Imagine you’re one of Moses’ Israelites. It’s been a rough couple of weeks. Between those nasty plagues, the last-minute lamb-roast, and all that adrenaline-pumping running in the desert, the last thing you need is a watery death in the Red Sea with Pharaoh’s men nipping at your heels. What are you going to do?
Does this feeling of panic and overwhelming despair sound eerily familiar? Maybe because this is how you feel when you’re faced with the prospect of setting up your church website. Where do you even begin?
Well, fortunately for the Israelites, Moses was there to part the waves and lead them to safety in the Promised Land. And, fortunately for you, I’m here to help you sort through the worry of building your church website! (And yes, I did just compare myself to Moses.)
If you follow these ten simple commandments of church website building, you’ll be well on your way to parting the waves of website worry.
The 10 Commandments:
1. Thou Shalt Introduce Yourself.
In my book, there’s no better way to meet someone than an old-fashioned handshake, and the website equivalent of this is an “about” or “introduction” page. According to research conducted by the Barna Group, only 30% of Millennials, 34% of Gen-Xers, and 41% of Boomers and Elders believe that the church has their best interests in mind. Clearly, the church has a trust problem, so make sure you put a solid trust element front and center on your website. You can do this on your “about” page by posting a video introducing your pastor and and listing some information about the ministry and worship teams at your church.
You can find a good example of this on The Village Church’s Fort Worth campus page. Having a photo of the campus pastor on their “About Us” page gives visitors a face to the name, and embedding a video that introduces the church and its members allows newcomers to learn a little more about the community.
Not sure where to start with video content? Fear not. This list gives you some simple and concrete ways to optimize your landing page with video content.
2. Thou Shalt Outreach.
Volunteer work is one of the most significant ways to develop community at your church, and, according to Paul de Vries, it may be the “primary avenue through which children, youth and adults learn the heart of ministry.” So make sure your visitors and attendees know about the wonderful ways your church is serving the community and the world! Be sure to make information on outreach opportunities for community service and missions trips easily accessible on your website.
Take a page from Lakewood’s book and have a section of your website dedicated to the service work you do as a church. The Father’s House website has a link for each of their different service opportunities, even one for their food pantry.
Why is this so important? 65% of Americans who claim a religious affiliation give to charity, so it’s crucial that you make sure newcomers know what kind of charitable organizations and missions you support as a church.
3. Thou Shalt Be Accessible.
Did you know that 26% of churchgoers visit their church’s website to watch live sermon series? That’s why you should make your sermon series available via live streaming or through an online podcast. Although podcasts are a great way for attendees to catch up on missed sermons, live streaming is an even more powerful way to allow members who can’t make it to church but want to participate from home to stay active in the community. Live streaming also allows newcomers a no-pressure way to check out the service before physically coming to the church
Don’t know how to stream? Check out these 5 Free Live Streaming Tools to get started today.
4. Thou Shalt Get to Know Thy Brethren.
It seems like a no-brainer, but did you know that character-driven stories release the neurochemical oxytocin and therefore heighten the human motivation to cooperate? Turns out storytelling might be quite instrumental in building fellowship and a sense of community!
Harness this powerful motivation with your own storytelling campaign, and consider launching a hashtag campaign. Encourage members to use the hashtag on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram so that visitors can get to know people in your community. Then post these stories on your website as part of an embedded Twitter timeline.
According to the street photographer Sasha Patkin, the beauty of the Humans of New York campaign (#HumansofNewYork) is that it humanizes and personalizes an otherwise impersonal city. When I was in college, I participated in Chi Alpha (XA) Christian Fellowship, and at the beginning of the semester my senior year, they started a hashtag campaign called #whyimxa. Anyone in the fellowship could post on their Facebook or Twitter pages a compelling story or picture and use it as a reason why they were in the fellowship. The campaign personalized a fellowship which was made up of more than 500 members in a way that allowed incoming students a glimpse into the community Chi Alpha had to offer.
For inspiration, check out this list of hashtag do’s and don’ts.
5. Thou Shalt Be Kid-Friendly.
It’s a question 25% of churchgoers ask when they walk in the doors of a new church: “What’s your children’s ministry like?” In an age when 70% of kids are leaving church when they graduate from high school, the church needs to work on stopping the jettison. One way to do this is to advertise your church’s active children’s ministry. Cherry Hills Community Church, one of the fastest growing children’s ministries in America, tells parents exactly what kind of ministry to expect for their children and how their kids can get involved in the community. They have separate sections for infant, pre-school, and elementary care as well as descriptions of their middle school and high school youth groups. LifePoint Church places a slightly different emphasis on the logistics and security of their childcare and children’s ministries.
6. Thou Shalt Worship.
Everybody’s got an opinion on it. Some people like contemporary worship music, others prefer a more traditional approach. But whatever your opinion on the matter is, 16% of evangelical pastors say that worship music is a priority to Americans when choosing a church. Make sure your website spotlights your worship team so that visitors to your site can understand what kind of music you use for worship.
Check out the way this church samples their worship team’s original music with a playlist on their website. Not sure how to create a playlist of your worship team’s music? When I took a songwriting class last year, I used SoundCloud to upload my music and create playlists. It was easy and intuitive! Another easy way to do this is through YouTube.
7. Thou Shalt Invite Newcomers.
It can be intimidating to start attending a new church or fellowship. Everybody seems to already know each other, and you end up standing out like a sore thumb. Make sure your newcomers don’t feel this way by reaching out to them even before they set foot inside your church. With an “I’m New” tab, like the one NorthStar Church uses, visitors can find a welcome video, service times and details, short introductions of each ministry, and a “what to expect” page along with testimonials of current NorthStar members sharing their experiences at the church.
Lay out detailed instructions for how to get to the church, where to drop off children, and where to go for the after-service coffee hour. Maybe even include a section for people who don’t know Jesus or the story of the Gospel. This way, newcomers will feel welcomed and wanted and will be more likely to show up to service confident and joyful.
8. Thou Shalt Contact.
How do you draw someone into your community who wants to connect but doesn’t feel comfortable doing so on social media? Set up a contact page where visitors can find an email address or phone number of someone in the community who they can reach out to directly. You can even set up a simple email form like the one Piedmont Chapel has on their website, offering newcomers an easy and accessible way to reach out. Check out this list of Best Form Automation Software Solutions for more on this.
9. Thou Shalt Advertise.
You know what’s worse than a church website that doesn’t have an events calendar? A church website with an out-dated events calendar!
43% churchgoers say they visit their church’s website to look up service times, and 29% check to see what activities are offered at the church, so it’s crucial that your website have an online calendar for church events. Just be sure to keep it updated!
Here’s a guide to some solutions that can help make your event-planning and calendar-publishing easy as pie.
10. Thou Shalt Pray.
It seems silly to have to say this, but don’t forget what you’re all about! Don’t get so caught up in website design and turning visitors into churchgoers that you miss the point of your mission. A good way to keep your eyes on the prize is to have a tab on your website where you post daily prayers for your churchgoers. This can be in the format of a daily devotional, like the one TNL Church uses. Or it can be a place where visitors can send in a prayer request for intercession like The Chapel does.
Sheesh! That was a lot of information. OK, 10 Commandments Sparknotes Style:
- Introduce Yourself.
- Be Accessible.
- Get To Know People.
- Be Kid-Friendly.
- Invite Newcomers.
Think I missed a commandment? Comment below to let me know what elements you think are important for a church website!
Looking for Church Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Church Management software solutions.