“I just don’t think our church is using our website.” It’s an issue I hear all the time. The truth is that this has very little to do with your website design. It really has to do you and how your church utilizes your website. Most church websites suffer from content overload, too much content with very little focus. Keep reading to see how we can get back to simple church websites that are an effective ministry tool.
The biggest issue most I hear from pastors is that they don’t feel like their church website is being effective. Most of the time this is related to the amount of people that are visiting the website. It is easy for pastors to draw a comparison from the amount of people attending their church to how many people visit their website. For example, a pastor of a church of 200 typically expects that they will get at least 200 visitors a month. Because everyone in the church should visit the website at least once a month, RIGHT? Well, they don’t. Not even close. First let me tell you two reasons why.
1) Your Website has Become a Billboard
I see this all the time and I have been guilty of this as well. Often times pastors are sold on websites as a great outreach tool. While your church website can be an effective way to share your vision, who you are, and how people can connect to your church, churches often stop there. Your website has become a billboard for why someone should come to your church. Your not providing any content or information for the people to return to your website on a regular basis. What type of information can you give them? Does your website current offer any of these:
- Online Giving
- Online Registration for Events
- Up-to Date Calenders
- Complete and up to date ministry pages (think Youth Group, Small Groups, Kids)
- Ablility to find small groups
- Complete contact information for staff and church
2) No One Knows About Your Website
This is a big reason no one is coming to your website, your not talking about it. I cannot tell you how many times I have visited a church and I am handed a 10 page program and with all the events, small groups, and other random events your church has going on, not one mention of the church website address. Your church at the very least should be putting the your website in the program you hand out every Sunday.
But those churches that are REALLY effective online, are talking about the website from the pulpit. They communicate that you can download permission slips for children event, they let people know that they can sign up for small groups online, they talk about how people can use the website to connect to the church and community.
Where Should I Start?
We need to get back to the basics. Your website is probably facing media overload, your trying a lot of different things online but not doing any of them very well. Here are four places to start to gain control of your website again.
Forget Podcasts, Blogging, and Twitter
If your website is struggling to get people to your website, you need to forget about posting podcasts, updating a blog, or twittering. This is the opposite advice most people will tell you, but the goal here is to start simple. You need to do some online house cleaning before getting to the advanced stuff.
The other reason I recommend abandoning podcasts, blogs and twitter is that for majority of churches, no one is looking at that content. In order for pastors and churches to be effective in the social media arena, it takes a lot of time and a lot of effort. And usually ends up in what I like to call social media burn out: a blog that hasn’t been updated in three months, a twitter account with 30 followers, and 30 minute sermons that no one has downloaded.
It’s time to get back to the basics of your website, start with simple information and ideas, build good website habits, then move on to the next phases.
Build Out Your Ministry Pages
This is as simple as it gets, but should a requirement of all church websites. Youth ministry, small groups, children, seniors, and outreach events should all have their own pages that are up to date. And by up-to-date I don’t mean the youth group page that says: “Our youth group meets Sunday Nites @ 7:00pm”. Give parents a reason to come to the site. Have a calender for specific youth events, give them the chance to signup online, have phone numbers and email address for the youth staff.
I recommend getting all your staff in a room and ask them to write down what their ministry is about, how someone can get involved, and what events are coming up for the next month. This is the type of thing your staff should be visiting on a monthly basis and for most of them, they already are doing this, it’s just not making its way online.
Add Online Giving
This is a hot button for some churches. I understand that credit card processing companies take 2-4% of a transaction. But as more and more people are doing all their financial transactions online, the church should provide a way for people to give online as well. I rarely give in person at the church, 99% of the time I will give online, I even go as far as using my iPhone to give while sitting in a service.
Develop A Way for People to Connect
My wife and I recently moved to a new area that neither of us have lived before. In our search for a church, we looked online to find a place that we could connect to. After visiting a church a few times, we decided to reach out to get involved, online. It can be overwhelming for someone to approach the “Connections Table” in the back of your church. Even for me and my wife who have been involved in churches almost our whole lives. Your members feel the same way, approaching someone in person to get involved can be tough, your website can help your members get connected.