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

LifeWay Research just 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 If your church site is out of date  – especially WAY out of date – it communicates that it’s not important and people will quickly lose interest.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, leave a comment below.

About Matthew Starner

Matthew Starner is pastor of Journey of Faith Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where they help people take their next step on their journey with Jesus.

5 Comments

  1. Hey Matthew!

    Guilty as charged. Our website functions as an electronic bulletin board, which is updated by a high school student. Although–ironically enough–the youth events information is way out of date, everything else has been kept current. (I sent her an email asking her to update the youth events page regularly.)

    Please visit our website at http://www.bethellutheranchurchonline.org and give feedback as to how we can improve what’s there. Thanks & blessings!

    Michelle

    BTW, I really enjoy reading your blogs, and especially liked the Christmas music picks.

    • Hi Michelle!

      It’s great to hear from you and thanks for commenting! I hope things are going well at Bethel. I’ll take a look at your site and see what’s happening there and how you might be able to improve it.

      And I’m glad that you enjoy reading my humble little blog – it’s good to know that it’s helpful to people out there. I’ll try to keep the good stuff coming!

      Blessings!
      Matthew

    • Hi Michelle-

      I took a look over your church’s site and here are a few thoughts and suggestions:

      1. The overall design: The overall design of the site it pretty good. It’s clean and not too busy, so it’s definitely got that going for it! However, there seems to be quite a variety in fonts. Stick to a couple of main fonts for the text throughout the site.

      2. PICTURES!! I went through the whole site and could only find 5 pictures of people (aside from the Youth Pictures page). Pictures of your people make the page seem more friendly and welcoming.

      3. Navigation: The links along the left side could be cleaned up a bit. For instance, Youth Photos could be moved to a sub-page of Youth.

      4. The Home Page: I would move the picture of the church and contact information lower on the page. Consider dropping the first introductory paragraph (the second one will suffice) and maybe add a couple of well-taken pictures of the people at Bethel (If they’re of kids, be sure to get parents permission).

      5. Announcements: There are no announcements! Either remove this heading and page or add something. With no announcements it says A) this site doesn’t get updated (which you said isn’t the case) and B) there’s nothing going on here (also, I’m sure, is not the case).

      6. Staff Pages: It’s always nice to see that the church staff are real people! Where’s the picture of the pastor?

      7. Education: Give me a little information about the classes – what their focus is, where they meet and, again, maybe a picture or two.

      8. “What If?” – What is this? It’s just a page asking about churches adopting fatherless children. Is this a program the church is trying to do or are they just asking a question? It seems a little out of place with no explanation.

      These are, of course, just suggestions. You mentioned that your website is managed by a high school student – if you’d like, feel free to pass along my email address and I’d be happy to offer assistance and coaching if they would like.

      I hope these thoughts are helpful for you – or anyone else for that matter! If I can be of further assistance, let me know!

  2. Thanks Matthew! I appreciate your feedback, and I will be sharing it with the appropriate “powers that be.” Blessings!

  3. I think it can be the time factor when it comes to keeping a church’s website updated. Other things take priority – like people! Which is the way it should be. However, I agree that it’s important to keep the information on the site current, so you may need to make it a paid position or recruit someone who just loves doing that kind of thing.

    A church website should be simple and attractive – simple to navigate around and exciting enough to get first time visitor’s attention.

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