Recently I have been out of town and unable to attend my local church. This has left me with the task of finding a church to visit until I come home.
I call it a task because I have found it to be just that, a difficult guessing game.
Through this process I have picked up a few tips and wanted to pass these tips onto other churches. I’ve broken these down into three main bullet points to make them easier to understand.
1. Give Us Some Pictures:
I know this sounds odd and maybe even a little childish. Why provide pictures? How is that even important? It’s important because many of the churches websites I looked at had general descriptions of their services. Many described their services as a mix of causal and traditional. Other churches just said, “…dress casual…” without giving any idea of what that looked like. Without pictures those that visit your website will be left guessing what you mean by causal or traditional. These terms mean different things to different people and might deter people from attending.
Pictures of your church and the activities you provide give a clearer picture of what is the norm. Photos of Sunday morning worship, photos of weekend activities, photos of small group Bible study. All of these photos will paint a picture for your potential visitor so that they can focus more on attending and less on fitting in. Its important to remember that you are trying to paint the truest picture of your church. Visitors are less likely of coming back if they feel they saw one thing on your website and another thing when visiting.
This is not about making your church “cool”, “relevant” or “traditional” its about providing potential visitors and members with a clearer picture of what your church really looks like.
2. It At All Possible Have Media
In the age of Youtube it’s almost an default practice that you will engage people with video. Video and mobile services like Vine, Intavideo, Vimeo and Youtube are all widely used video services that are used on a daily basis by people that are both young and old. If your church doesn’t have some kind of welcome video on your website you are really missing a key way that people communicate in today’s world.
I’m not saying that a welcome video is a must. In fact, if you can’t do a welcome video well it would be better not to do one at all. A poorly made video on your site can hurt you just as much as a great one can help you. Remember that in many cases people are judging your church based on what they see or don’t see on your site. Resources like video, social media links and the like are important. Those services have the potential of showing a complete stranger what your church is like, what you’re focus is and where you are headed in the future.
3. Have A Clear And User Friendly Webpage
Have you ever tried to drive in traffic during road construction? I normally am looking everywhere for a clear sign to direct me to a place to pull of so I can get off of the death trap they call a road? Sometimes navigating a church website is very similar to this experience. In an effort to look impressive as well as provide the most information possible to their congregation some churches sites have become like that road.
I visited a few churches websites that were so crowed that I couldn’t even find the information I was looking for. There were twenty menus, pictures that had been made in MS Paint and fonts that were so difficult to read it hurt my eyes. Some of the menus didn’t even work and the ones that did took forever to load. After a few minutes of frustration I just left the page for one that was easier to navigate and understand.
The people that are visiting your churches site are accustomed to websites that are clear and easy to navigate. Sites that provide the information they need in a way that they are used to receiving it, don’t go rogue and try to change that. Remember that the purpose of your site is to draw people in, information them about the “need to know” events and to encourage them to come and engage with your community.
If you wonder if your site does any of those things I would encourage you to ask someone you know to visit the site. Their honest reaction will give you a ton of information on what you may need to add or take away from your page.
My hope in writing this post is to encourage you and your church to invest some time in thinking about if this part of your ministry is being utilized to its fullest. Use the resources and talent within your church to build this part of your ministry into what it needs to be so that you don’t miss out on the people that may come to your church based on what they see online.
If you don’t have the resources in the church you can look into other services that can help do this for you. Clover is one of the most used church website services, but there are others out there. There are also plenty of examples of what useful church websites look like.
Above all remember to stay true to your churches environment. If you tell me on your site that I will be greated with a smile in the parking lot, I better be greeted with a smile in the parking lot. Don’t lie to sound nice. If someone comes to your church based on your website and feels like they have been lied to they will most likely not come back. So whether you are contemporary, transitional or a little bit of both remember to stay true to who your church is so that the entire kingdom of God will grow and many will come to know Him.