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Churches & Websites: Come on! You Can Do Better!

LifeWay Research recently conducted a survey about churches and websites. Check out these results:

78% of churches have a website

43% of churches use their website to receive & distribute prayer requests

39% of churches use their website to register people for events

30% of churches use their website to automate church processes

42% of churches with websites update them once a month or less.   

While 78% of churches have a website, only 30-40% of churches are using their websites for anything other than an electronic bulletin board! And what about the 42% that hardly keep their websites up to date?! Come on churches! You can do better!

So What Makes for a Good Church Website?

For starters, keep it updated! 

I spend a lot of time keeping Journey’s website updated – I tweak and edit it several times a week. Even with all that time, there are still things that can slip by. If your church site is out of date  – especially WAY out of date – it communicates that it’s not important and people will quickly lose interest.

Recognize the kinds of information that need to be on your site and what doesn’t. 

There are two main audiences, each with their own needs. First-Time Guests: They want to know what to expect. They want to know about what you have for their children. Remember – most guests will consider a visit to your website the same as a visit to your church. Make sure it’s an accurate representation! Your Regulars: These people are looking for next steps. They need contact information. They’re the ones who will register for events, give online or look for opportunities to serve. What doesn’t belong on your website: Your constitution & by-laws, policies, meeting minutes and your financial reports.

Add pictures of people but avoid stock photography! 

Too many churches are in love with their buildings. While church architecture can be beautiful, too many pictures of the building can reinforce the incorrect belief that the “church” is the building, not the people. Include pictures of people throughout your website, but don’t use stock photography. Use pictures of your own people! Find someone or a few people who have nice cameras to take pictures to create your own photo library to use on your site. A church website with no pictures of real people says one thing: NO ONE’S HERE.

Keep it brief. 

While being informative, don’t overload. A lot of churches take their print media and build their websites from them. While I don’t entirely agree with that philosophy, it’s sometimes necessary. However, you should never just cut and paste text from print to web. Print and online media are different when it comes to content.  Online content should be brief – a 200 word article in print should be less than 125 online.

Make it interactive. 

It doesn’t have to be flashy or expensive and make sure you really know who your audience is, but find ways to make your site interactive. Add a Facebook Social Plugin (a Like Button, Comments Box, etc. – all are free)  or the ability to give online. You can even offer event registration or a prayer wall. Don’t forget to link to your church Facebook Page (you do have one, right?)

Building a church website – or any website, really – is a big undertaking. It requires constant updating, maintaining and occasional overhauls to keep it functional, informative and useful to your online guests, but it’s an invaluable piece of your outreach and marketing.

Do you have a church website that could use some help? I’d be more than happy to offer assistance to other churches or ministries that don’t know what to do to fix up their website. I can’t completely redesign your site for you, but I can offer suggestions to improve what you already have. If you’re interested, find me at www.matthewstarner.com/