A strong online presence is the best way to engage people right where they are in this modern, digital world. This presents an exciting opportunity for churches to attract those looking for a place to worship. It also opens the door to reaching people with the hope of the gospel. Yet a large number of church websites are currently outdated in design and functionality, and this is hurting them far more than they may realize.
First impressions matter, and you want to make certain that the first encounter visitors have with your website (and your church) is a positive one. The good news is that due to well-made church website themes, redesigning your church website has never been easier.
In today’s blog post, we look at several essential steps to keep in mind when you’ve decided that the time to rebuild your church website has come. The points below will give you clarity and clear guidance as you plan how to redesign your church website.
Analyze your current features and content
The first step towards improving your website is to take an assessment of its current strengths and weaknesses. It’s likely that there are features on your current website that are effective and should be brought into the design and layout of your new website.
Here’s a helpful practice to discern what your website is doing well and where it’s failing: show it to a small selection of people outside of your congregation with the purpose of getting some unbiased feedback from the perspective of a visitor. Make sure to also ask members of your church to describe their experience with the current website.
Once you have a list of what people like about your website and a list of what they find distracting, missing, or unhelpful, you’ll be off to a great start.
Make sure that your new layout is mobile-friendly
How much time do you spend using the internet on a phone or tablet? If you’re like most people, a lot. Yet an overwhelming number of websites are outdated and provide no mobile functionality at all. This is a major turn-off for modern web users.
If your website is not mobile-friendly, it will be difficult to navigate for a majority of your visitors. Worse, it may be penalized by Google and not show on the results page when users perform a Google search. This renders you almost invisible online.
Thankfully, mobile-friendly design has become a standard. If you nominate a church member or hire a web designer to redesign your website, chances are it will be mobile-friendly, but you should definitely ask just to confirm. Don’t waste your money on a website that is ineffective for most of your users!
Your Website’s menu should be easy to navigate
Your website’s visitors are in a hurry. They need to find information about your church as quickly and effortlessly as possible. If they can’t, there’s a likelihood you’ll lose them.
Come up with a useful and well-organized structure for your website’s navigation. Condense your pages into broad categories. Look at other church websites and see how they’re organizing their navigation. Ask people in your congregation what they think would be a helpful structure for finding what they believe is important on the website. Keep a visitor or first-time user in mind. Have a section featuring helpful links for those who are new to your church. If you have too many tabs, arrange them with drop-down items to avoid making the site look cluttered.
These are just a few very important things to keep in mind when planning your new website’s navigation. A menu should be simple and very easy to navigate if you want people to explore and utilize your website.
Make it easy—no, very easy—to find your church’s location!
One of the ultimate objectives of your website is to create a smooth process that will ultimately result in people visiting your church. So you want to make discovering the location of your church as easy and hassle-free as possible!
Make certain that the address to your church is very easy to find. Include it in the footer of your website.
Create a page titled “Directions,” or something along these lines. Have a page at the top of your website asking, “Need Directions?” Get creative and come up with ways to make this page as effortless to locate as possible.
Consider integrating Google Maps into your church’s website. Modern technology makes it very easy to do this. Having this option will give users a visual idea of where the church is located. Yes, they could insert your address into Google Maps themselves, but the more helpful you are to your website visitors the more positive their perception of your church will be. Remember, first impressions are so important!
Give website visitors a visual idea of what to expect when they drive into your church’s parking lot. Include a picture of your lot. If your church is big enough to require parking attendants, find a good picture of one of your attendants in action to let users know there will be a spot waiting for them. If special parking is required (like parking in the street), make sure that visitors are aware of this and have plenty of instructions.
Giving your potential visitors assurance that they will be able to find the church and will have no trouble parking is one way to make sure that their visit is a comfortable one. It also ensures that they have the best possible first experience visiting your church.
Staff and leadership sections
Your leaders are the shepherds of your congregation (1 Peter 5:1-3). They need to be visible and easy for your members to contact. Make sure to list the responsibilities of each elder and church leader so that visitors know who to contact for specific inquiries. Make sure to include up-to-date pictures. Consider taking a photo shoot if you don’t have up-to-date photos.
