Although every church website should be a special snowflake just as your church is, the truth is that there is a set of very common bits of information that is an absolute must for your church site to include. These are the non-negotiables, the vital parts that your congregation and visitors want to see.
Today I’m going to lay out the vital info your church website needs to have as well as a couple of bits of information that will really help as well.
This should go without saying. Your church’s name needs to be on your site so that people know who you are, can talk about you, and remember you. This is especially true for people who might be browsing a group of churches when the move into a new area.
Time and Location of Meetings
This is again pretty obvious. If people don’t know where and when to come to a meeting, you are making it harder for them to visit. If someone has to send you an email to find out where you are, you are making it harder for people to check you out.
The next aspect of this is to make it as easy as possible for people to understand this information as well. Considering adding maps, but also standard format written information for people to read, search, and add themselves. Finally, a picture or street view of your location can go a long way as well.
A Statement of Faith
Simon Sinek wrote a famous business book called “Start With Why” which suggests that great business are great because they start with why they do things, not how or even what they do. This is powerful because people are interested in why we do things and want to attach ourselves to people who have the same motives. This is why a Statement of Faith or beliefs is a good idea. For some churches this will be a long list of doctrine, for others this could be more of a mission statement or values.
Some more liberal traditions may balk at this idea, but even a liberal group has a purpose or value for existing even if they aren’t sharing it. I suggest you share it, so people understand your “why”.
Your Church’s Story
How did your church start? How long has it been there? These questions might seem not very important, but stories are very powerful and appeal to people more than simply stating the facts. By sharing the history of your church and how it came about will appeal deeper within the reader’s mind than only sharing what you believe.
Even if you have all the information you possibly can, some people are going to have questions and will want to contact you. Some other people will just want to drop an email beforehand just so you know who they are. Make it as easy as possible for them. Having a contact system (using contact forms) as well as phone details (yes, some people still use the phone).
A Description of the Church
Pictures and a name are useful for your church website, but if you don’t have a description of your church, people will be unlikely to give you a second glance. After all, your description is your chance to tell people your story and explain what you are about.
Let’s imagine the two radically different churches of the tiny old church whose members are at youngest 55 and sing classic hymns to an organ vs the grand mega church whose members are almost all below 25 (but some 30 year old’s sneak in). I’m sure some elements like their name and pictures would give you a good hint at this, but a description is a chance to make it even clearer.
Parents will want to know about what things are in place for their kids, whether that be Sunday school, changing rooms, or mid-week activities. This might not be important for everyone, but for people it is important, it is very important.
Areas Where People Can Get Involved
Some people want to sit passively during church services, but there are plenty of others who want to get involved and serve in someway. You can either implicitly or explicitly state this out for people viewing your church (be they possible visitors or current members). You can do this implicitly by showing your ministries and areas you are involved in or you can explicitly have a page with serving opportunities.
This is also a great way to encourage people to come with an expectation to be involved and active and not passive.
Having a calendar with what events are coming up help to do two things. Firstly, it keeps your congregation informed about what is going on in the church’s life. Secondly, it shows potential members what activities your church does. Some people say that talk is cheap but actions speak volumes or that your “works prove your faith” for a more biblical comparison, this can be true of showing your church calendar too. If you claim to care about the poor and have an event which shows your homeless ministry, then it really backs that up.
A Clue on How to Dress
If you’ve had to look at finding a church because you are moving to a new area, you’ll know the pain of wondering if there is a dress code or what you should wear. In some places it is definitely Sunday Best, in others everyday casual is fine, and some places might as well be a catwalk with the latest trends. It’s worth adding a line about suggested dress for potential visitors, but it is even easier to show picture of church members and the service, so people can get an idea as well.
Photos of the Location
Seeing a Google map can be very helpful (especially with tools like Street View) to find a new church. However, Google Street View isn’t always up to date and it can be unclear exactly where to go even with a Google Street View (imagine that there is a small alleyway). As such, showing a few pictures of the church can be very helpful. This is true for showing parking arrangements or what floor you are on. This helps people feel more comfortable before they even arrive and not have to wonder around looking.
Depending on the goals of your church website, you may want to put up some of your teachings or sermons on the website. This is a chance to prove your Statement of Faith as well as to provide good Bible teaching to members of your church and give visitors a hint at what to expect. This could be audio content, video, or even just good old fashioned blog posts depending on your taste.
A Welcome Video
Video is becoming what images were a few years back on the internet. Thanks to smartphones, increased data, and the ability to store videos on YouTube, it is easy to add a video to your website. Video is more intimate than a photo as it shows not only a single snapshot, but a more complete impression of a place or group.
[Video via Vimeo]
An Explanation of the Gospel
This is different from a Statement of Faith in that a Statement of Faith is usually targeted towards Christians where as this would be targeted to not yet Christians. You never know who might come across your site online perhaps if they see you doing something in the community or just drove past your church and wondered who you are. This is a great opportunity to reach out to people. Maybe no one will look at it, but if you don’t have it, you guarantee no one will read it.
Did I Miss Something?
Is there anything missing from this list? What does a church require on its website.