We are launching a new series: Church Communicator Spotlight. We want to really dig in and tell the stories of the churches we work with. Recently, I got the chance to get on a phone call and interview both Melanie Hendrix and Sue Berringer. They're on the media team at The Bible Chapel in Pittsburgh, PA.
It's one of my favorite parts of the job -- I love it when I get to hear real stories of our clients using our services to grow their churches. While on the phone with The Bible Chapel, we talked about the history of the church, how their new church website has benefitted them, and also some of the more interesting ways they are a multi-site church.
Q. Can you share a little bit about the history of The Bible Chapel?
Okay, so for those who don't know anything about The Bible Chapel, we are a non-denominational, Christian, Bible-teaching church in the Pittsburgh area. The church itself is more than 50 years old, and started out in a couple's home. We've only been a multi-site church for the last 7 years. Currently, there are four physical campuses and one online campus. The combined number of members and those who attend each week is about 4,000.
Q. What are some of the goals of The Bible Chapel?
Well, we are a growing church and we actually have more campuses in the works right now. We try to branch out around the Pittsburgh area. With that growth and branching out, we're working on growing our internal processes and technology to match what we're trying to do.
Q. How does it work to have a church with multiple locations?
First of all, we are careful to say we’re multi-site and that we don’t have a main campus. Our first site was South Hills, which is currently the biggest one. We try to replicate everything we do across all campuses, but sometimes there are differences or some gaps, depending on timing, resources, and logistics of where we can hold things. But we do have a variety of ministries for every age and stage including men, women, children, students, young adults, you name it. Each campus has its own dedicated pastor but we also have a senior pastor and an executive pastor.
Q. What's your favorite part about the newest version of the The Bible Chapel's website?
We love that [Ekklesia 360] gives us all the tools and features we need -- and is designed specifically for churches. We've also been able to replicate the sermon module and use it not just for our Sunday sermons but also for things like the podcast that our college pastor does once a week. We’re able to put the episodes into our sermons module so that they are easily accessible. Another thing we like about the new website, is that even though we try not to be just a a church that invites you to parties all the time, it's become a great way for people to get information about ministries and events. We love the technology that enables us to have events or announcements with dates that automatically go live or come off the site. So that’s been wonderful!
Q. What was the most important goal you had with this new website?
With our multi campuses, we really wanted to build a website that would show that we’re really one church in multiple locations, and that would allow people to come in the front door and then go where they needed to go. We wanted to make sure that you knew you could come in and learn all about The Bible Chapel, find out what you were interested in, and find out where you could easily join in.
Q. Whether folks are new visitors or recurring members, you wanted your website to be super clear about The Bible Chapel, is that right?
Yes, we wanted it to be super clear that if you were interested in a Bible-teaching church, that is what you would find. You could come to our website and find out exactly who we are and you could learn about all of our teaching and programs. Nobody on staff here is a professional designer and we wanted to elevate our look and feel to stand alongside our peers and other multi-site churches.
Q. What kind of stories do you hear about people using your website?
Our executive director said he was recently speaking with a woman who is divorced and had just recently started going to our church. She’s in an age group that wouldn't necessarily be the first to use a website to check out a church. And so he told her, "Give it a try, you should check out our website." After she did, she got back to him and said, "Oh my gosh, I didn’t know you had so much going on!" She is now a part of our DivorceCare ministry, because she found that through our caregiving page on our website.
Q. What were some of your main concerns about the new website?
We were concerned that by focusing on attracting new people, growing, and talking to the generation coming up, we were going to lose a lot of people in our older population. So we really wanted to make them comfortable. And actually, they seem to adopt the website at the same rate, or more so even, than the younger people. Of course they are on their phones and social media.
Q. Do you have anything else that you wanted to add?
When we changed our strategy to be "one church in multiple locations," our old website no longer worked for us. Instead of each campus having its own identity, we wanted one identity. We did not have the site to support that. We really needed help from somebody who was an expert in strategy. I cannot overemphasize the value in having [Ekklesia 360]. We talked to other people who build websites, but you build websites for churches, and that’s a big deal for us. That really helps.
Q. I won't close on a question, just a great, big "Thank You!" Thanks so much for sharing, Melanie and Sue! And thank you for all the work you do at The Bible Chapel! Doing interviews like this is one of the best parts of my job, I'm so glad we got to talk and I'm so glad your Ekklesia 360 experience has been so fantastic.
If you're interested in learning more about how you can develop a multi-site church website, download our eBook, Multi-site Church Websites: An Organizational Manual for Websites, to find 3 primary models yours could take. Plus, you'll get 40 examples of the features and layouts you could adopt!