Most churches these days have a website. Church websites vary widely from a simple information page up to enterprise level sites, but whether your church is a small plant, or a multi-campus mega church, there are a few things that every church website should have. Now any church website needs to cater to two different groups of people: those who could potentially visit your church, and those who are already attending. Both groups are important, but will be looking at largely different content while on your site. So what would someone who is unfamiliar with your church be looking for when visiting your site?
Features for Visitors to Your Church
- Service Times (and locations): This should be pretty obvious. Checking service times (and locations) is the single most common piece of information that visitors to your site are looking for; it should feature prominently on your site. Put it in a few spots, and make it really difficult to miss. In my experience, you can make it painfully obvious, and still be told by people that they couldn’t find it. It may seem silly to be redundant, but make it impossible to miss.
- Statement of Beliefs: Your church may or may not identify yourselves with a particular denomination by name. When people are looking for a church, they are probably looking for one who’s beliefs line up with their own. It is very helpful to be up front about what you believe.
- Contact Information: A potential church visitor may have some questions, or may want to connect with pastor/minister personally before making a decision to attend your church regularly. Make sure that your phone, email, and social links are easy to find on your site. Consider adding a simple contact form which will allow them to get in touch directly from your site. You may also want photos and biographies of your staff on your site.
- The Feel of Your Church: This is a little tricky, since it’s an intangible. What people want or expect from church can differ greatly. There are those who love liturgy and tradition. They prefer to attend a church where hymns are sung by choirs, while accompanied by pipe organs. Others prefer to go to a church with more modern style of music, where they wouldn’t be made to feel out of place if they were wearing shorts and flip-flops. Things like this can be communicated by the look and feel of your site. People will make judgements; conscious or otherwise, about your church based on the visuals presented by your website. It is important that people can get an accurate impression of your church from your church’s website.
Those who are a regular part of your church community are probably looking at your site for different reasons. What can we add to a church site to help them get what they need.
Contact forms are a great tool to make it easy for visitors to get in touch with your church leadership. Ultimately we want to remove as many barriers to effective communication as we can to attract visitors to your church.
Features for Your Regular Church Attenders
- Calendar of Events: Most churches have a variety of programs/events going on throughout the week. A calendar of events is a helpful way for people to keep it all strait. Depending on the plug-in you use, you may be able to get your site to send them calendar events directly to a smart phone for the younger tech-savvy people in your church, or to print out a paper calendar for those who are more comfortable with that.
- Audio/Video Content: Remember the days when churches recorded the service every week, and dubbed cassette tapes (or more recently CD’s) for shut-ins, or those who were unable to make it out one particular Sunday? Now audio or video recordings of your services can easily be streamed or downloaded from your church website, removing the need for physical recorded media (tapes, CD’s, DVD’s) and the need for distribution. Anyone with an internet connection can get access any time need it.
- Forums/Social Network: You may want to create a space on your site where people can interact with each other. Perhaps you want to create a space where people can leave prayer requests, or where people can post questions they may have, and get answers.
- Program Updates: Your website is a great place for you to communicate the goings-on from around the church. Perhaps your congregation sent out a short term missions team. Those who were not able to attend may want to read about what happened; after all they were likely supporting those who went financially and in prayer. The accounts of what happened may inspire others to sign up for your next trip. This is a great way of informing the church family about what is going on with ministries that cater to only one section of your church family (youth group, men’s or women’s ministry, senior’s ministry, etc)
- Discipleship Resources: There may be those in your church who are new in their faith, or who have a desire to learn more than they would from your services. Giving people access to bible studies, teaching videos, and more, can allow them to mature more quickly. If you don’t have any such resources, there are sites which provide them, such as open.lifechurch.tv and rightnowmedia.com
- Online Giving: The easier and more convenient that we can make it for people to give, the better. People may not carry cash or checks with them, and they may remember that they intended to give in an offering at a time where it is not possible to give. Creating opportunities to give on-line makes sense, especially for younger congregations who are used to the convenience of electronic payment.
Obviously a church website’s needs can be unique as the church congregation themselves. This list isn’t definitive or exhaustive, but it can give you some ideas of how you can create or improve a church website to provide a resource that is both useful and effective for attracting new visitors to your church, and creating possibilities for connection among those who are already attending.
calendar of events
Do You Need Some Help?
Here at missionbell.net we specialize in church websites. We’d be happy to help you create a great website for your church that can meet your congregation’s needs on a reasonable budget. Get in touch, and we can start a conversation of how we can serve you.