Creating Personas for Your Church

small plastic figure leading larger crowd of figures

Simply put, personas are fake people based on real data. You most likely have several key markets you are targeting at your church. By pulling real data from various sources, you can create a profile to fit those markets. These profiles are powerful because you can create web experiences crafted just for them. In time, these personas become the focus of discussion rather than personal opinions of your internal teams.

Simple Persona of the Stamos Family
Simple Persona of the Stamos Family

This might sound like an interesting tool for creating websites. You may have wondered who you are marketing toward, what they might like to do, and what will ultimately convince them to make your church their new home. Although I have talked about creating personas before, I never went into detail how to create them. Hence I will not try to convince you anymore that this is a good exercise, and will get right into the steps you should take.

Pick a Target

Your church leadership should have a good idea of where they need to strengthen their ministries. If have a very small youth program, teens and families with younger children would be an obvious pick. Have lots of kids but no leaders? Young adults from college campuses might be your choice. I could go on and on, but you get the idea that you have deficits within your church, and certain people groups are best suited to fill those gaps.

Gather Data

Once you have those target demographics, start synthesizing or collecting data on them. These can should include the basics of gender, age, and race. However, go beyond that with education levels, typical jobs, financial situations, family configurations, levels of church involvement, and so on. I would encourage you to start off basic, and if you feel you need more; add it later. The biggest question is how to get it? If any of those groups exist within your church, ask them about their friends and co-workers. If you are at a complete lacking, perhaps examining census data is a possibility.

Determine an Average

Once you have that data, create an average scenario. Simply saying that you want a younger family does not cut it. Give them an exact age, and a sampling of data from your pool. Use prominent industries in your community that would influence a typical job. Talk to people who live in neighborhoods where your target market resides. Try to understand what the families are like and what trends exist there. Although this is a creative process, prayer and research will lead you to clear choices.

Craft the Persona

Now is when you take all of your findings and work some magic. Give your personas names and use a photo from a stock photography site to provide them a face. Layer in all of the data you collected, and give them a short history. Describe what they value and what interests them in terms of church life and hobbies. The more you make them feel like a real person, the more you will want to consider their point of view when crafting a feature on your website.

Action Item

Run through the steps I provided to create a baseline of personas for your church web strategy. Do not limit it to just your website, as many people will be reached on social media outlets. Now when you start your next project, put these personas up on a board and talk to what they would like rather than what you would. This drives decisions away from subjective opinions and toward objectively researched markets. Those markets of course are the people you have prayerfully considered as gaps in your church family.

Photos courtesy of Benjamin Earwicker and Sanja Gjenero

Author: Stephen Morrissey

I have been making websites since 1996, and using social media since 2006. My current profession is designing user experiences for corporate software, websites, and mobile applications. I started sharing my knowledge with the world in 2011, about a year after a revival in my faith.