Interview with Mars Hill Director of Communications on Developing a Web Strategy
I interviewed Mike Anderson of Mars Hill. Mike is the Director of Communications Mars Hill & The Resurgence. Last week I posted The Top 3 Websites in America. Mars Hill easily made the list. I wanted to dig deeper and understand why and how Mike and his team developed an effective web presence on behalf of Mars Hill. Connect further with Mike via his blog and Twitter.
What is your role at Mars Hill?
I direct the communications team. The team has broad oversight of all communication aspects of Mars Hill Church, The Resurgence, PastorMark.tv, and now the Acts 29 network.
What are your primary responsibilities?
I lead a team of very strong managers who each are much stronger than I am in their specialty. My responsibilities are to make sure that we have the right people in the right positions, to translate the vision of our leadership into strategy, and create a culture of execution in which we do great work that is true to our focus of “it’s all about Jesus”.
What process did your team follow in developing Mars Hill web experience?
We have a general philosophy of project management that we try to follow that you can read about here: http://mikeyanderson.
What elements are needed to produce a strong Internet presence?
There are a ton of ways to get a lot of people to a website. But a successful Internet presence is based off of the mission and vision of the organization you’re building for. In our case we are all about making disciples and planting churches. We have a general goal of planting 100 Mars Hill Churches and 1,000 Acts 29 churches – additionally our goal is to baptize around 10% of each of our church congregations each year. This means that we’re telling people about Jesus, empowering our people to be missional, and people are getting saved. To create a strong Internet presence for that mission has a few big characteristics:
Define your audience
In our case this means that we have 4 large websites that each hit a different group of people that are essential to the mission and vision of our movement. MarsHill.com and it’s social network presence revolves around the idea of “making disciples”. This site is aimed at telling people about Jesus, providing Jesus-focused sermons, and connecting them into meaningful community at Mars Hill. For the Resurgence we’re aimed at current and future leaders—mainly focusing on theological, pastoral, and practical topics that leaders of any level face. Acts 29, which we’re currently in the process of building a new site and content strategy is focused on higher level leaders who are planting or may have church planting in their future.
Make a flywheel
In his book “Good to Great” Jim Collins talks about the fly wheel principle. This means that just as a flywheel is a large heavy disk that as it spins it gains more and more momentum and is very difficult to stop – the fly wheel of a web presence is the idea that the right strategy can grow in momentum and be a driving force in the success of your mission. With Resurgence this is very simple – we publish two articles a day that are short, punchy, and helpful. On most days we have around 20,000 people a day coming to read those articles. These are all people that we are praying will grow in their love and knowledge of God, and that will contribute to our mission of Making Disciples and Planting Churches where ever they are.
If you can’t do it well, it’s often not worth doing. If I was responsible for the website of a church that was small and didn’t have the resources to create a well thought out web strategy, I would create a simple one page website. It would say the name of the church, the mission we’re on, the times we meet, and how to connect.
How does Mars Hill use the Internet to engage people with the Gospel?
We have two primary ways that we engage – the first is that we push out what we believe to be the best teaching we can though each of our sites. We don’t hide Jesus. On the new MarsHill.com we decided to put Jesus in the upper left corner to be clear what we’re about. The second way that we engage people is that we try to connect people online to real like Gospel-centered communities so that they can get discipled well.
What systems does your team follow on a daily basis to maintain your Internet presence?
We have a few staff members devoted to the content on these 4 sites, but we have literally hundreds of writers from around the world that are contributing in some way. We have a set of themes for each of the site that we’re trying to communicate. For Mars Hill this is almost always related to what is being preached from the pulpit on Sunday, for the Resurgence this is often related to a quarterly theme that we choose to have about 50% of our posts address.
We have a ton of different rhythms that help us to organize the massive amount of content that we publish.
What advice would you give a church leader when attempting to develop a Internet presence?
I believe that the internet is important, but not ultimate. It is a tool in your tool belt to accomplish your mission. For a church that has a very large and expanding vision I would recommend bringing in a specialist or a consultant to create a roadmap. For a church that is focused on multiplying small churches or growing linearly I would recommend that you try to apply these communication solutions (http://mikeyanderson.com/
Why do you believe the church must use the Internet to engage people with the Gospel?
I believe that some churches must use the Internet to engage people, and even those churches should automatically go hog-wild with online. They should use the Internet only as much as it helps the mission.
We did an audit of our communications at Mars Hill and found out that we were communicating with our people through 57 different channels. The result of our good intentions to engage people were ever they were is that we created a passive audience that waited for information to come to them instead of seeking it out. To address this problem we actually diverted some of the effort that we were putting into the web and investing in doing a great job with our weekly handout. Simplifying and communicating to our people through fewer means has initially seemed to drive engagement with those channels.
I (Tim Peters) enjoyed the intentionality of advance the mission of Mars Hill via the Internet. Brilliant. By streamlining messages, site architecture and rich content the mission of Mars Hill is reaching thousands and thousands of people.
What do you think?