8 Ways to Make Your Church Website Awesome

Guest Post: Travis Sinks

You are probably aware of how important your church website is. In fact, your website is considered to be the new “front door” of your church, and 1 out of every 3 people will check it out before ever visiting your church… You’ve probably heard that your website is an important online hub for your church…And that it can be leveraged as a long-term resource for new and existing members, and your community as a whole.

But you know what you’re often NOT told?

What should actually be on your church website.

But before we dive into that answer, let’s review 3 things that should NOT be on your church website…

  1. Old/Irrelevant Content: Sadly, the internet has created an environment of being perfectly up to date, which has created a culture that has little patience for outdated content. This means that if people see your website promoting a month old event, they’ll assume that you never update it. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to take long to update your website. If your church releases a weekly bulletin, simply take a few minutes to make sure that your website contains all the relevant information that your bulletin does. And, keep in mind: the more often you do this, the less work it will be and the faster you’ll get at it.
  2. Confusing Words or Christian Jargon: The Church, as a whole, has done a poor job at keeping our words simple and easy-to-understand. If you want to reach your local community through your website, then you will have to write and speak in a way they understand. The easiest way to ensure that your website is usable to the non-Christian is to simply ask a non-Christian to review it (and, who knows, they might want to talk to you more about who Jesus is!). Ask them to tell you if any of it doesn’t make sense, or if the words were clear and concise.
  3. A “Messy” or Difficult-To-Navigate Website: Similar to confusing words and jargon, it can be easy to navigate your own website because you feel like a fish in water. But if you’re wanting to reach a specific group of people, then reach out to a few of them and ask them to give a review of how easy your website was to navigate and use. In general, churches tend to have some of the most confusing websites, yet, it can (and should) be much simpler.

In the end, for most church websites, you should focus on simplicity and effectively communicating your primary message.

Which brings us to the positive side of this article: 8 Ways to Make Your Church Website Awesome

Please note that for all of these items, consider asking a non-Christian if you meet these requirements. It can be much more difficult for you to see if these things are present on your website than for someone who is unfamiliar with your church.

  1. A Clear Explanation Of The Gospel and Your Statement Of Faith: Your church website needs to be able to lead someone through the foundations of the Gospel and our faith.
  1. Clear Service Time(s)/Meeting Place: Your website visitors should be able to easily find out where and when you meet. I like to have this information on every relevant page and also in the footer of each page.
  1. A Simple Navigation Menu: I prefer something like: “Sundays, About, Events, Resources, Contact, Give”. Keep in mind to avoid jargon in your navigation titles like “SOMA” or “Body Life” because this is simply confusing to anyone outside your church. Even if your youth group has a specific name, use the words “Youth Group” or “High School Group” in the navigation bar.
  1. “Real” (But Still Nice) Photos: I prefer to use photos of the church and its members because it brings out the genuineness of the church better than stock photos do. Just be sure that they are good quality photos and that you have permission to use them online – especially if they have kids in the pictures.
  1. A Privacy Policy/Disclosures Page: Sadly, we live in an age where every website needs a privacy policy and disclosures page. What you need will depend on what information you collect on your website, where you advertise your church and some locations (specifically schools) might require a disclaimer on your website as well stating that they are not affiliated with you in any way.
  1. A Simple “Contact Us” Form: Too many contact forms require massive information. Even if you give the option for people to leave more information, you should only require a few things such as their name, email, and maybe their phone number. And remember: if you won’t use the information, then don’t ask for it. For example: don’t have a spot for their physical address if you won’t be sending them a letter or visiting them. This becomes both unnecessary (and intrusive) request to your visitor, but having that information also becomes an unnecessary (and unused) liability for you.
  1. A Podcast For Your Weekly Sermons: The beauty of the internet is that we can repurpose content for almost no additional cost. Instead of having sermons limited to a specific time and day of the week, you can now have a podcast available for members who missed the service because they missed the service or serving during it. Your podcast can also be used for nonmembers of your church who simply want to know Jesus better. Having a podcast is a win-win and you lose nothing by giving away the sermons you’ve already preached.
  2. A Clear And Easy Way To Give Online: Online giving is a trend that has skyrocketed and is not going away. There are many online giving options available (some of which tie directly into your website or app), but you only need one to make this an easy and quick experience for people who would rather give online.

A Resource Moving Forward

I hope these 11 things help you get the most out of your church website. However, mapping out your website can be time consuming and frustrating, and so I put together a general checklist that covers the needs of the majority of churches.

If you’re looking to revamp your website, or even completely create it, this is an important place to start. It’s in a previous blog post of mine titled: “Planning Your Church website,” which you can find at this link.

Bio:

Travis Sinks is the volunteer assistant pastor at Redemption Church Delray Beach. He is also a business growth consultant and web designer for churches. You can also check out his blog at travissinks.com which is written to encourage and equip the church as a whole in both their knowledge of scripture and in their practical lives of life and ministry.

