I know I’ve already got a post on Why have a church website, but as I continue to reflect and talk with others about church and church organization marketing and web presence, I’ve realized that too often the answer people have is essentially “we need a church website because today, if you don’t have a website, you don’t exist.” While this is indeed pretty much true, it doesn’t really help churches or church organizations to plan out their church website design, which is a lot of the point of asking the question. So, I’ve decided to give some possible answers to this question to help you and your church figure out what you might want from your church website design.
Why have a church website?
Reason 1: To give people basic information about your church
To me this is not just a possible reason to have a church website; it’s the most important one, and a non-negotiable one in my view. Not only should you be making this information available on your church website, it should be obvious. Your worship times should be on your homepage, and your location should be no more than one click away.
Reason 2: To help people learn more about your community and your beliefs
Once people have the basic information, step two is to provide them with a bit more detail. When they come to your church, what will they find? Laid back hippy Christ followers and/or a more formal intellectual crowd? Do you have regular bible studies? What’s an example of recent topics or discussions? Are you an older crowd or full of young families? Be honest here, don’t say what you might wish you were, tell people what you’re really like. You’d be surprised how many people might be looking for a community just like yours. You can also tell people about some of your other ministries like a food bank or a thrift shop. This lets people know that your church is active in the community and tells them indirectly about some of your values.
A website can be a great way to let people know about programs and events going on at your church. This is true both for church members and those exploring different church environments. If you’re going to be adding this type of content though, it’s important to make sure it’s updated regularly. No one likes looking at empty calendars or events listings that are 3 months out of date. That definitely leaves a bad impression.
Reason 4: To share the Good News
Many churches post written, audio, or video sermons (or whole services) online. This definitely lets you reach a larger audience which can include people who’ve never been to your church before, as well as those that can’t make it all the time. Posting some version of your sermon or worship online also lets people who were there to see it live take a second look or listen and really dig deeper into things that caught their attention.
Reason 5: For congregational in-reach
Church websites can be set up to help foster greater community amongst current members and adherents. Posting sermons can be part of this, especially if you encourage comments and discussion. Churches can also set up discussion forums or congregational blogs (which can be kept private if desired) where the main point is internal community development. This can also have some out-reach potential, but is not designed this way.
Reason 6: For community outreach
This is often the desire of many church and church organizations that I work with. There’s lots that can be done in your church website design to help with outreach, but there’s also lots of competition. Clearly defining goals in this area can save a lot of trouble and disappointment when unrealistic dreams aren’t met.
There are definitely other things that can be done with a church website, but these are some good places to start. And as I mentioned in my original post, one of the most important things to consider is how much time and energy will realistically be spent on the church website. Don’t over commit. You can always add more later if people have the time and energy.
How do you use your church website? Are there any important reasons churches and church organizations have websites that I missed? What do you wish you saw more of on church sites?