Most important question to consider when building a church website

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Although I’ve worked in the web industry for 13 years, I’m continually fascinated by all the ways a website can be used by organizations. For churches, there are potentially limitless opportunities to interact not only with members, but with the rest of the connected world. With a myriad of opportunities, it can often be difficult for churches to define what a website should accomplish.

To help churches uncover the path that is most appropriate for their community and culture, provided below is a question worth visiting for churches that don’t yet have a website, and may be worth revisiting for churches that are in the midst of a redesign. Although simple, it may inspire conversations and help to define a church’s vision for how they approach their presence on the internet. Here it goes:

Why do you want a church website?

Yes, sometimes this question is never asked. We have to have a website because we have to have it. Everyone else has a website, and that’s the thing to do. There’s no telling what will happen if we don’t keep current. We hear buzz words like podcasting, social media, blogging, mobile-friendly, and we’ve got to have it all. Wait, what is podcasting?

Although the entire connected world will have access to your website (is that even really necessary?), for most churches – unless their congregation is big enough to declare sovereignty and they podcast all the way to Mars – their primary audience will likely be both current and prospective members. If you want to know why you want a website, it would benefit to ask your congregation. What will be helpful to them is rather important. Why would they want to go to your site and for what reasons would they want to return? How will it add to their collective journey maturing into the unflinchingly loyal, loving and self-sacrificing disciples that God desires?

For instance, social media is a big thing (and by big, I mean evolving by the second and very time consuming). A church could spend hours of time each week pushing out Facebook posts, instagrams and tweets. However, who belongs to the network you are building through online social services? What kind of network and community were you intending to build? How does that interaction add to the interaction your congregation already receives through bible studies, Sunday classes, events and other gatherings?

Posting blogs or video and audio sermons on your website is also rather popular. There are many compelling reasons to have rotating content on your website, especially since it can improve your listing on search engines and ultimately increase traffic. Having more people visit your site means you are influencing more people. However, do you want to expend your resources on visitors to your site who may live halfway across the country (and even halfway across the world), or do you want to focus your resources serving those in your own backyard? If your focus leans in any way to the latter, their voice matters for any feature or content you provide on your site. They may not want to read blogs from your pastor. Does that mean you shouldn’t do it? Not necessarily, but their voice does influence the framework for how to build your site, it helps clarify what kind of content and features should take priority on your homepage and site navigation, it guides how you want to spend your time and resources, and most importantly, it focuses your vision on caring for God’s sheep (both lost and found) that He has, and will soon, put in your trust to shepherd. They are why you want a website.

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