Categories
Perspectives

Do I Need A Website For My Church?

So, do I need a website for my church?

That was the key question in an e-mail I received recently from one of my newsletter subscribers. Diane wrote,

Grace
I don’t have a website yet and don’t know how to go about getting one set up. Do I really need one? Our church is very small (about 20) on Sunday mornings. We are a new church plant within the past 18 months.

I began by telling Diane, it really depends on her (and her congregation) and what they mean to accomplish through their ministry. If using the Internet can help them do whatever that is, then they’ll want to consider creating a website.

Do I NEED a website for my church?

But, the plain and simple answer is: no. Contrary to popular belief, your small church does not need a website.

Modern technology methods, tools, and techniques, while helpful, are not some necessary and critical element required for the Church to be able to faithfully carry out the work we’ve been given to do.

Neither does our work in the world rise or fall on whether or not we possess or use them.

Yessirree, I’m a professional Web worker and a card-carrying tech-lover who can barely remember what life was like before my iOS devices (and, at 51, I know there was abundant life before iOS devices).

But, I think we get confused about this.

A lot.

Local assemblies all over the world, including in the good ‘ole US of A, are accomplishing God’s will for them all without the benefit of having an online address.

Technology can offer convenience, value, and assistance to a ministry, but it’s never meant to be considered “needful” for ministry. And, we certainly shouldn’t think that we can’t do ministry without these things.

However, if you do think that building a website for your church is an idea you’d like to pursue, be sure you count the cost of doing that BEFORE you begin building.

What it means to “count the cost”

By “counting the cost”, I’m not just talking about money. There’s a lot you’ll need to consider when deciding to build a website for your small church.

For example, here are just a few of things you’ll want to get clear about:

  • Why do we think we NEED a website? For what purpose are we building it?
  • What’s it going to help us do?
  • What goals can a website help us reach?
  • Who are we meaning to serve with it?
  • How are we meaning to serve them?
  • How much do we have to cover first year expenses?
  • Who will be responsible for maintaining the site once it’s built?
  • Who will be responsible for updating the website?
  • How frequently will it need to be updated?
  • What will need to be updated?
  • Will anyone need to be trained? Who? On what?
  • Who will monitor security?
  • Who will back up the website? How often?
  • Where will backups of the site be stored?
  • Who will oversee site administration?
  • Who will ensure website software is regularly updated?
  • What content do we need to create?
  • What specialized skills will be needed to create it?

This isn’t anywhere near an exhaustive list, but it’ll get you started thinking through what you want to build, and how you plan to use it effectively to support the ministry.

A few more things to consider

If you don’t have anyone to help you properly maintain the website (e.g. monitoring security, updating software, creating and updating content, etc.), one option would be to outsource those tasks.

You could also go with a service provider that bundles these services into a monthly fee.

Hosting a WordPress website on a service like Hostgator offers great flexibility, but you’ve got to have the expertise and the time to keep up with all you’ll need to know and do to properly maintain the site.

The speed at which technology evolves makes this a challenge even for professional Web workers.

Some small churches stick their toe in the water by beginning with social media.

But, again, you shouldn’t make the decision to do that unless your members have asked for it, use it, or you develop some other strategy for using it to support your ministry.

If you DO consider using social media, look first at what the average age is of the people who are gathering together.

Do they use social media? What service do they prefer? Facebook? Twitter? Instagram?

If they’re an older group, have no interest, and spend little time online, or aren’t active on social media, you’d be wasting your time and money trying to build a website to serve them, because they most likely wouldn’t use it.

On the other hand, if you mean to use the Web to reach out beyond your congregation, you still need to have some basic understanding of the audience you’re targeting in order to effectively reach and serve them.

The main thing to remember is that the Web should support your ministry, not the other way around.

If you can accomplish what you mean to accomplish now, without having a website, then don’t worry about it.

Seriously.

Don’t get stressed out about rushing to get on the Web, in response to peer pressure (no, Virginia, that never goes away).

If it makes sense later, then put effort into it.

