I lead a meetup group for small business entrepreneurs who are learning how to market their businesses online. I am often asked about the connection to church planting and search engine optimization / marketing. I usually explain it this way... In business, it is all about location, location, location. For a brick and mortar business, that means good real estate, signage, advertising, etc. For an e-commerce store, real estate means good, multiple placements on search engine result pages.
Most church planters don't have a permanent physical location with 24x7 signage. Good church planters have realized that the web is their location. They usually talk about their church in terms of .com or .org. They can tell you that most of their first-time visitors have visited their website first before deciding to visit a worship gathering. Effective church planters have multiple locations on the internet including: web site, blog, Facebook page, Google+ page, Twitter profile, LinkedIn profile, rss feed, podcast, and YouTube channel. Most of these communication channels are free and only require an investment in time.
Just as good leaders multiply more leaders; good church planters multiply digital voices. They don't have time, nor should they, to do it all themselves. They find social networking enthusiasts in their church and coach them to use these tools to talk about what God in doing in their lives and what the church is doing in the community and around the world. Effective two-way website and social networking communication is a good way for the church to stay connected between worship gatherings.
What about websites, aren't the good ones really expensive? Yes, custom designs can be expensive, but a church plant should grow into a custom designed website. There are a lot of professional-looking, high quality websites out there that cost nothing to just a few bucks a month. One of my favorites is MinistryWebsites.Biz. Now I am a little biased, because I manage that business for Immerseme.com. However, I am biased because I am a passionate advocate the CMS that they use and that is why they asked me to manage it for them. The back-end admin that Immerseme uses is incredibly user friendly and SEO friendly as well. Also I love their design templates because they look great from the start, but they can also be fully customized for a small fee.