I am far from an expert on websites. I’ve built a couple of very simple sites for various causes, but plugging info into pre-made templates is about the extent of my ability. However, during my short time seeking a call, I’ve clicked through hundreds of church websites. Some are professionally made, others are made by amateurs like me. Some are fancy, while others are very simple. Some, well, exist, while others don’t.
Based on my coincidental research, here are a few suggestions for those interested in the ecclesial interwebs.
Have a website. The first thing that surprised me was how many churches still don’t have a website at all. Most of these churches are very small and have very limited resources. The major problem with a church lacking a web presence is that the internet has become the primary way people find things including churches. Perhaps this is something presbyteries and larger churches can help small churches get set up. (Nudge nudge)
Keep it clean and simple. Clutter on a front web page makes me want to push the back button on my browser quicker than a hungry teenager running to the front of the pot luck line. This page should be about as simple as the sign outside your church. A picture to identify your building, worship and church school times, and contact info is enough. If I want to know where your pastor went to seminary or what your mission statement is, I’m willing to click around a bit.
Easy email links. I often have questions I’d like to ask via email before visiting a church for the first time. I don’t know about you, but I am far more likely to write an email from my account than fill in one of those “contact us” forms on a website. I’m pretty sure those fill in the blank forms end up in the Department of Mysteries from Harry Potter. If you don’t want to publish your staff emails on the site, have an email address that is easy to find and will be checked regularly.
Pictures of your people. I know of at least two churches that are using random file photos of perfect looking people on their websites. I have no doubt this is done with good intentions, but I’d like to see some of the folks in your pews rather than file photos from a professional’s hard drive. You know who you are…
Keep info current. If your worship schedule changes based on the season, update the site. If your staff has changed, update that. Spending fifteen minutes on your website a week to update calendars and such can really make sure everyone is on the same page.
These are just few suggestions that came to mind. I am very eager to hear what you like and dislike in church website. Please post in the comment section below.