Prior to the pandemic, one pastor suggested that “not having a church website is like not having a front door to your church building. And it’s hard to welcome people to worship if you don’t have a way in.”
A bit of hyperbole maybe – but not much. We’ve all seen how the pandemic has opened the “virtual door” even wider: Zoom meetings and links to live streams on church sites have become commonplace, making websites all the more relevant – not less.
For those who still think that practical, appealing websites can be an afterthought – something only for the young or “techy” crowd – think about it this way: imagine your potential visitor is an untrusting, unchurched, resistant skeptic who is immersed in social media and listens regularly to podcasts to help shape their worldview. (Statistically, 56 percent of people aged 12 to 34 years old have listened to a podcast in the last month).
If they are inclined to at least take a peek at your church/ministry – maybe even listen to a sermon – they’ll likely do it online, from a “safe place.” After all, that’s what they’re used to. They shop online, read reviews online, engage in social media online. It makes sense then that,
Most people will search for your ministry’s website before they ever walk in your front door.
Kevin DeYoung points out that we put greeters in the front of the church, have ushers and hospitality centers, and even put up helpful signage to point people in the right direction – so why wouldn’t we do the same with online traffic?
Putting effort into your website, therefore, is really about being welcoming and hospitable – to adorn the gospel (Titus 2:10) – the same way you’d recognize the culture and customs of someone of a different nationality.
Your Site’s Look and Content
While it’s not a question of trying to be “hip or relevant” with your site content, as Deyoung says,
“…most people on the web looking for a church will never visit if your site stinks. What makes a church website stink? …. as a new church visitor this summer, I can tell you what smells bad to me:
1. Extremely dated design. You don’t need to be cutting edge with all the latest gizmos. But if you haven’t changed your site in five years, you’re almost certainly aging rather poorly.
2. Getting by on the cheap. Sometimes even newer websites look dated because they were designed by a beloved 55 year old from the congregation with a little web know-how and some time on his hands. Not trying to knock 55-year-olds, but your website will be used primarily by the young, so make sure it doesn’t feel old.
Again, you don’t need to spend a lot of money, but the difference between $2000 and free will convince you that $2000 was worth it.
3. No information on the staff. Visitors want to know who “runs” the place. Give us pictures. Tell us about your pastor.
4. Basic information is hard to find. You don’t need a lot of information on your site, but you need the most important items clearly marked. Service times, directions, contact information, and a statement of faith are some of the basics.
5. No opportunity to listen to recent sermons. What are you trying to hide?
6. Not enough information on childcare. Parents want to know what is available for their kids and whether they will be lovingly cared for….
7. More and more people get their information from smartphones. Consider building a church app, or at least see what your website looks like on a phone. Make sure the most important information is easy to find on a mobile device.
8. Give some thought to how well the feel of your website matches the feel of your church. If your church is stately and traditional, don’t design your site in all black, with hipster lettering, and a link to Relevant Magazine.
9. Make the site feel fresh, but not inauthentic. People should be able to look up your church online and then visit in person without wondering if they showed up at the wrong building.”
So what does your “front door” look like? Is it open and accessible to “the stranger” (Heb. 13:2)? Maybe your site needs a refresh, to improve the hospitality appeal of your fellowship for visitors?
We can help! In addition to affordable hosting, Truepath offers a user-friendly website builder to make the job easier. Choose from custom-made templates, with simple drag-and-drop functionality; add forms, maps, and blogs with our easy plug-ins.
Call or chat us today to find out more!
Truepath’s vision is to empower Christian organizations and businesses to take full advantage of their online presence by providing affordable and best-in-class applications and dedicated, live customer support. You can reach us at: (760) 480-8791.