People are no longer looking for churches in the Yellow Pages or newspaper; these days they use the internet.
Your webpage may be your only chance to make a good impression so it is worth your time and effort to show your congregation and ministries in the best light.
These are some best practices for church websites today:
Have a clear strategy
This is the most important thing. Too many congregations launch a website under the vague assumption that they ought to have one but are not entirely sure why. Ask the questions:
- Why do we have a website?
- Who do we expect to visit our website?
- What do we want people to know about our church from this website?
- What do I look for when I look up a church online?
Design your website with visitors in mind, not members
I visit too many church websites that are set up to provide information for members. You can have a member’s area for announcements, newsletters, sign-up sheets, etc., but keep visitors in mind for your home page.
Your web page will be their first impression of your congregation. If it looks like it is for insiders, they will not be inclined to visit.
Commit to do it well or not at all
A messy, poorly designed and/or difficult to navigate website makes such a negative impression that you are better off not having one at all. It is worth it to put money in the budget to hire someone who knows what they are doing to do this for you.
KEEP IT UPDATED!
If your worship times change, change the times BEFORE the next Sunday of the time change. I cannot emphasize enough how important this is. Too many church websites have unreliable worship times and old information on their sites and this makes a very bad impression.
If people come to your web page today and see information about Holy Week, they will not likely come to your church.
Make it Mobile Friendly
Check your page on IPhones, Androids and tablets and make sure they are readable on devices.
What Needs to be on the Landing Page:
- Easy to find Worship Times Most people are looking up your website to find out what time your services are. Don’t make them work to find that out. They need to be up to date and on the first page.
- Physical address with a link to driving directions
- Show clearly that you are an ELCA church
- Photos of People, not just your building A photo of the building can be helpful for recognizing the church to find it, but make sure you show that the church is more than your building.
- Contact information, address, phone number, email (even better to have this on every page)
Other Things to Include
These need not be on the home page but make it easy and clear how to get to these links
- Information on Pastor and Staff, with emails
- About Us, a BRIEF description of what your congregation is like and what God is up to through your mission and work
- Statement of Faith (or a link to ELCA statement of faith)
- Description of what your worship is like and what visitors can expect at your worship service
- Information on childcare. If there is no childcare but children of all ages are welcome at worship, say so (and then make sure that it is the truth.)
- Activities, Programs and Services you provide
- Sermon Podcasts
- Photos of people at your events.
- Label any links such as PDF or Word files that need to be downloaded
- Links to all your social media sites: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram. Make sure each social media page has link to web page
Finally every once in a while you should Google your congregation. Go to Google.com and enter the name of your congregation and city and see what comes up.
Some town and city visitor sites will list churches. Make sure their information is accurate. If they don’t list your church, contact them and ask them to include your church.
Remember your website is the first front door most people will see. Take the time to make sure it is the impression you want to give.
By Pastor Joelle Colville-Hanson
Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA
About The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-HansonThe Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson has been Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA for the Northeastern Iowa Synod since late 2013. Part of her job description is to help leaders and congregations use social media and other digital means for outreach and mission. She writes and edits this blog as well as runs the social media accounts for the synod.
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