(I’ve added a new category, Technology. Here’s the first post.)
Sam Rainer, my fellow-blogger on the Outreach network, wrote a good piece about church websites, The Church Website: Overrated, Overdone, or More To Come? For small churches, the disturbing news is that only 29% of churches with under-100 in attendance have a website. So, let me answer Sam’s question this way — If your church does not have a website, get one up!
Okay, now that’s out of the way, here are 10 things your church website should do:
- Give basic information clearly. Visit a dozen websites and see how long it takes you to locate the church’s name, address, (including city which some sites don’t include — go figure), phone number, and times for worship. This is what most people are looking for, so get it right, make it obvious, make it easy to find.
- Use photographs. I look at a lot of church websites with zero photographs. None. No way to tell what the building looks like, what the people look like (old, young, casual, formal, etc). Post basic photographs of the buildings, with people inside; activities showing people interacting; and friendly faces. Use your people, not stock photos, and make it real.
- Tell your church’s story. Your site should tell your story. Not your history, because that’s only a part of your story. Your church’s story is who you are, what you do, when you do it, what’s important to your church, what makes you special, and so on.
- Explain what your church really believes. Most churches have a “What We Believe” page. Usually this is the doctrinal statement, and most are tediously the same. We believe in God, the Trinity, the Bible, etc, etc. I like Saddleback’s version which begins, God is bigger and better and closer than we can imagine. Pretty cool, and brief without 397 scripture references following. Time for that later after guests have gotten to know your church.
- Give clear directions to your church. This is too obvious to mention, but I have looked at church websites that do not even list the city they are in. (I realize I am repeating myself here, but this is really important!) Provide the google Maps or Mapquest link or image, but make sure it’s accurate.
- Post contact information on each page. Phone number, fax number, web address, email address, mailing address — all these things are important. Note: do not give an obscure email address, like info [at] mychurch.com. Put people in touch with a real person who has real email and checks it each day.
- Introduce key people. Every church (almost) has a staff page. But how about a page for “Here’s the first person you’ll see when you arrive in our parking lot!” featuring greeters or ushers. Of course, introduce the paid staff, but don’t give the impression they are the only people leading the church.
- Feature a blog as part of the site. Lots of churches are doing this now. A blog is easy to post to, and usually has an interface that does not require the blogger to know code. Not the DaVinci Code, but html or css or whatever your site is written in. Code is worse than Greek, so make updates easy on yourself.
- Produce podcasts. This is a lot easier than you think, even for video. I post my sermons in mp3 format each week, and it takes about 30-minutes to edit and convert the CD from whatever to an mp3 file. But you can also use podcasts for lesson series, basic information, a short devotional thought, or whatever you want to communicate audibly. Lots of possibilities.
- Create community. Okay, this is where things get more complicated. There are lots of ways to create and facilitate community on the web now. From meetups, to wikis, to comments, to multiple authors, to FAQs, to chat, to discussion boards — the possibilities are increasing everyday. Have some way for your folks to connect back to the church is my point.
Our church website is undergoing a complete overhaul. I’ll let you know when it’s up. And, if you need something free, there are lots of free hosting services, or you can use WordPress.com, which this blog is on. WordPress is free, plus it lets you create permanent pages, post photos, and use other helpful widgets. And you don’t even need a web domain name. Or if you have a domain name that’s already yours, you can use that.
Bottom line: Get a website up and make it useful!