Announcements, Bulletins, and When to Say No

Can you announce that the mission team is having a barbeque fundraiser this Saturday? The ladies quilting group won’t be able to meet next week either. Make sure to get that in the bulletin. Oh and by the way, last Sunday you forgot to mention that the Richardsons had their new baby here for the first time. Now they’re upset and will probably never come back. This is the communication nightmare that happens in far too many small town churches.

Today, I want to give you permission to say no.

For years, the church I serve heard these types of comments and suggestions.

Each time we would scramble to get every little detail in the bulletin and make every announcement that someone thought necessary. And you know what? We still didn’t please everyone.

Not only that, the more announcements we made, the less people attended the events we were announcing.

So, we made a decision. No longer would everything get promoted equally. The staff would decide what was worth promoting from the stage, in the bulletin, on social media, and through any other avenue we might use.

This did two things.

  1. It ticked people off.
  2. It helped us focus on accomplishing our vision.

You see, it’s impossible to please everyone and accomplish the vision God has given you at the same time.

If you don’t prioritize what you’re communicating, you’re failing to lead.

I know that’s harsh, but you know it’s true. You can’t treat everything the same.

When you try, you’re actually hurting the chances of getting people to engage in the ministry.

I can’t place the same priority on announcing sign up to be baptized as I do on announcing sign up to join the church softball team.

Does that tick the coach off? Maybe, if they’re more concerned about winning games than they are about seeing people go public with their faith.

If that’s the case, you probably need to get a new coach.

But what you’ll find more often than not is, if you are willing to have the conversation to explain why something isn’t getting announced, most people will understand.

If they don’t, it just shows that they’re more concerned with their event than the mission of the church.

Today, we have a generic bulletin that welcomes people to our church and doubles as our connection card.

The majority of Sundays we have one announcement, except during very busy seasons when we’ll have two.

These announcements always center around the vision of the church and apply to either new guests or at least 50% of the congregation.

If it doesn’t fit those criteria, it may get put on the screen that scrolls before service starts, or on social media, or on nothing at all.

The easy thing to do would be to avoid tough conversations and let anyone promote anything.

If you care about being a leader and reaching a vision, you have to prioritize the important.

What gets announced in your church, and who makes that decision? Let us know be leaving a comment below, and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church leadership, growth, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

Facebook Live? You Better Read This First

There are now over 2.2 billion Facebook users across the world. A staggering number, and one that continues to grow year after year. If you’re doing ministry in a small town or rural setting, it may have taken a little longer for the Facebook craze to hit, but at this point I think we can all assume that it is here to stay. So, one of the questions we should be asking ourselves is, how can we be using it to grow the Kingdom of God? Many churches have answered that question by live streaming their church services through Facebook Live. And many of those churches in my opinion are making a mistake.

I realize that all of us want to share the gospel message with as many people as possible, and Facebook Live gives us the ability to do this at a relatively small cost.

But the truth is, to do Facebook Live well costs more than you think, and doing Facebook Live poorly has an even higher cost.

So, one of the first questions you should ask yourselves is, can we afford to do Facebook Live well? By most estimates and averages that cost is around $5,000 for a one camera shot, not a small chunk of change for most small town churches.

And even if you have that type of money lying around, is Facebook Live the best use of it? I would say, in most cases, it is not.

The church I serve uses Facebook Live, and on average less than twenty people a week watch the entire service. Sure, Facebook will tell you a video has hundreds of views, but in most cases those are people just scrolling through or who may watch for just a couple minutes.

My church has two locations, and on average 800 people attending. We’re talking about an investment of $5,000+ so that 20 people can watch while they’re out of town or home sick. If views on Facebook were the goal, we would’ve never spent the money.

The real value is in people seeing what your service looks and sounds like before they show up to your church. We’ve had lots of people who said they watched before they attended. This is the real win for us.

However, Facebook Live may have the opposite effect on your attendance. Depending on your church the looks and sounds may actually be keeping people from ever attending. This is the case for many small town rural churches.

If your auditorium looks old and dated, why would you broadcast that to your community?

If you have people singing worship, who deep down you know can’t sing, why put that on the internet for everyone to see? People who are good singers don’t even sound good through Facebook Live unless you have the right recording equipment.

If you know prayer request time often turns into a gossip session, don’t record it. Use some common sense.

Just because a lot of churches are offering Facebook Live doesn’t mean you should. Most of you shouldn’t. That $5,000 can go to much more important areas of the church that need to be addressed.

And if you’re set on doing Facebook Live because you have people who are part of your church that just can’t attend, then create a private Facebook group just for those people to watch. It’s an easy solution.

But seriously, if you can’t do it well, stop doing it, because you’re doing more harm than good.

Is your church currently using Facebook Live? In your honest opinion, should you keep doing it? Let us know by leaving a comment below, and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.