What a Church Website Should Be
Over the last few weeks I’ve done quite a bit of reading online. From pastoral resource sites to web development companies, each one laid out a slightly different list of what they felt were the “requirements” for an effective ministry website. So the question arises – “Is there a comprehensive list of required elements for church websites?”
The answer is most undoubtedly NO. While there are some general guidelines as to what a church website should look like and what functions it should/needs to perform, a great deal of the time those requirements are going to vary based upon the Pastor and Church’s DNA, who you are trying to reach, and what your membership requires.
With that in mind I’ve created a more generalized list which includes several items which I believe are key – and for some reason are seldom found on most other lists. So take a few minutes and browse thru what we feel make up an effective church website. If you find there are certain areas your website could improve on discuss it with your web designer or technical team. See what it would take to add them – most are not that difficult to implement – and watch your visitor and member engagement start to grow exponentially.
1) Your website should be attractive – but more.
While having an attractive website is pretty much a no brainer – it’s the ‘but more’ part we need to take a look at. Have you ever found a website and searched in vain for an email address or phone number? How about service times and location. Would you believe some churches don’t even have that information on their website? Other websites that we have run across are absolute works of art. I commend their designer for their artistry. Only thing is with the beauty they forgot the functional and are losing over half their audience to frustration and confusion. We created a resource which shows one of the most effective website layouts. You can download it for free here:
Another issue we see quite often is that many church website’s either don’t display properly on mobile devices or they look terrible. When over fifty percent of your audience is finding your site on their mobile phone your site’s mobile version better be up to the task.
2) Your website should serve your members.
With the rise in social media it’s is becoming more difficult to centralize information in one spot. Gone are the days where the weekly church bulletin and the church sign out front were the two official information sources. Now with email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and your website keeping up with the flow of information is becoming nearly impossible. You need to decide where the official repository for church information will reside and assure that it is updated constantly.
Livestreaming and sermon archives are a great resource for your members. Whether home with sick kids, traveling or working they can still take part and be fed. And as a bonus it’s a great outreach tool for those visitors that just aren’t comfortable enough yet to attend in person.
If you want to step it up to the next level you should consider a member’s only section of your website to allow them to update/share their personal information, prayer requests, manage their giving, provide volunteer opportunities etc.
3) Your website should be a magnet for visitors.
You should consider your church’s website a valuable part of your outreach ministry. We often get requests asking for websites that are ‘visitor friendly’ or ‘welcoming’. That is all well and good but if all you’re doing is throwing up a ‘New Here’ section and an overview of your ministries then you are missing it. If you were go out to the street corner to evangelize, would you engage with your audience? Or would you just hold up a sheet of paper with John 3:16 written on it and stay quiet?
Relationship evangelism is a great way to get your membership involved in reaching those who they know. But the internet is full of strangers, right? There’s no way we can do evangelism there….or can we? One of the key tools overlooked by churches today is visitor engagement and email marketing. Most churches give first time guests a visitor bag, why can’t you do the same for your website visitors? Give them some free downloadable resources and use that to form a relationship with them. Use email to start a conversation, find out what they need or are looking for, and how your church can help. Soon they won’t see you and the church as strangers but as friends. And the best part is this can be almost completely automated.
4) You need to embrace the newest technology
Most churches use Google Analytics for visitor statistics and tracking. But that is about the extent of it. I’ve seen very few churches using Google Adwords to get their message out. The two tools used together make a powerful marketing, tracking and conversion tool.
Another area churches are missing out on is Facebook. Yes they have a Facebook page for their church, and yes they might run a few sponsored posts now and then. But then what? Facebooks’ Pixel is their tracking technology that has the ability to open so many doors for your marketing it’s not funny. Want to create a Facebook ad targeting individuals who visited a resource page on your site and didn’t download the resource? Pixel can target them. How about creating a custom audience to target based on the characteristics of your last 500 visitors. Piece of cake. With Pixel the options are almost unlimited.
I would love to get your comments and feedback regarding this list as well answer any questions you may have regarding implementing these items on your church’s website. Drop me a note anytime – firstname.lastname@example.org.