Church website vendors see the same thing over and over again. One of the recurring themes we experience is projects where the wrong person in the church is assigned the task of building the church website or, in worse cases, put over the entire internet ministry. The individual has usually demonstrated some capability or knowledge of technical or artistic things that the leadership interprets as qualifications for managing the web side of things for the church. But, in most cases, that individual lacks even the basics of running a website and comes armed with a host of misunderstandings. Sometimes, the individual has done a great job at explaining that they are not technologically savvy, but they have been given the website as an "administrative" task. Either way, the church has set itself up for failure forcing the vendor they have chosen to spend time and budget dealing with the dynamics of such a mistake.
Don't Give It to the IT Guy
I know it all sounds the same - computers, networks, websites, email - but I assure you that it is not. IT staff usually consists of people who have taken the time to learn how to construct networks, build and troubleshoot computer issues, and setup software services. The best IT technicians have extensive knowledge and certifications in multiple platforms and can even be used to support your media ministry.
But, 99% of IT professionals do not have experience nor proficiency in the area of commercial website development, management, and growth. The many disciplines involved are not usually part of a network engineer's repertoire. It's not even on the map. A website project managed by an IT manager typically focuses on features and assumptions about what the church should have without regard or understanding of the process of delivering those services. When they have detailed specifications, their expectations are usually well meaning, but way off the mark of what the church needs. In many cases, aesthetics are disregarded in exchange for "widgets" and whatever cool technology they believe the church should have.
Don't Give It to a Teenager, Brother-in-Law, or Buddy Down the Street
We hear it all the time. You have a friend who has a brother who has a son who "does websites." You have youth in your church who are "going to school for web design." We understand - it sounds like an ideal way to get free or cheap goodies. These individuals are usually looking to build their portfolio or to serve their church in some way. The problem is that most of them have never built a professional web presence and have no idea about what will make the website an asset beyond what they have learned.
Projects lead by these people are usually unpredictable and less than professional, to say the least. The "web guy" disappears. The teenager takes forever, or can't quite create something the church is completely happy with. You end up settling with something subpar and it stays on the web for years. Eventually, these people lose interest or constantly change their approach based on the latest thing they learn. At the end of the day, your church is a lab rat on the operating table of a first year med student. It should be of no surprise when he patient flat lines or leaves the operating table looking like Frankenstein's red-headed step child.
PLEASE Don't Give It to the Busy Admin
She's got the entire weight of the ministry on her shoulders. She's juggling phone calls and communication from church members. She's managing the pastor's schedule. She's working 60 hours a week and has a panic attack when her e-mail doesn't work. So, why in the world would you give her responsibility of the church website? She's short in her answers to the web staff. She doesn't like being talked in "geek". She makes comments like, "I don't have time to work on this". Do the sister a favor and keep her away from the website!
Projects led by admins are problematic because they usually don't really want to be doing it. There's just not enough mental bandwidth left after all of the things they do for the church to take the strategic approach the church website deserves. Giving her the responsibility for the church's "virtual front door" is just a mistake - plain and simple.
So, Who Is the Best Person for the Job?
There are two different departments that make the most of the church website and usually have individuals who are qualified in some way to grow a church's web presence. The Communication / Outreach (Marketing) department of a church is the best department for the job. Although a website has a technological foundation, it's actually a tool for outgoing communication with members and prospective visitors as well as inbound data collection. These are the main tools and functions of an effective communications ministry. Their responsibilities and talents will drive the success of your church website beyond anything that anyone else in the church can do.
The Media department of a church is the second best division of your ministry to handle the job. Modern church websites are as much content, audio, and video as they are written communication. An effective media ministry can leverage a church website in order to distribute original content, broadcast services, and promote events within the church.
In the best cases, the media department works together with the communications department to create and collect compelling content for your website. The way you should view your church website team is somewhere between a school yearbook staff and a marketing agency. They are in charge of collecting future information and announcing it while chronicling the past and present and publishing those chronicles on your website. Photography, creative and editorial writing, sermon preparation, video and audio production, and graphic design are all disciplines that can be utilized to create an amazing church website team.
Recruit a Team not a Tech
That brings us to our final point. Your website, if done correctly, requires a team. It's just too much for one person to handle on their own and do properly. Occasionally, we do see a superhero of a webmaster who has an extensive background in all the disciplines. But, most of the time it takes a team to make things work smoothly. Pastor, take your website seriously. Research shows that 70% to 90% of church visitors find the churches they visit from the internet. Most of them only visit websites with updated, relevant information that speaks to their needs. Don't leave your "digital front door" to the "computer guy", so-and-so's son, or a volunteer who talks a good game. Empower a team with the right disciplines and present your church in the best way possible. Stop switching hosting companies every year and work with a technology vendor that is willing to train your staff.
This year, we're starting the Church Webmaster Certification Program that trains passionate people to build, manage, and grow your web presence the right way with the right technology. Let us know if there is any way that we can serve you.