Above all, do all of this PRAYERFULLY. God knows whether or not, and how, He would have you use the Web to accomplish the work He’s given you to do.

Seek His wisdom in faith, and He will give it to you!

That’s a promise (James 1:5-6).

Categories
Web Design

What Is The Purpose Of A Church Website?

What is the purpose of a church website?

Good question!

I’ve read several articles on this topic around the Internet. At least a couple I’ve seen have sparked some rather, shall we say, spirited conversation?

Folks have some pretty definite ideas on the subject. And, whatever purpose they have in mind, they very often feel strongly that it should be the purpose every church pursues.

Seriously.

Ask 10 different people what the purpose of a church website is, and you’ll get at least five different answers. And, you know what? They’re all right.

And, they’re all wrong.

Why? Because when it comes to websites in general, and church websites in particular, one size no longer fits all (and, it hasn’t for a long time).

So, what’s the answer? What is the purpose of a church website?

The answer is: Whatever.

Yep. Whatever.

The purpose of a church website is whatever purpose a local assembly determines it to be. Hopefully, that purpose was discerned through consulting the LORD, and following His lead.

When is the purpose of a church website defined?

For some, that may mean building and maintaining one, simple “general purpose” website. For others, it may mean building one or more micro-sites.

Still, for others, it may mean not building a website at all (contrary to popular belief, every church does not need a website).
[testimonials autoplay=”false”] [testimonial author=”Kent Shaffer” avatar_type=”url” avatar_value=”https://pbs.twimg.com/profile_images/2949549185/47ae6643ebefd3d7765426ec7d91da8a.jpeg” meta=”Church Relevance” link=”http://churchrelevance.com/about/”]
Keep in mind it’s okay if your church website is quite different from someone else’s. Prayerfully focus on what is the best way for you to use the Internet to obey God’s will in your unique context. The more Spirit-led your design process is the better. Maybe God wants your website to be simple yet effective. Maybe you need to try something radical that’s never been done before. Maybe you don’t need a website. The point is if you have any leading from the Holy Spirit, obey it even if the experts call you crazy.[/testimonial] [/testimonials]

The first stage of the website design process is prayerful planning. The purpose of a church website is determined during that stage.

Consulting God—seeking His wisdom early and often—and obeying the Spirit’s leading is key. It will make all the difference in whether your purpose and efforts produce fruit or are done in vain. (Psalm 127:1-2; 1 Corinthians 3:10-13)

During the planning stage, some of the questions to be answered and resolved include:

  1. How does God want your local body to use the Internet?
  2. Why do you want to build a website? What is your motivation?
  3. What do you want to accomplish with it?
  4. How do you want to use it?
  5. What spiritual/administrative/scriptural goal(s) will a website help your church to achieve?

To help you reach a decision on the purpose of a church website, you’ll also need to clarify who you’re targeting to serve with it.

Whom has God given you to serve? Where are they? Why might they come to your website to begin with? Why might they return to it? What needs do they have? Does God want you to use your website to meet those needs? How?

So, for example, a church website purposed exclusively to foster community and encourage spiritual growth among believing youth in the congregation will look and function differently, and serve very different needs, than a church’s “main” or primary website purposed to serve several audiences.

A church purposing to reach a specific non-Christian demographic in their local community, will build a different website than one purposed to serve a specific demographic within the body of Christ.

Once defined, the purpose of a church website acts as a kind of compass, and offers many benefits:
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  • It informs and guides all other decisions that need to be made with regards to the website’s design and content.
  • It helps you to arrive where you’re meaning to go.
  • Your website’s purpose helps keep you focused and on track when you become overwhelmed by the myriad options and choices along the way.
  • Your website’s purpose can help you save time and money when you’re tempted to veer off, and waste both.
  • Your website’s purpose can help you build and unify your team.
  • Determining your website’s purpose will also equip you to give an answer to well-meaning naysayers and critics who’ll try to convince you that your website is wrong, because it’s not serving a particular audience, or meeting a particular need.

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The bottom line

God is sovereign. The Internet is a communications tool. The World Wide Web is one branch of it. If you build a church website, it will be connected to it.

