The debate is over—churches today realize they need to have a website. The question now is, what makes a website an effective ministry tool for the church? With many companies vying for your website development dollar, this is not an easy question to answer....or is it? Actually I think it is very easy to answer and in this article, we'll not only answer that question, but give you some resources to make a website incredibly effective (and either free or for very low-cost for your church).
The answer is simple: CONTENT
We need to remember when we are creating websites for the church that the purpose of the website is ultimately the purpose of the Great Commission: to help people come to know Jesus as Savior and to grow to maturity in the Christian faith.
Churches create websites for different reasons than secular groups do and we must NEVER forget that if we are to have an effective website. It isn't flashy graphics or the latest technology or how "cool" or "edgy" that our site looks that is most important, it is our CONTENT.
Content that is important
Content that is important falls into several categories:
- Basic church information: times, dates, locations, all the details about ministries that actually will connect people with the ministry.
- Overview information about your church: this content answers basic questions, including: Who are you? What do you believe? Are you part of a larger group? Who is that group or denomination? Why is that important and what do they believe?
- Core content about the Christian faith: What does it mean to be a Christian? How do I become one? What does it mean to grow in faith and how do I do that? Your denomination may have a unique way of explaining this, do that on site.
- How your church expresses the basics of the Christian faith and what it means to grow to mature discipleship.
- Articles on how staff members either explain the Christian faith or their approach to ministry.
All of these areas of content are vital. In addition, you need more than just a sentence or two to describe them and they need to be constantly updated to be of any use at all.
You must know how to get this information on your website and how to continuously keep it updated. It isn't enough to buy a website with a fancy front page and then nothing but filled-in forms when people click-through for more information.What would you think of any company that did that for a product you wanted to learn more about? You'd think they were lazy and didn't really know what they were doing. People don't think any better of a church that looks great on the homepage, but is thin on content.
What you probably don't want (but might be doing) on your website
Most of you would probably agree with what I just wrote. I doubt if anyone would say:
- "No, I want a website for my church that is static, boring, and with almost no content about the Christian faith."
- "What I really want is a constantly out-dated site so visitors will think we are sloppy and lazy about our information."
- "I want people to think Christianity is some sort of secret club. That's why I don't want my website to really tell them anything about our church or what our denomination believes."
- "Most of all, I want people to think we are phony. To do that I'll use stock photos of smiling, happy, perfect people on my home page—people that nobody in our church or community actually looks like."
You may not verbalize any of these things, but it is pretty obvious that many church websites by the content that they have that without meaning to they are sending these messages.
How to get the content you want
Bottom line: you need a website creation system that will allow you to create and keep updated the content that is an important to your church and core to the Christian faith.
I can help you do that! I have a series of webinars that will guide you step-by-step how to do that.
If you want to see my latest real-life church responsibility--my husband a bi-vocational pastor who has recently been appointed in charge of small groups at our church (smallish church now, been through big trauma, from one of the biggest in city to under 300 now)--you can go to the WordPress blog/website I created for the Small Group Ministry that almost totally died at the church. We are still building and have a long way to go, but this site and the interaction it has generated has been great at the church--here it is: http://smallgrouplinks.wordpress.com
This is a very simple site, I write all the content and send out weekly emails to update small group leaders, but it has really revitalized an almost totally dead ministry. It has lots of CONTENT and it is changing lives--people who never used online tools, or got into theological discussions, or been involved in small groups are going to the site and commenting to me and the staff about it. It is a very small step, but the content is making a difference.
What the site cost to create—lots of time and NO money
We live in S. California and the economic recession has slammed our church. Our giving is less than half of what it was over a year ago. The church laid off half of the paid staff and more cuts are coming. That is why my husband is bi-vocational (has a handyman business that supports our ministry habits). This site cost zero dollars to produce, so fits well into the church budget now. Obviously many hours of my time have gone into it, but I'd much rather use my free time to change lives for eternity than in other pursuits.
Even though the site for small groups didn't cost a penny to produce or host, as you can see, it still has a lot of things on it: lots of content, videos, graphics, pages and posts, tag clouds. In addition, the custom nameplate and side-bar video were both created in MS Publisher (the same process as described here). I could have done much more, but as I said, I did it totally in volunteer free time and as always I didn't have enough time to do all I wanted to.
WordPress.com is what I used to create the site
The site you are on now was created with WordPress.org; the church website with WordPress.com.
You don't have to have fancy, moving graphic images to change lives. Simple sites with rich content can be used greatly by our Lord who delights in using small things for His glory.