Church Life

What happened when I emailed 100 Australian churches

Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 3.13.32 pm
58% of church websites don't display Christmas service times. So what happens when churches are contacted for this information?

Prior to Christmas, I shared the statistic that 58% of Australian church websites weren’t displaying Christmas service times.

For a visitor interested in attending a church service at Christmas, this lack of information communicates one of two things:

  1. There are no special Christmas services (I discovered that 14 of the 100 churches held no service on Christmas Day), or
  2. If you want to know the services, you need to know someone who attends the church, or you should contact the church for details.

Given that most church websites failed to display Christmas service times, and the fact that most people know fewer and fewer Christians, most potential visitors would need to contact the church to find out Christmas service times.

So I set out to discover what would happen if I emailed each church and asked for the Christmas church service times. In the 2 weeks before Christmas, I emailed the same list of 100 churches (regardless of whether or not they displayed service times on their website) and asked them a simple question.

Here’s the email I sent:

Hi,

“What are the times of your Christmas church services?”

Thanks,

Steve

It was a short email with a question, representative of emails that could be sent to churches across Australia prior to Christmas.

I conducted this experiment, not to waste anyone’s time, but because I wanted to discover how responsive Australian churches are to the requests for information from potential visitors.

After all, churches across Australia pray for visitors and often spend a lot of energy and money promoting Christmas services in their local area. This all falls down if requests for further information go unheeded.

So what happened?

57 out of 100 churches responded

4% of emails either bounced, or the contact form was broken and failed to send my request.

A staggering 39% of churches failed to respond to my email. I say ‘staggering’, but it’s only staggering in that it’s a far higher number than it should be. In reality, this is a problem that I’ve written about many times before.

Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 3.13.32 pm

31% of churches failed on both counts

Perhaps the most pointed and discouraging statistic is this:

31% of churches failed to display service times AND failed to respond to request for info.Click To Tweet

Which churches are more likely to respond?

Churches that displayed Christmas service times on their website were more likely to reply to my email (57% compared with 47%).

Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 3.10.34 pm

This isn’t a surprise – I would expect that churches that haven’t served visitors to their website are also less likely to serve people who get in touch via other channels.

This may sound harsh, but I believe that responsiveness relates more to convictions than technological abilities. Let me explain.

If you are convicted that most people will visit your church website before ever setting foot in your church, you will make it a priority to serve these potential visitors with the information they require.

If you are convicted that serving potential visitors to your church is important and God-glorifying, you will adopt the necessary practices and invest in the skills and platforms to serve these people well.

If you are convicted that you are an ambassador of Christ, you will adopt high standards in your communication. As Paul Tripp puts it:

“We have high standards because we know who we’re representing.”

Conviction drive practice. But more on that next week.

2 interesting interactions

I’d like to point out that many churches responded and were fantastic. Their replies were friendly, helpful and welcoming. I may write to them to let them know what terrific ambassadors they were for the Lord Jesus Christ.

I also had 2 interactions that are worth sharing, because they flag issues that should be addressed wherever they occur.

1. The church office is closed

I received a reply from one church on the 20th of December. It said:

Hi,

Thanks for your email. City Church office is currently closed for the holidays and this inbox not be attended frequently. Thank you for your patience in our response.

The office reopens on January 6th 2015.

I don’t understand how a church office can be closed 5 days before Christmas.

2. Go to the website

I was told by one one church to visit their website if I wanted to know the service time. This was their response – I’ve removed the church’s details to avoid naming and shaming:

Good afternoon Steve

The times for our Christmas Services at CHURCH NAME are on our home page at CHURCH WEBSITE.

Kind regards and Merry Christmas

The problem was – I visited the website and couldn’t find this information.

Does it matter?

Does it matter that more than one third of churches failed to respond?

Does it matter that even of the responding 57% of churches, the replies weren’t always particularly friendly or helpful?

I believe it matters a great deal (and not just because it’s good manners) – stay tuned for more on this.

Update

After Christmas I received 3 replies (each very apologetic) from the churches I didn’t hear from prior to Christmas. Interestingly, in 2 of these cases, the person responsible for replying to the emails was away over Christmas.

This means that by mid-January, for the remaining 36% of churches I’m still waiting for a reply.

A free, weekly email with helpful resources for Christian life and ministry.

Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

About the author

Steven Kryger

Founder of Communicate Jesus.

7 Comments

Click here to post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Wow quite astounding steve that so many churches failed to respond at such a critical time of the Christian calendar !! Helpful research. !!

  • Hi Steve, I went through around 300 church websites in recent months, and far too many of them are hiding behind the WordPress – or similar – automatic email functions, ie “click here to contact us” which brings up the automatic email page (which also often has the ‘type the text you see here’). The auto emails meet with varied responses from my experience, but it is incredibly unhelpful & puts me off, let alone others. Phone numbers are also far too often missing. My guess is people are scared of web bots & spam – but If we are serious about communicating Jesus, then we ought to be upfront about our contact details. A very few churches have actually got their Senior Minister’s mobile number up – that is encouraging to say the least! Thanks for taking up the gauntlet over this! Murray.

  • It’s usually because of ‘noise’. The same person that receives that email (when it does come through) looks after 30 other things. So when those emails come through, they’re either not trained or see those types of emails so infrequently that it’s not prioritised. We’ve built over 20 churches websites (@freshaesthetics), so usually if a church is willingly to invest in their website, they are actually looking to invite more people to their church

  • I would have it a guess that most churches don’t know how to get contact forms working let alone the dangers of spam, ha! – Raj