Your church website is often the very first thing people see. It's the virtual equivalent of your church's front door. According to statistics, almost every guest who walks into your sanctuary will have visited your website first. Obviously, it's important to get it right.
This is one of the most frequently asked questions we receive so today I want to talk about some specific elements to include or at least link from your church homepage.
Contact information is one of the most commonly searched items on a church website. Display your phone number, email address, mailing address, and fax number in a prominent place so visitors don't have to hunt throughout your site, or worse, leave your site for good. Contact information is such a small detail yet its absence speaks profoundly to potential visitors.
An exact street address, preferably one connected to Google Maps, is invaluable to first time visitors. If you live in a rural area, you might also consider including visual landmarks to help visitors along the way. Don't forget to add a street view picture of your church building. Both large and small church sites should consider adding parking instructions and directions to the nursery, Sunday School rooms, etc.
Service times should be displayed prominently. Be sure to include details for midweek services as well. This one is crucial, especially if your church meets at unusual times or features multiple services. Visitors are much less likely to attend if they don't know when they are supposed to arrive.
Beliefs are the cornerstone of a great church website. Ideally, your statement of beliefs will have its own page. However you choose to display them, make sure that a prominent link is displayed directly on your church homepage.
This is easily one of the most popular places on any church website so make sure that it's easily accessible from the homepage. A potential visitor wants to know who will lead the church service. Who are the leaders? What are they like, what is their training and history? You might even include a few mundane details such as hobbies. Be sure to include recent photos so visitors can put names to faces. And please, do make sure your images are good . No phone camera shots, please.
In the wake of recent scandals, parents who visit your church website want to know how much you value their children's safety. One way you can assure them is by dedicating a portion of your site to child safeguarding policies and procedures. If you don't yet have one, GRACE has created an outstanding policy guide . Highly recommended. Seriously. Tolle lege.
Sermon style is often the determining factor for folks looking to join a church. This cannot be overstated. But even apart from potential visitors, sermons provide a powerful source of ministry for shut-ins, members who are providentially hindered from attending, and members who wish to share current and past sermons with family and friends.The importance of an easy to find, well organized sermon page cannot be overstated.
Images and/or videos are always a good idea. More than an aesthetic, images provide a powerful source of connection. People are created to live in fellowship so it's no surprise that the human mind responds so powerfully to the human face. As an added benefit, images are an efficient way of letting folks know what to expect when they visit. Common questions regarding what to wear, ethnic diversity, average age of the congregation can be communicated via good photography. Again, avoid those phone cameras.
Denominational associations can function as a sort of shorthand for what you believe. For example, links to the Presbyterian Church of America will do more to convince me to visit a church than simply seeing the word "Presbyterian" in the name.
Mission statement. What is your purpose in your local community? What are your goals? Your values?
A map of your campus is a great addition, especially if your church is being remodeled or is very large. Visitors are often uncomfortable when they arrive so be careful not to exacerbate that by making them search your facilities. This is especially important for larger churches.
Events are an important way for visitors to understand what your church is all about. Perhaps more than most other things on your website, the church calendar provides a snapshot of your beliefs and priorities in action. As you think about what to post, be sure to include church activities, upcoming events, weekly Bible studies, and yes, even (or perhaps, especially!) weekly worship services.
Ministries. Much like the church calendar, brief descriptions of your ministries offer visitors a glimpse into the work and the demographics of your church. You don't have to go into a lot detail, describing the history and function of every ministry in your church. In fact, summaries are best since they provide information without overwhelming readers with unecessary minutiae. Be sure to include links to each ministry's Facebook page and the names of ministry leaders.
Social media links are a solid option for connecting a potential visitor to your Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites.
Links to volunteer opportunities can be a great ministry aide, especially if your current members get in the habit of regularly checking your church site.
A well planned "I'm New Here" page has the wonderful advantage of functioning as a sort of digital welcome packet. Include service times and core church events such as Sunday morning, evening, and Wednesday evening prayer and Bible study services, etc. A welcome video from the pastor and/or church staff is another option website visitors enjoy. It can be an invaluable resource.
Keep in mind that many people seek out churches and church websites during times of suffering or confusion in their lives. You have an opportunity to offer a word of grace to people you may never meet this side of heaven. Leverage the opportunity your website provides. Don't waste your website.