Staff information is also important. A detailed page featuring the names and contact information of your church staff is an essential way to make certain that everyone with an important role in your church is always visible and easy to reach.
Consider asking each leader and staff member to write a brief bio to place underneath their picture. The bios should allow their personalities to shine through. Present them as the unique individuals they are. You want members and visitors to feel very comfortable contacting them.
Provide information for parents
Safety is a major concern for young parents visiting new churches. It’s absolutely essential that they feel comfortable bringing their children to your church. Provide plenty of information about the kind of care children receive when being watched by church members. This will give parents peace of mind and a sense of security.
For parents, finding a church that meets the needs of their children is one of their highest priorities, if not their highest priority. You need to show them that attending your church is one of the best decisions they can make for their family. Provide details about activities for children and what your church is doing to meet the needs of the children and families who attend.
Parents will also be very concerned about the kind of teaching their children receive at your church. Many parents don’t trust churches to teach their children and prefer family devotions so they can monitor what their children are learning. If you use a particular curriculum for Sunday School, be sure to list it on your website so parents can investigate for themselves!
Your church website needs to be family-friendly if it’s going to attract families!
Make your website all about people!
One of the greatest weaknesses of many church websites is a failure to focus on people. Pictures of a building mean almost nothing to a Christian looking for a church family to connect with. Pictures of your church building have their place, but don’t forget that your congregation is the church, the body of Christ!
One of the greatest needs of your visitors is that of a Christian community, relationships that will be central to their Christian lives. And for those who are interested in Christianity but still skeptical, expecting to be greeted by a warm community of people will go a lot further in drawing them through your doors than a description of your church programs.
People need to be the heartbeat of your website’s design. This means that great photography is going to be one of your most powerful assets throughout the design process.
There’s more than likely at least one gifted person in your congregation who loves taking pictures as a hobby or even professionally. Enlist them to take as many pictures of the life of your church as possible. They’ll probably enjoy it and you’ll have a great repository of beautiful photos to use on your website.
Having good pictures of people on your website is so important, it would be worth buying high-quality stock photography if you don’t have any good photos of your own.
Your website will need to focus on people more than just in its photography. Describe what your congregation is like. Include a ‘What to Expect’ page focused on the life of your church. Make sure that it’s clear that the relational needs of those who attend your church are being met.
This point is so important that if you could take on application from this article, we think this is that one point worth paying attention to and applying. You want people to feel welcome to your church when they visit your website.
Provide a way for visitors to listen to past sermons
Recorded sermons give your congregation the ability to listen to a missed sermon or to listen to a sermon again. But there’s an even more important reason to feature sermons on your website: the ability to listen to a sermon before planning a church visit is one of the most important features you could possibly provide for potential visitors.
Most potential visitors will want to know what kind of teaching they will be sitting under when they attend your church. This will be especially true for parents who have made it a priority to teach their children sound doctrine.
Ideally, visitors should be able to listen to sermons on your website. But whether you have sermons featured on your website or you decide to link to a third-party website that manages your sermons, the important thing is to make certain that visitors can easily locate recorded sermons using your website.
Feature and maintain a church calendar
Your website’s calendar is more than a way to keep your members up to date with what’s happening at the church. A website calendar is proof that your church is actively involved in the community and your members have a shared life together. It is a vital sign of life.
Don’t stop at using your calendar to give the times of church services. Use it show the unique personality of your church by highlighting church activities and even fun events your church members engage in. A quick glance at your website’s calendar will give visitors a glimpse of your church’s personality and what you value. It will also give them peace of mind that there will be plenty of events for them to engage in.
We recommend designating someone in your church with the role of keeping your website calendar up to date. Consistency is important. Nobody wants to visit a digital ghost town!
You might even promote each event with blog posts and information that will keep members and those in the community excited and engaged. Be creative with your calendar. Use it as an outreach tool.
Not only is a website calendar the polite thing to have for your members. It’s a powerful way to connect with potential visitors!
