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 Content

The Secret to Creating Inspiring Ministry Descriptions

Composing ministry descriptions that are both informative and inspiring to visitors of your church website is a bit of a balancing act.

It’s also easier to accomplish than you think.

Why you need content for brains AND hearts

Tim Peters, a church communications advocate, coach, and leader, published a short but insightful article on his blog about the two types of essential website content.

To make your church website engaging to any audience, you must publish  brain content and heart content.

As Tim points out,

Brain content is informative and knowledge driven. Heart content is inspiring and emotional. These two are not at odds with each other; rather, they work together to give visitors a total experience. Each serves a specific purpose.

He goes on to offer some great examples of both types.

Now, maybe you’ve got the brain content covered. Most churches do. But, what about the heart content?

I’d venture to say most small-church communicators would admit that consistently producing, adding, and updating their website with warm, heart-tugging content is one of their biggest challenges.

I can certainly admit, it’s a challenge for me.

If that’s you, too, and your church website is missing heart content, what’s needed is a simple way to kick-start production, right?

Here’s an idea! And the good news: you can use content that’s already on your website.

The secret sauce for inspiring ministry descriptions

It’s no surprise that Tim included Ministry Descriptions in his list of “brain content” examples. Brain content is commonly used to construct ministry description pages.

However, one of his “heart content” points focused on the need to communicate how your church helps people grow spiritually, emotionally, and relationally. That point made me think about, well, ministries.

So, why not start by expanding your ministry descriptions. Heart content is the secret sauce.

Don’t stop at merely describing a ministry in your church. Make your ministry descriptions head-filling AND heart-tugging by describing the benefits people receive by connecting.

How to do it

Begin by breaking down a ministry description into a list of features.

Think of ministry features as the who, what, when, where, of your ministry descriptions. The benefits of the ministry are the why.

An easy way to talk about the benefits they’ll receive is to answer the question, “Why is this so great?” for each feature you list.

For example, say your website describes a feature of your youth ministry like this: “Youth (who) meet together in the Fellowship Center (where) every Tuesday evening at 6:30pm (when) for games and fellowship, and then break up into middle and senior high groups for age appropriate Bible study (what).

That’s all brain content. Head stuff. Informative, but not too captivating.

Now, add the secret sauce—the heart content. Why is this so great? Your answer might be something like,

Connecting here is AWESOME, because getting together for fun and learning encourages teens to grow relationally and socially. They also become skilled at applying God’s principles to the issues they face in their everyday lives–at home, at school, everywhere!

BOOYAH! Here’s what you’re really offering them!

Here’s why they want to be a part of your congregation. This is what they’ll get: not merely access to a youth ministry, but an opportunity to see their teens grow relationally and socially, and become skilled at applying godly principles to every-day life.

What parent wouldn’t want THOSE BENEFITS for their kids (and for themselves)?

So to recap…

[process_steps type=”vertical” size=”small” number=”5″] [process_step title=”Step 1″ icon=”desktop”]Check out Tim’s article: Church Website Content Checklist[/process_step] [process_step title=”Step 2″ icon=”search”]Carefully review the pages of your website, especially the pages where your ministry descriptions live.[/process_step] [process_step title=”Step 3″ icon=”list-ol”]Break down each ministry description into a list of features of that ministry. [/process_step] [process_step title=”Step 4″ icon=”edit”]For each feature, answer the question, “Why is this so great?” [/process_step] [process_step title=”Step 5″ icon=”heart-o”]Assemble the pieces into a new ministry description that’s both informative AND inspiring. [/process_step] [/process_steps]

Now it’s your turn

Do your ministry descriptions inspire people to connect? Share your ideas (and methods). Leave a comment!

Image Credit: Paxson Woelber | Flickr cc

 

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.