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“If a church doesn’t have a website in this day and age, it’s as if the church doesn’t exist.”

I remember being jolted when I first heard a pastor make that statement a few years ago. He went on: “Not having a church website is like not having a front door to your church building. And it’s hard to welcome people to worship if you don’t have a way in.” The pastor was exaggerating a little, but not much. In the 21st century, people are more likely to visit a church’s website before they ever set foot in the door.

So what should a church website accomplish?

We need to remember that tools—no matter how efficient, cool, or helpful—are, in the end, only tools. Having a website and social media accounts does not replace the work of God, but they certainly can give insight to those outside as to how God is moving within His body.

Many churches already have a website at this stage of the online game. That’s true. But many of these websites are – to put it nicely – underutilized and underwhelming. Rather than just a series of links to news stories and announcements about upcoming events, the website should be a means of revealing your church.

Even with the advent of social media, websites are still a go-to place for information. As such, the church website should not be neglected in favor of the new social media toys in the room. With those few thoughts in mind, here are a few things that no church website should be without.

1. A clear, easy to find “Statement of Beliefs”

In our pluralistic society, people will be accessing your church’s site from every imaginable background. Whether they are well versed in doctrine or confused beyond description, they should know what your church believes. It might be best to have a simplified statement of faith (for unbelievers) as well as a link to a more robust statement of faith (for long-time Christians). You want to communicate what you believe in such a way that the gospel is clear and not obscured.

2. Basic boring information

  • Contact: Make it easy for people to know how to contact you. I suggest having the church’s address, phone number, and generic e-mail in the footer of every page. That way it’s easy for visitors to figure out quickly how to get in touch with someone.
  • Schedule: Let people know when and where you meet. Give them an entry point. I wouldn’t put every single church activity, program, or event on there. It’s best to keep it simple. (Just make sure you keep the schedule up-to-date.)
  • Directions: Use Google to make it easy for someone to figure out where you are located. Most people won’t recognize where in the world your street address is until they copy/paste it into a maps feature online. Why not do this for them anyway?

3. Staff and leadership page

Before people get interested in the specifics of the programs offered by your church, they will be interested to see who is leading. I’ve seen some churches that list all their staff on one page, with their titles and an e-mail address to contact. A long list of names is not the best way to introduce people to your leadership, especially in a Facebook society where we are used to information and pictures. Instead, provide a picture of the staff member, a brief bio, and his or her role at the church. This will go a long way in helping people get a feel for your church.

4. Podcasts and/or sermon videos

Anyone seriously considering your church will be helped in the decision-making process by providing opportunities to hear the weekly teaching. Because of the sometimes extensive differences in church teaching styles and content presentation, it is helpful to make these available online to anyone researching your church. A number of churches use a video welcome from the pastor. That’s okay, but a simple welcome will not reveal as much as full-length sermons.

5. Social media buttons

A website is only part of communicating your church’s presence to your online community. With nearly a billion people worldwide on Facebook and 250M on Twitter, these tools ought not be overlooked. Decide how you will make announcements, share devotionals and Scripture verses, and then use them wisely.

If your pastors like to blog, link to their blogs from their individual staff pages. This is true even for—maybe especially for—children and student pastors. Many parents want to “get a feel” for the leaders to whom they will entrust their children. The more they know about a leader, the more confident they may be about that ministry.

Conclusion

Churches can do amazing things with websites nowadays. Sometimes, in the rush to be innovative, we wind up cluttering the site and making it difficult to give people basic information about our churches. It’s better to have a sharp website that accomplishes the essential purposes rather than a sprawling, detailed website where people can easily get lost.

What about you? When you first visit a church website, what do you look for?

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Thanks to Marty Duren for bringing his social media expertise to this post.


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11 thoughts on “5 Essentials for a Church Website”

  1. david carlson says:

    great post – every website should be constructed from the visitors viewpoint – xkcd had a great cartoon that is relevant – http://xkcd.com/773/ – compares what is on a university website v. what people really want on a web site (all in a diagram – you would think Micheal Patton did it)

  2. Thanks for this post. I have just helped our church transition to a “new” website and format, and the question we’ve been asking ourselves, is what should we actually have on the website? What announcements? What information? This post has come at the opportune time to take the website to the “next level”. God bless. Darryl.

  3. Bobby Gilles says:

    Great post Trevin.

    One of my biggest pet peeves is when churches either don’t include their location(s) & service times on their website, or they bury that info. It happens all the time.

  4. Michael says:

    I’m glad you included staff information. I solo pastor a church (not an uncommon thing) and people have said that it’s arrogant to have a page on myself, but every study I have read shows that the “About our Pastor” page is one of the most visited pages on a church website. People want to get an know about the guy leading and teaching before they show up.

  5. Martin Salter says:

    Great post Trevin,

    I heard a webinar recently which similarly described a church’s website as being its virtual front door. Not just the content but also the form and design aesthetic is a crucial factor in the way people respond.

  6. Michelle says:

    I would also add: keep your web site updated, especially about schedule changes.

    Also, make sure your statement of faith accurately describes the way you operate IN PRACTICE. I have seen web sites for churches whose practices I’m familiar with who have all the “right answers” on their web site’s statement of faith, but, in practice (i.e. in preaching and teaching), the pastor is off the reservation. (I’ve mostly seen this with seeker sensitive and Word Faith churches.)

  7. Brian says:

    I think this is a great article Trevin/Marty! I’m a huge believer that websites should be simple, straightforward, and easy to read.

    The next major step though, is how do we keep our simple content fresh? I think Churches need to figure out the “WHAT” of the website, as much as they need to figure out the “HOW” of managing the content.

    Will they have a dedicated person keeping up a blog, events, etc? Can any volunteer sign-in and make updates? Or the worst, will a volunteer do a pro bono project and get everything published, only to fall off the face of the earth as you try to make adjustments down the road?!

    As for the “HOW,” I think smaller churches should explore content management systems that will help them keep things simple and clean with easy tools to keep content current.

    Just a thought, but I think the “How” of a church website is just as important as the “What.” :-)

  8. Steve Folker says:

    I look for professionalism in a church website, under the theory that all things should be done for the glory of God. Attention to detail displays the seriousness that a church takes their beliefs. A shlocky site, such as everything just centered down the middle with no side tables just displays for all to see that this church has (allows) people in a ministry they know nothing about and it ain’t important to them, and probably is the same for all ministries. First impression is everything. I’ve never even visited a church without checking their site to get a feeling for what I should expect.

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Trevin Wax


​Trevin Wax is Bible and Reference Publisher at LifeWay Christian Resources and managing editor of The Gospel Project. You can follow him on Twitter or receive blog posts via email. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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