'Door' photo (c) 2002, anyjazz65 - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Your website is your first impression.

It’s the online front door of your church.

More often than not, people will check you out online before they will check you out in person. Love it or hate it, it’s reality. And churches would be remiss to ignore this important fact.

Yet many do.

Many church websites are, well, awful… Uninviting. Outdated. Underutilized. They offer unnecessary information and make the important stuff difficult to find, if it’s there at all.

Your website should be a reflection of your church. It should convey your DNA, culture, and values, so people get a sense of who you are from your online presence. It should be welcoming, engaging, and informative.

So what are the most important elements to a church website?

For me it boils down to a few key must-haves:

Clearly Visible Contact Details

The following should be visible on every page of your site:

  • Street address (with a link to Google Maps)
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • Facebook and Twitter links

Don’t make people dig to locate how to find you or get in touch with you.

Easy Access to Relevant Information

It should be very easy for people to find what they are looking for. Keep the navigation clean and simple, with the most basic of details easily accessible. Address the questions people are most likely asking as they peruse your website. Here are a few basics:

  • Service times
  • Children’s and youth ministry information
  • What to expect in a service
  • What you believe
  • Past messages (audio or video)
  • Leadership/staff bios

If the pastoral team blogs, include their personal blogs and Twitter links in their bios. This gives people the opportunity to get a feel for the leaders of the church and the various ministries they lead. The more they know about a leader, the more connected they will feel.

Current Content

A site that isn’t maintained with up-to-date information implies stagnancy. Keep the content current and clearly visible on the home page. This encourages repeat visitors to the site as it looks fresh and updated each time they come.

  • Blog the latest church news
  • Highlight upcoming events
  • Include the church’s Twitter/Facebook feed, and make sure both are being actively maintained

Good Graphic Design

Because your site provides people with their first impression of your church, you want to be sure it visually represents you well. But sometimes in an attempt to be innovative or unique, websites end up being cluttered and difficult to navigate. Don’t try to be fancy or even original. Just keep your site clean, neat, and focused.

Remember that while design is important, it’s not the reason people are visiting your site. They come looking for specific information. So provide it to them, and make it easy to find while still visually appealing.

What would you add to this list?
When you visit a church website, what do you look for?

Comments


Alece

19 March, 2012

Having the address visible on the home page (and every page) is SO key. I can't stand when I am looking at a church website and can't figure out where they are... or even what state they're in. It shouldn't be that hard!

    Trevor Roberts

    19 March, 2012

    I agree!

Jonathan Nori

19 March, 2012

Easy-to-find directions and service times are the most important things, followed closely by clear information for non-attendees on programs and events.

    Trevor Roberts

    19 March, 2012

    Good thoughts, Jonathan.Church sites need to effectively serve two very different groups of people: members and people interested in learning more about the church (non-members). Both need to be able to access the information relevant to them quickly and easily.

Brian

26 March, 2012

I want to piggy-back on the "Current Content" section. In order to have good, current content, you need to make sure that the website is built on a platform that enables people to actually upload new content on a regular basis. Meaning, if it's a non-techy person responsible for copy, the platform that the website is built upon needs to take this into consideration. Great blog! Thanks for sharing. :-)

    Trevor Roberts

    28 March, 2012

    YES! This is HUGE.

Jim A.

11 October, 2012

Would you like to do a pro-bono rewrite of my church's website and then market a before and after campaign tied in with the article? Huh, do ya, huh!? :P

    Trevor Roberts

    11 October, 2012

    Wish we could pro-bono everyone in need! But we do offer competitive pricing that I think might surprise you.

    Jim A.

    11 October, 2012

    Heh, I know--I'm sure you hear it constantly, even in joking fashion as I just did.We're new to this church and the website is a mess. They know it is and plan to work on it, so I am trying not to step on toes by pushing the matter.

    Trevor Roberts

    11 October, 2012

    That can be an enormous challenge. Advocating for what you believe needs to be a priority in a delicate fashion is a tricky dance to learn. The fact that they know the site needs to be overhauled is a HUGE step in the right direction. Hang in there! ;)

Dani Kelley

11 October, 2012

Love this list. As someone who is currently looking for a church, I can attest to all of these facts. I want to learn as much about the church as possible before my visit - I'd rather not be surprised or more anxious than I already am when I visit. If a church doesn't have a website that talks about their beliefs, their services, and have updated information, the chances of me visiting that church dwindle dramatically.

    Trevor Roberts

    11 October, 2012

    It's so true. I think a lot of churches miss that very point.

Daniel

15 October, 2014

I really enjoyed your article a feel inspired on how to improve or church website. I wanted to mention one thing that should probably be a must in visitor content is a page explaining what to expect when you arrive. Letting them know what the service is like, which for should be used and other things like that. Thanks for the inspiration too.

    Trevor Roberts

    27 October, 2014

    YES! That is such a great tip -- so so helpful to paint a picture for new visitors...

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