Your website is the cover page of your church. It should not only be the introduction to your ministry but also the source of active ministry. It is a very effective tool for inviting new members and reaching out to those who are searching. I have listed 7 things to include if you wish your website to be a vehicle of growth in your church:
7 Great Church Website Tips to Grow Your Church
Ditch the yellow pages
If you have to make a choice between a yellow pages ad and a website, choose a website. It is easier to find things in a quick search online than it is to lug out the archaic yellow book. To the younger generation, if you are not online you are not relevant. In general if you don’t come up in a Google search, you don’t exist to a huge portion of the population. Make sure the important attributes of your church are included somewhere in your website so that they can be pulled up in a search. For instance, if you are a Baptist church in Portland, Oregon with a winning AWANA program, then a search using the keywords “Baptist”, “Portland”, “Oregon”, and “AWANA”, should be an outcome to your church being listed in the search results.
The draw of local events
People look for ways to be involved and will most likely visit within the context of an event before they visit a Sunday morning service. This is why having an organized and accessible events page is so important. An event with a unique URL makes it easy to send a link to member’s friends and family as events come up that would benefit them. Think of the events page on your website as the electronic bulletin. It never gets tossed, it can be easily referred to at anytime, and the URL can be posted or sent electronically at any time. But do keep in mind it is much more than a bulletin, so don’t leave it in the static format of a church bulletin, rather make it interactive and purposeful.
Too many church websites are unorganized and lack smooth navigation. Find someone who is systematic and has a knack for organization to help you plan the overall functionality of your website. The most important consideration is relevant information that is easy to get to. Make it visible and easy to access. If you have strong childcare and children’s programs, make sure this information is apparent, otherwise those with young families will simply move on. If information is not readily available it is just as easy to continue the search elsewhere. Make it easy for them.
A personal statement from each of your primary staff members is a nice and helpful touch. It allows visitors to connect early on by knowing a little bit about each member. Also a place for comments and, at the very least, a contact page for email, is a good idea – but for heaven sakes, make the effort to respond! Nothing is more irritating than inadvertently sending an email into a black hole. When people write with questions or comments show you care by responding.
List what you offer
Resources should be included for those in need or for those connecting to resources on behalf of those in need. For instance if you have a homeless shelter, soup kitchen or food pantry, or partner with one of these, this information should be listed and available on your site.
Digital media goes global
Digital media, audio or video are all great modes of outreach to web visitors, locally and globally. Global broadcast of messages allows those who not in fellowship with your church to hear the weekly sermon and see what the teaching is like at your church. If it lines up with what is important to them, they may visit or choose to attend regularly. Access to recent sermons allows members to listen and also forward to others who might be interested.
Be a source of ministry
We are living in an age where sharing the gospel and making disciples are not bound by geography or the ability to publish a book. A simple and effective website is a medium for hope and encouragement. Provide answers! A blog is one way to provide valuable information, and a question and answer page is another. People are searching for spiritual answers to their questions on the internet everyday. Another avenue to connect beyond the scope of your geographic community is to provide an opportunity for online prayer requests.
Where are you?
One blogger had a good point. Don’t call your map page a “map page”, to be confused with the site map page, but rather call it something like “How to find us”. Make sure that the address is included in a way that can easily transfer to a person’s GPS system. This information should be prominent.
Please let me reiterate…
Make sure your website is distinct, purposeful and well organized. Ask the right questions and answer them well. Reaching beyond your four walls depends upon it. Check out this previous Sharefaith article Building a Great Church Website Starts with Careful Planning for some ideas.