How and why and when and for whose benefit your church chooses to use this powerful tool to communicate and inform and serve is up to your church.

There are many more considerations to ponder and clarify on the way to determining purpose. However, the goal of this article is not to delve into what those considerations are.

Nor is this post meant to offer advice or guidance about how you and your leaders can arrive at a consensus about them.

My goal today is simply this: to establish once and for all that the purpose of your church website is whatever your church determines that purpose to be, by God’s grace and leading.

What do you think?

What do you think the purpose of a church website is? Do you believe it’s the same for every local assembly?

Share you thoughts; leave a comment below.

Categories
Web Design

Setting Smart Goals for Your Church Website

I am writing a series of posts about setting goals for your church website. I’ve talked about goal setting before. In this post I want to introduce you to the idea of setting smart goals for your website. We all know that goals are important. In every aspect of our lives we must set goals. Your church website is no different. The big question is are you being smart with your goals?

Categories
Web Design

5 Questions To Ask Before You Contact A Web Designer

I chat with web design clients all the time about their website projects. We talk about website goals, budgets, features, competitors, and technology. Looking back at my conversations there are a few questions I wish potential clients would ask themselves before contacting me. By looking at these 5 simple questions, you can save a lot of initial back and forth time with any potential designer you might hire.

Categories
Web Design

Setting Goals for Your Church Website

Goal setting, whether it is for your job, or your website can be a difficult task. Often I find myself forgetting to set goals for my projects, which can be a disaster if you are launching a new website, or if your testing an idea. Today I want to go over setting goals for your church website using your vision statement as the foundation.

Now that you have a vision for your church website, we can now set a clear goal. This part of the development process is often overlooked by my clients and pastors I have worked with. So make sure you really take the time to think about why you have a church website.

Make Sure it’s Measurable

We need to take our vision for our church website and focus it down into a few measurable goals. Want to increase online giving? Do you want to increase the amount of new visitor emails? Be honest with your goals, look at your church vision, what does it tell you about how you want your website to function?

In my last article I covered the need to develop your church website vision. I recommend going back and reviewing your vision statement if you haven’t already.

This was the vision statement of our example Church X:

Church X’s vision is to communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ to young families in our community. Our website echos this vision by focusing on a message of community, small groups, and family friendly services.

Looking at this simple and fairly standard vision statement we can define three goals for our new church website. First, is our focus on community, we are going to want to target our first goal to building our community. Second, our church is building our vision around small groups. Third, our family friendly services need to be highlighted.

Setting The Goals


So let’s look at our newly defined focus areas:

  1. Community focused
  2. Connecting small group members
  3. Child care for our family friendly services

Using these three areas we set our goals for our new website. Being community focused we want to set a goal to post two blog posts about our local community partnered events. This will be a nice way to help connect to our local community, as well help drive more local traffic to our website.

Since our church is focused on small groups, I would want to increase the amount of new sign-ups for small groups by 10%. We will cover a few ways to do this in my next post, planning your website to meet your goals.

Last, is our child care for family friendly services. I want to make sure that new parents can find information about our childcare services. I would like to increase the page views(number of times the page has been viewed) of our childcare page by 25%

Simple, easy, and measurable. These three goals will be our first steps in developing and launching our church website. We will look back to these often and make changes when needed. Make sure to have your goals ready, next post I will cover creating a plan to execute your goals.

Categories
Web Design

Developing A Vision For Your Church Website

Your church website is likely the first place most people will visit long before stepping through your church doors. But today, most church websites read as a billboard, shouting at the user, yelling why Church X is the best church, the coolest, and the most unique. This technique turns people off. It screams at users, when they want to engage your website, learn more about you, and develop a relationship.

More than ever pastors need to manage their church’s online presence, thoughtfully and faithfully developing a vision, and a mission for the church website. To view the church website as another arm of ministry, with the potential to reach new people every day.

I will help walk you through this idea of developing your vision, creating goals, a website plan, then where to start in the process of creating your church website.