“If a church…can’t be Googled, for many people it doesn’t exist.”
This comment was true when it was made several years ago. And if it’s possible for statements to become truer over time, then this one fits the bill.
Unscientific studies indicate that between 75% to 90% of people will visit your website before your physical location. Others indicate that people will visit over one dozen church websites before visiting a church’s physical location. And many—if not most—people visiting your church’s website will make a decision whether or not to visit your church’s physical location solely by their online experience alone.
What all of this points to is one simple conclusion: The front door of your church has been relocated.
It’s no longer located at the physical address of your church.
It has been moved to your digital address. Your church website.
Even though this transition has already taken place. Many churches today have a metaphorical “Do Not Disturb” sign on their website. Instead of being an open door leading people to their church’s physical location, many church websites are closed doors leading people nowhere but a new search.
Your church’s website should serve as an extension of the life of your local church—not the unwieldy aspirations of a web developer, intern, or volunteer. And as such, your church’s website should serve your church by furthering its objectives.
What follows are four things your church’s website must do. Allow these principles to serve as bumper pads to the development of your church’s website and your new front door.
Your church website should lead people to your physical location.
As a way of reminder, your church website should not exist as a separate entity from the church itself. It should serve as an extension of your local church.
Obviously you don’t have to worry about the people already sitting in the pew. The idea here is to connect with visitors to your site who are interested in potentially connecting with you and your church.
Make this information readily accessible for potential new visitors, too. If they can’t find the physical location of your church on your website, you best believe they won’t be able to find your church come Sunday morning.
Here is some non-negotiable information to share with would-be-visitors:
- Where are you located?
- How do I get there?
- What time are your services?
- Where do I park?
- Do you provide childcare?
- What should I expect?
Even though this information is some of the most commonly searched for on a church website. This information tends to be neglected by churches.
These suggestions are just the tip of the iceberg.
Place yourself in the shoes of those visiting your church. And think through any questions they may have. For instance, if you’re in an urban location, do visitors need to pay for parking or get a voucher? Is it confusing entering your place of worship.
Also, if you have a large parking lot and shuttles, make sure people know they can get a ride.
Your church website should inform the different visitors to your website.
According to Grey Matters, a research and consulting organization, you can expect three different types of visitors to your site who you need to inform:
- People attending your church
- People attending another church
- People who do not regularly visit a church
These three different people groups have three different needs. Your goal is to meet their needs by providing them with what they’re looking for.
According to the research mentioned above, there are some very common elements these visitors are searching for, such as:
- Activities offered by the church (e.g., student groups, community activities, basket weaving, etc.)
- Beliefs of your church
- Prayer requests
- Staff information
- Contact information
- And more…
As above, this is just the starting point. Think through these different visitors to your site in your own setting. Ask yourself the questions they will have and then answer them.
Also, as an aside, I think today it is vitally important to be as transparent as possible—especially in relationship to your finances.
I’m not saying you have to plaster the salaries of your pastor(s) or staff online. But I am encouraging you to consider making available, even on request, your financial statements. This will help people know how well you are, or are not, stewarding their tithes and offerings.
Your church website needs to connect people with one another.
Leading people to your physical location is one thing. Connecting those same people with the life of your church is another.
Inform visitors to your site of upcoming activities. Let them know of service opportunities. Connect them to an informational meeting about your church. If you have community groups, plug them into one. These are just some options among many.
The big idea here is to help visitors to your site and church to connect to the community life of your church. Your aim here is to provide clear next steps for people—especially those who are not familiar with your church.
This will look different from church-to-church. But I believe you need to make this one of the priorities of your church website and the church itself. Doing this will inform non-members and empower members alike with the knowledge of how they should encourage people to connect with the life of the church.
Your church website should proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The church is built upon Jesus and is being built by him (Matt. 16:18). Provide people, in particular non-Christians, visiting your website an opportunity to read, watch, or hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. With this it is also important to provide them with a way to respond by making it easy for them connect with someone at your church.
Some Final Thoughts
What I laid out here is the 30,000 foot view of your church website. How these principles are implemented will look different from church-to-church.
Today I encourage you to ask these four questions of your church website:
- Does our church website lead visitors to our physical location?
- Does our church website adequately inform our three different types of visitors?
- Does our church website connect people to the life of our church?
- Does our church website declare the gospel of Jesus Christ?
If you’re unsure about your church website and how to answer these questions honestly, then consider reaching out to a friend. There are also a variety of groups today who can help provide you support, too.