Stop Bullying Users

smart phone with angry face icon

The benefit of digital ministry is that you can track every click. Remember that those numbers are people. This article explores practices you need to avoid. Shaming and bullying should not be in your digital toolbox. Pushing up numbers can be at the expense of a good experience. The easiest way to see them is through real-world examples.

Exit Pop-Ups

Many websites have pop-ups that are programmed to display when you want to leave a site. Algorithms vary but assume you want to leave if you were on the page for a while, and move your mouse to the top of the screen. Imagine that your ushers were asked that jump in front of anyone trying to leave during a service. Even worse, regardless of who they are, ask you to join your newsletter or take a survey. Often you are moving your mouse to change to another browser tab. This is like ushers bothering people leaving to use the restroom. They are not leaving, just taking a break.

Manipulative Calls to Actions

We often present our visitors with choices on our website and digital platforms. The most common pattern is the “OK/Cancel” combination. Does the user take a primary action, or do they back out? Of course, we want users to sign up for the event, send the donation, or register for the newsletter. But shaming them into action helps nobody. Commerce sites often ask users to sign up for a newsletter to earn a percentage off their purchase. But instead of a simple cancel, they use “I do not like saving money”. Imagine your ushers shaming people into giving a tithe. Church attendance would plummet if they said: “pass an empty container if you want the orphans we’re supporting to starve”. Mention the benefits of your call to action. But do not shame them if they chose to cancel.

Social Media Manipulation

Also, we want users to like and share our content. Increasing those statistics bolsters your social media presence. But we cannot build trust with our audience if we try to strong-arm them. I have seen too many social media posts that say “share if you love Jesus”. The implication is that not sharing means you do not. Often pastors will make jokes about event participation. But that is with an audience they know well. Plus their tone of voice conveys the levity of the comment. Social media lacks these qualities and can come across as crass or rude.

Digital Interactions

Remember that social media is a public stage. How you interact with people on social media indicates the culture of your church. Even private messages are easily shared with screen captures. Seemingly private text messages can turn into a public record. Treat all communication as if it were public. Speak love into as many situations as possible. Have tough conversations in person. This is not so you can hide anything. Your tone of voice and body language can better convey your empathy than any screen.

Action Item

Avoid the quick tricks to increase participation. Create a quality product and provide clear, but not manipulative, calls to action. Do not pressure visitors to interact on social media. Encourage them, but do not shame them. Finally, remember that nearly all digital communications can easily become public records. Keep your language and tone in check as you have difficult talks with people. Leave it up to a close friend to coerce someone to come to church. Pastors and church communications should remain positive and encouraging. We must spread the Gospel and remember to love our neighbors as ourselves.

This article was inspired by the article “Don’t Shame Your Users Into Converting” from the Nielsen/Norman Group

Photo courtesy of from Pexels

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.