State your church’s beliefs clearly
When it comes to a church’s doctrinal beliefs, nobody likes surprises. Be up-front and honest about the essentials of what your church believes. Especially those beliefs that define your church’s life and practice and will be consistently mentioned.
We strongly recommend including a page that lists the core, essential beliefs your church stands on; that define your church. Make this page easy to find.
A word of caution. If you want to attract a variety of Christians, don’t focus too heavily on ‘non-essentials’ in your doctrinal statement. This might turn some away who would actually be a good match for your church. For the sake of transparency, you might mention these items briefly or include them on a page for those who want to learn more about what you believe. But make it known that these are not the beliefs that you expect every member to hold to, and that those who hold differing views will be accepted and respected.
Make it clear that your church doesn’t ‘strain gnats’ (Matthew 23:24) but is truly focused on what’s most important: Loving God completely and loving people unselfishly.
When crafting your doctrinal statements, make the main things the plain things. Striking a balance between being totally honest and gracious is important.
Just remember: Christians looking for a church family are not likely to compromise on what they believe is sound doctrine. If you want to get them through your doors, you need to inform them about the essentials of what you believe.
Maintain a Church Blog
Blogging is one of the most powerful ways to get your website ranking high in search results. Google respects websites that have a lot of content and have been on the internet for a while. Higher results will lead to more website traffic, and more website traffic will increase the likelihood of getting more church visitors.
Maintaining a church blog is also a great way to keep visitors to your website engaged and coming back for more.
Don’t allow yourself to be intimidated by the thought of creating and maintaining a blog. Most website templates and themes have this capability built-in, so it won’t take much effort to create. Posting content consistently is probably the biggest challenge of maintaining a blog. Below are a few ideas to help you get in a good rhythm posting regular content:
- Appoint one person or a small team of people responsible for creating content for the blog. Find people in your congregation who love to write. Pastors and elders responsible for preaching and teaching are especially good candidates for this role, as they have content already prepared
- Designate one person or a small team of people with the task of editing and posting content to the blog.
- Use past events at your church (with pictures) as content for blog posts.
- Use upcoming events at your church as content for blog posts.
- Use sermon transcripts to create devotional blog posts. This is also a great way to keep your congregation meditating on Sunday sermons throughout the week. We recommend taking roughly 500 work sections at a time and posting them as individual blog posts. Group them into series to promote sermon series.
Promote your Website Content through Social Media
Social media is likely where most of your congregation and potential visitors are at. Platforms like Facebook are like virtual communities that give you the ability to connect to people faster and more frequently than ever before. The world has never been more connected than it is now.
Use social media to your advantage. Designate someone in your church to take charge of this if possible. Share about upcoming events. Share Bible verses, quotes, and points from a recent sermon. Post pictures of recent events. Make sure that people are able to truly connect with you on social media. Decide on what social media platforms work best for you where you are most likely to engage with the people who attend your church and who you would like to attend your church.
One of the best ways to promote your website and the content that you’re regularly posting (see previous section) is to share it on social media. Take the URLs of your blog posts and share them on social media. Encourage people on social media to share your content. Ask members of your congregation to share your social media and website content.
Your website in and of itself is a powerful advertising and public relations tool, but paired with social media it has the potential to double in its effectiveness.
For more practical tips on how to effectively use social media for your church, we encourage you to visit this article.
You should now have a concrete understanding of some principles and techniques to take advantage of as you plan your updated church website. Make a list of some of the most important things from this article that you feel need to be applied to the redesign of your church website. Share that list with others who will be involved in the redesign process, to convince your pastor of some of your ideas, or even as a part of your conversations with a web designer if you decide to enlist or accept professional help.
Your local church is important. It matters to Jesus (Revelation 2-3). Take advantage of the technology available to you to reach more people with the gospel, to make disciples, and to play your unique part in the transformation of this world as the hands and feet of Christ (Matthew 28:19-20).
Each church is unique, so some points in this guide will apply more to some churches than others. But this guide should give you a clear course of action moving forward. Is there any advice about redesigning church websites you feel we left out? Please, share your insight or experience with us in the comments section below!