7 Awesome Ways to Make Your Website Interactive
I am guessing by your interest in this topic that you already have a website. So I don’t need to tell you how a web presence for your church and various ministries, in this day and age, is essential. Your site is the preliminary welcoming committee, the doctrinal statement, a bridge to the church community, a bank of resources, etc. Now that you have a web presence, it is imperative that it is also actively engaging and goes beyond just another medium for reading and viewing images. It must be interactive.
Below are a few things you can do to create a more meaningful experience for your visitors:
1. Contact Forms
First of all, make the contact information readily available. When visiting a church website for the first time, there is nothing more frustrating than not being able to find something as simple and vital as a street address, phone number and email address. Since email is a very effective and practical form of communication, think about creating an interactive page that allows the visitor to send an email directly from your contact page. This eliminates the five-second process of waiting for their email application to open. There are many helpful tutorials as well as applications online that will facilitate the process of building one. Most solutions come with a variety of options to meet your specific needs.
2. Provide access to sermons, teachings and events on your website
Streaming live services is a great way to create a real-time experience for those who are unable to come to meetings, but would like to attend virtually. If you record audio or video of your services you can upload them to your website in a variety of formats and allow others to read, listen or view at their own convenience. The three common file types to make available are video (i.e., Adobe Flash, Apple QuickTime, MPEG-4, Windows Media, etc.); audio (MP3); and printable format (PDF). Sermons outlines are nice to post too but should be put in another area of your site since they are meant to review before attending the service. Another viable and helpful tool is to provide the option to subscribe to a podcast. This a convenient way for your faithful listeners to get the full series of teachings downloaded automatically to their digital device as they become available.
3. Blog articles
If you have the staff to do so, post blog articles filled with helpful information for your church members. Allow for people to subscribe and enable comments so they can respond. Remember to designate a moderator as referee to keep everyone playing nice. Keep the blog updated regularly and link to other relevant resources to encourage them.
4. Social networks and forums
Social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, provide a viable means for interacting with the church community. People who might not be able to connect as often with the “outside world”, like a mom who stays home with the kids, or a handicapped person who can’t easily attend meetings, can at least connect virtually and feel more a part of things. It is a way to move outside the confines of one’s typical environment and “step out” into a community – if only for a couple of minutes – all without having to put on matching shoes. In conjunction with a web presence, social media is a wonderful vehicle to tell your story, and that story is often the impetus where important conversations and relationships are born. Linking to social media sites make you more visible and gives access to the part of the ever-growing population who spend much of their time on the internet.
5. Church calendar
An interactive calendar is a user-friendly way to stay organized, keep informed and communicate about church events. It provides a structured, macro-view of what’s coming up, and can be further expounded on by simply clicking a link that directs to the details of that event.
6. Event registration forms
Online registration saves man-power and time. There are now easy ways to create customizable online forms to embed on your website without having to write a single line of code. Look for the software that best meets your needs; for instance, some provide full functionality and integration for registering both on your website and your Facebook account; if there are events with an associated fees, look for a solution that processes payment; finally, find a solution that provides support and has earned high scores in user-friendliness, especially if you are technologically challenged.
7. Online giving
More and more people are handling financial transactions like shopping, banking and donations via the internet. Online giving is a growing trend because it’s so fast and easy. The recurring giving feature offered by most online applications makes it simple for the giver to continue giving even when they are away or unable to attend church. As this method continue to gain popularity, it only makes sense to keep up with the changes and utilize these online tools.
There are so many other things you can do to make your website more interactive such as intuitive searches, online meetings, and newsletters; but this list will at least get you started. Please feel free to comment on what you and your church have done to make your ministry’s website more engaging.
Kristi Winkler is a contributing writer for Sharefaith, a veteran eLearning developer, writer/editor, and business software analyst. Her writing gives a voice to the ministry experts she consults with and interviews.