Tips For Setting Up A Church Website
If you are thinking of setting up a church website then you'll need to consider a few things before you start. The following article runs through some of the questions we usually ask our church clients before setting up their websites.
1. Who is the website for?
The answer that most church leaders give is, non-Christians and Christians who don't actually come to your church at the moment. This makes sense since its in line with the Great Commission but if this is the case then the website needs to be approached from a very different point of view.
Most Church websites will be used mainly by either existing members, people that are new to the area, or people looking for the church itself for a wedding, christening, dedication, baptism or funeral. Of course, if your church is also a community centre, you will also be aiming to attract businesses.
For most congregations, a website is often seen as a way of attracting a younger generation back to church, which may be true for some church websites, but will not work just by having one.
Should you use your church website to evangelise? If you have the time and the resources to spend producing a large amount of articles, and can give personal feedback to anonymous visitors, then yes.
However, there are a lot of good websites that are already doing this (e.g. www.rejesus.co.uk), so providing links to these resources may be enough. Of course, your website should openly share the goals and values of your church - but this will probably be mainly for the benefit of visitors and members.
One way in which church websites can be very useful is by providing information about events, past and present. As good as your church announcements or service sheets may be, the internet is the first place that people look for information these days - whether on their laptop or on their phones.
So a church website is a good way to communicate with your congregation, whether its information about forthcoming events, extra incites from the sermon that were cut for time, or a way of sharing good news.
4. Keeping up to date
Its a sad fact that, a lot of church websites are totally out of date. If you are going to have a website it is crucial that the information on it is regularly updated. Above all, your website should be useful and if it isn't, people won't come back.
Generally speaking, there are two kinds of website: static html and CMS sites.
Static HTML sites are just that, static. They can only be updated by someone who knows how to write HTML, a web designer. These sites are usually cheaper - but obviously this makes updating them much harder and potentially much more expensive.
CMS sites are sites that can be updated quickly and easily by a non-technical person - which could potentially be any member of your congregation or even your leadership themselves. These kinds of sites usually cost a little more to set up, but the savings add up longer term because you are in control of the site's content.
5. Sermon Podcasts, Galleries, Members Sections...
A lot of churches are keen to get their talks online in the form of a podcast. This isn't really all that hard to do, but does usually cost extra.
In the same way, you might want to share pictures from recent events with the congregation - photo galleries and slideshows are also quite popular with churches.
Although church leaders are often keen to get their members to engage with the church website, it is something that doesn't often get off the ground. It can be easier and more beneficial to make use of popular social networking sites like "Facebook" and "Twitter" than to set up a Forum or Members Section.
Members sections can be useful if rotas, meeting notes and newsletters are constantly filling up your email inbox, but a large number of church leaders will always prefer to have a paper copy - so investing in a members section is certainly something you'll want to take a vote on beforehand.
6. Why pay for a church website?
A lot of churches are lucky enough to have someone who is web savvy and can set up a church website for you. If this is the case, then this may be the best option for you.
There are a lot of free services on the internet which will be able to provide you with a website to get you started. Often these services come with advertising banners somewhere on the page, because this is how they will make their money, but as a starting point for your church this may be good enough.
The other issues with free websites is that you are often limited as to what you can change, the content is not always accessible to everyone and probably won't be search engine optimised - although the quality of free websites is certainly increasing.
Of course, if you want a totally custom made website, you will have to pay for it - but it doesn't have to cost as much as you might expect. See our Church Web Design page for details of discounts available.
You may also find the advice on the following website useful: "Making a Good Church Website" on GoodChurchWebsites.org.uk.