So perhaps you have a church website and are wondering what you need to include on it. Or you might be thinking about setting up a new website for your church and need a bit of inspiration. Well, look no further, we’re going to talk you through nine features that every church website needs and why they are essential for a helpful and inviting website.
The most important thing to think about when designing your church website is who you are aiming it at. Have you designed your website for your current church members or for people who are looking to visit your church? I think the way to go is to make sure new visitors to your website (and hopefully then your church) feel welcome. If your homepage is packed with rotas and huge photo slideshows of your recent church camping trip, have a think about what the people who are unfamiliar with your church would like to know.
Your church members will probably hear about the latest events during the notices at your Sunday or midweek service or via the church newsletter. They already know who to email, phone or text to find out what they want to know. Your church website is the perfect place for new people to find out about church for the first time, so don’t let that opportunity go to waste. Here are the nine most important bits of information you need to have on your church website to avoid making common church website mistakes.
1. The time and location of your Sunday service
People who visit your church website for the first time will most likely be there because they want to attend church on a Sunday. Don’t make it hard for them to find out the time and location of your Sunday service. The venue is important as people typically don’t travel far to go to church. Most people go somewhere pretty local to where they live.
Be really clear if your church offices are in a different location to your Sunday service. It may be that your church is registered at certain address but they meet elsewhere. If you put your church office address in the footer, people may assume this is where you meet on a Sunday, so you make this as clear as you can.
2. Directions to church, a map and details of transport and parking
Once people know when and where the Sunday service is, they’ll want to know how to get there if they’re planning to come along. Include an interactive map with the venue on. A Google Map is ideal as people can zoom in and out to figure out where the church is in relation to where they live.
Save visitors the hard work and include directions from major landmarks in your town, village or city. If there are useful public transport options such as trains, trams or buses include details of which ones to catch (and at what times) and how to get from the nearest station to your church building.
Include a photo of the church building from the outside. It doesn’t matter whether you own the building or meet in a school, warehouse, café, or somewhere else. Having a photo of it will help people know they’re in the right place when they get there. If you meet somewhere with multiple buildings such as a school, take a photo of the particular building that you meet in such as the gym or school hall. It doesn’t have to be a professional photo, just snap a quick pic on your smartphone next Sunday, and add it to your website. Your main aim is to make sure visitors that make the effort to try and come to your church don’t get lost when they get there.
Give details of parking too, as some people will drive to church. Let them know if you have a car park or if there’s on-street parking. Put a map of useful car parks nearby and details of whether they’ll have to pay. (You don’t want someone to turn round, go home and miss out because they didn’t bring enough change for the car park).
3. What to expect at your church service
If someone is visiting your church for the first time, or even going to church for the very first time, it will help ease their mind if they know what to expect. Include details about the length of service, the style of worship, and what the preach or sermon will be like. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who’s never been to church before, and answer all the potential questions they might have.
Their number one concern may be as simple as what other people will be wearing. So let them know if you’re a suit wearing church or whether they’d blend in a bit more in shorts and flip flops.
Walk them through how the different parts of the service work. You might have communion or ‘breaking bread’ – every church does this slightly differently so let them know what this will look like and what they’ll be expected to do. It’s the same thing with the offering or tithe. It’s great if a first-time visitor knows why a plate is suddenly being handed to them during a song.
You can present all of this information in different ways. It may be a list of FAQs, a step-by-step walkthrough of a service, or you could even make a short video with shots of each of the key parts. Hopefully someone at your church will guide them through the service once they’re there, but it may help them overcome the hurdle of going to church for the first time if they know what to expect.
4. Contact information
It’s important for people to have a way of contacting you as they may have questions or concerns. Let them do this using their preferred method by including lots of ways to get in touch. You could have a contact form, email address, your phone number and an address of your church offices if they want to visit you during the week (include opening hours too). Make it easy for those who want to get in touch to do so.
5. Your beliefs
The likelihood is that someone who’s coming to your church for the first time has some kind of beliefs already. They may have recently moved to your town and need a local church, or may have grown up in a Christian family and are re-examining their faith. Include your doctrinal statement or statement of belief, and your mission, vision and values. But make sure they’re understandable by people who may not be used to complicated church lingo. Be sure to include a paragraph on inclusivity so that whoever attends knows that they will be welcomed in with open arms. If your church is a member of a wider church organisation, include a link to their website.
6. Details of the creche, older kids groups, Sunday school and youth group
What the ‘kids work’ looks like at different churches is so diverse, so put parents’ minds at rest by trying to answer their questions on your website. Consider having a page specifically for parents with a list of frequently asked questions.
They may want to know how long the kids will be in the service for. Who will be watching the youngsters and how will they be looked after. What are the different age groups? For the creche, will there be toys there or should parents bring some along? Will snacks be provided and will there be high-chairs? Are parents expected to stay with their children? Will the preach or sermon be relayed so they can still listen to the service?
7. Special days and services
The visitors to your website who don’t want to regularly attend your Sunday service may be looking for information on special days such as Easter or Christmas. So many people who don’t attend church at other times of year, love to attend at these special times. Around these periods, include details of the times and dates of your special services somewhere really prominent on your website, such as your homepage, header or on a special Easter or Christmas page on your navigation bar.
Alternatively, they may be looking information on weddings, funerals, christenings or baptisms. If you have any of these services at your church, make sure you write these pages for people who may never have been to church before.
8. Ministries and community work.
Many people will come to your site to find out about the things you do in the community. It may be foodbanks, street pastors, baby and toddler groups, soup kitchens, work with refugees and the homeless, or student work. Churches are really good at helping those in need, so include details of what ministries you’re involved with and how people can get involved. Include the names of specific contacts for each so that people can get in touch with someone who knows all about that specific ministry.
9. Photos of people who actually go to your church.
Churches are sometimes put off by using real photos as they to be updated as the church congregation changes. But it’s better to have your own photos of congregation members rather than using stock photos. I’d much rather see a photo taken on someone’s phone of people actually worshipping than a professionally taken artificial stock photo that is obviously staged.
It will give visitors an idea of the demographics of your church and celebrate the different ethnicities and ages that you have in your church. It may also help visitors as they may see people they’ve seen on your website when they attend your Sunday service. And as an added bonus it will help people know the dress code.
Above all, be genuine and enthusiastic and, throughout everything, use your church website to reflect your values and make people feel safe and welcomed.