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Thursday, January 05, 2006

8 Questions to Answer on Your Church Website

Web_design This from ChurchCentral.com...

In planning and designing, or redesigning, your church’s Web site, it is important to answer common questions that guests will be asking before they walk through your church doors. Often, a guest will log on to your church’s Web site (especially if you are diligent about including it in all your promotional materials) before ever stepping foot on your campus.

That’s why the church’s Web site to be a valuable tool in welcoming new people to church services and events. Your Web site provides an excellent opportunity to make a good first impression with guests while simultaneously putting them at ease by answering key questions they might have.

Here are eight questions to answer in any church Web site:

1. "Who is the Pastor?"

Often one of the highest pages viewed on a church Web site is the "About the Pastor" page. Guests want to know who the pastor is before they attend the church. This page could include a short welcome letter from the pastor accompanied by a photo and a brief biographical sketch of his educational background, when he was saved and called into the ministry, what his ministry’s focus is, etc. A link to online audio sermons is also a good way of introducing your pastor to potential guests.

2. "How do I get there?"

Use the power and resources of online map services, like Google, MapQuest, or Yahoo! to provide an interactive-type map to your campus.

My personal favorite is Google. It has an excellent mapping component to its site that is often overlooked. To get a link to Google’s map to your building, go to Google.com, type in your church’s physical address, hit "Search," then make sure and click on "Google Maps." Check to make sure that the map indicated is indeed the correct location of your church building. Next simply copy the URL or right-click on the "Link to this Page" link. Then paste it on the appropriate link on your site.

3. "What about your worship services?"

Give all the information you can for what a guest might encounter during your main worship services. List traditional or contemporary services if you have them, descriptions for different services, what to wear, how long it lasts, where to park, etc. Some of these details are more important for those churches outside the Bible Belt or located in a large unchurched region.

4. "What about childcare?"

Families are a large segment of any city’s population. It is important to demonstrate to parents that your childcare facilities are not only available but safe. Hopefully your church already gives background checks on all nursery and children’s workers. List this important facet of your ministry prominently. Include good directions for dropping off children: i.e., where is the preschool or nursery (or children’s) area located. Give the name, phone number and e-mail address of your children’s minister for questions.

5. "What do you believe?"

Every church Web site should include a simple, straight-forward section that provides answers to this question. Think of this portion of your site as an opportunity to communicate your church’s distinctive doctrinal beliefs to many different audiences.

Put your doctrinal beliefs in a format that even a child could understand. Some church sites’ doctrinal statements read like peer-reviewed journal articles and use terminology that only those in academics would recognize. Articulate your beliefs in easy-to-understand language. For instance, instead of saying your church believes in an "inerrant, infallible Bible," why not simply say: "We believe the Bible is the pure and perfect Word of God and has all authority over our lives"?

6. "How do I get connected?"

Connecting people is one of the problems of many churches. Guests come looking for connection (i.e. fellowship) and wind up slipping out the back door of the church.

One church addressed this problem by posting small group Sunday school information prominently on the Web site home page in an easy-to-access format.

Use your site to educate guests on the importance of connecting with other believers through small group Bible studies. Explain why it’s vitally necessary for spiritual growth and how they can contact a pastor or small group leader to get linked with a good group.

7. "How do I join?"

Don’t be vague about this. Write out the essential steps necessary to join (i.e. baptism, new member orientation classes, etc.) and give appropriate contact resources.

8. "Who is Jesus?"

No church Web site is complete or sufficient without an adequate Gospel presentation. With so many excellent online presentations available today, there is no excuse for a church not to include opportunities to know more about our great Lord and Savior.

If you cannot produce it yourself, link to a site that does an effective job of communicating the Gospel. (One good resource is located at: http://www.thegoodnews.org.)

Be sure you include phone and e-mail contacts, as well as the church’s office hours for those who want to learn more or have questions.

Cory Miller

has worked in journalism and public relations for more than eight years. He is available for freelance writing, graphic design and church communications consulting work. Contact him at: http://www.corymiller.com/millermedia/.

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January 5, 2006 in Technology in the Church | Permalink

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Comments

This is right on! I can't count the number of church websites I've looked at (in a job search) over the past six months that excluded one or more of these components, or hid them so far down in the site that not even the developer could find them!

I've been especially surprised by the number of churches that have nothing about their pastor - and on otherwise-strong websites. I've wondered if these have some philosophical objection to the concept of a church leader.

On the "what we believe" section, note that the length of each topic can (sometimes unwittingly) imply the weight that particular topic carries. I visited one church that had one or two paragraphs about every topic except baptism, and 8-10 paragraphs about that. It seemed to communicate that while things like Jesus' divinity and man's sinfulness are important, how we baptize is absolutely critical.

Keep the beliefs section simple, but put a link to a PDF file or other page that has the church's full doctrinal statement.

Posted by: Randy Ehle | Jan 5, 2006 1:15:53 PM

This was great. It made me go to our website and make sure we were up to snuff.

Gave me the opportunity to tweak a couple things.

Brian

Posted by: Brian La Croix | Jan 5, 2006 1:43:49 PM

Nothing says "We don't care" to the community like an outdated or a never updated website.

http://oakleaf.typepad.com/michael/2006/01/the_church_that.html

Posted by: Michael | Jan 6, 2006 7:36:48 AM

I would add "what is your phone number?"

My wife and I visited a church several months ago and ended up on some sort of list where we get a homily via automated message every Tuesday. The church doesn't have a listing in the phone book nor does their website give one, so we don't know how to tell them to stop.

Posted by: John | Jan 8, 2006 2:08:07 PM

John, I believe it, but I can't believe it -- Automated homilies. Is this the 21 Century version of the old stick your foot in the door while doing door-to-door evangelism.

I'd send them a letter and let them know how unprofessional they are.

Posted by: kramnalap | Jan 9, 2006 8:01:49 AM

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