, the better!

And when it comes to finding you, the same principle applies. Give me an address – one GPS and online map sites effectively handle. Give me a Mapquest link. Give me directions you’ve written, based on actually driving the route. Tell me where to park, and then tell me where to go. If you’re on campus, the same ideas apply – with whatever each type of student (dorm, commuter, freshman, etc.) might need. Then check it twice! Like I said yesterday, getting lost finding your ministry is a major turn-off for me, the Visitor.

If you’re a church-based ministry, make sure, make sure, make sure your “welcome center” knows where your College Ministry meets.

Lots of church are starting to provide “what to expect when you get here,” too. I love that. Churches, church-based college ministries, and campus-based ministries could all do that, right? (Church of the Rez, serving the Wheaton College community, does a great job of this – click here to see that. They fully recognize that many of their students haven’t been to Anglican churches before, and an abundance of info makes it far less intimidating.)

So give me (as a Visitor) all you can! Yes, you’ve still got to care about effective communication – don’t overload the info on the front page of your web site, on one flier, or in your 3-minute announcements. But give me access to “the whole truth” whenever you can!

Nothing but the truth: Accurate Info. All that info is great as long as it’s accurate. Often, however, it’s not (at least from what I’ve seen on the Road Trip).
Sure, some people may notice “inaccuracy clues” like “2006” at the top of your web site’s Event Calendar, but many of your visitors might not realize your info is out-of-date. It would be better to have no info – just an email address or Facebook link – than to have information that’s not accurate.

From experience, I can tell you it’s less-than-appealing to drive 30 minutes to show up at a ministry event that actually started an hour before the web site said (especially when the same church gave you a bad map previously)!

Another church on my trip advertised only college ministry activity, but it was a very cool-looking weekly gathering. In fact, I even found shiny “ad cards” at the church advertising the same event. The problem is, when I tried to find that meeting, it turns out this weekly activity had been canceled months before. Yikes!

Many visitors won’t keep searching for your campus ministry or church if they get burned like this. Certainly, after two instances of bad info, they’re probably a goner. No Visitor wants to come in late to a group that just changed its meeting time, or to miss out on an event they planned for because the details were wrong. Even your info about ministry purposes, staff, and future plans should stay up-to-date, because there are Visitors for whom these things will matter.

The point. And that’s the big point to all this: Visitors matter enough to be great at public communication.

Sure, most of your “regular attenders” (though not all) will stay up with changes. They know how to get to your building, even if the map’s a little off. They know that this week’s Bible study happens at a different location than usual. They’re on top of it. They got the Facebook message from you yesterday, and they listened to the announcements last week.

They also know all the events that are taking place – the party that happens this Friday or the trip to the hockey game next week. They know about the new weekly Bible study option this semester, too.

So your regular members don’t need you to pay too much attention to giving “the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” Therefore, keeping your info complete and up-to-date affects only a tiny handful of people – if even that many – and is easy to ignore.
But that tiny handful is a handful of Visitors, right? Outsiders to your ministry. You might have only one shot to attract this amazing guy or girl who is looking at your flier or web site right now.

I think this group is worth spending 30 minutes (or less) “auditing the web page” every week. They’re worth triple-checking the ads you pass out or put up.

Trust me, I’ll appreciate it when I visit!

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