In preparation for this blog post, I looked at a number of articles online that addressed the topic of building a church website. For the most part, what I found was a pretty useless collection of keyword-stuffed articles intended only as marketing pieces and a way to try to appease the search engines and boost their positions. None of the advice I could find even scratched the surface when it came to building an effective church website. So, it sounds like the perfect topic to cover.
What's the Goal of a Church Website?
That's not a question many people ask themselves when they set out to build a website for their church or ministry. But, it's the single most important answer to have when you start your journey towards the ultimate church website. Without a specific measurable goal, churches and ministries can waste valuable time and money on aesthetics and features that don't produce anything.
The answers to these questions drastically impact the decisions you need to make when building your church website. For example, if your goal is to see new visitors at Sunday's service, you would employ a strategy that includes a clear "New to Our Church" or "What to Expect" button on the homepage linking to a page that contains a video tour, interviews with leadership, and sample sermon, and an outline of what to expect. If your goal is to increase online contributions, you will want to emphasize the websites ability to take payments and create a section for potential and existing donors to see where their money is going.
Zoom In On the Most Important Goals
Few ministry websites serve only one purpose. You will likely have several goals that you want to accomplish. Understanding this, it will be important to prioritize your goals and allow that prioritized list to dictate your website design and development plans. Visually, priority means bigger or more prominent. It also usually translates to a bigger investment requirement. For example, if you want to generate online donations, you will need graphics created, pages typeset, a good donation processing system, and a merchant account. That's not free, but if it's a priority, it would be smarter to spent your budget on that feature set than on a flashy intro graphic. The goal determines the direction of your decision making.
Make Your Goals Measurable and Then Measure
Decide on schedule for reporting on your progress. Quantify your results with numbers, such as monthly visitors, dollar contributed, or the number of visiting families that reference the website as their first contact with your ministry. On the internet, you can measure things very quickly, so don't wait too long before making adjustments. The longest period of time you should report progress for is one month. If it doesn't work in a month, change the approach. But, if it does work, keep what you did and move on to another idea for improving the website's effectiveness.
Ultimately, your church website is there to serve the overall mission of your ministry. Take the time to align your website goals with those of your organization and insist on measurable success. This will help you to streamline your development timelines and create a track record you will be proud to show off to your church.