As church communicators we’re constantly looking for ways to make the ministry better not only for visitors, but for our church members as well. There are always little hints and quips here and there that our church family members say that give us a not-so-gentle nudge toward what we should be doing to better the ministry and further the mission.
Some hints aren’t really hints at all—it’s your congregation making it clear that something needs to change! You may have heard these time and time again, and if you can relate, you may need to justify the value of a custom church website to your staff.
Here are some things that your congregation may be saying that are clear indicators that you need a new church website, and keep reading to learn the value of a church website, and how you can be prepared to share it with the rest of your staff!
“I didn’t know we had a church website.”
This may be one of the saddest things you’ve heard, especially when you’ve already invested so much time and energy into maintaining your church website.
Every church that has a website should be letting people know about it.
There is no harm in having someone mention the website at any point during the Sunday service. This will not only serve as a reminder to current members but it will also let visitors know about the website as well. A good time to mention the website is during the announcements. Whoever is giving them can say something like, "for upcoming events check out our church calendar on our website." As soon as visitors realize the church has a website, chances are that will be the primary way for them to gain information about the church.
Besides mentioning the website verbally, it should always be included in the church bulletin and in the e-newsletter. Other ways to promote the website include:
- Hosting a "sign up Sunday" where members are able to set up their account on the church website
- When creating memes or other images for Facebook and other social media, include a link to the website
- Include the website on every piece of printed media that gets sent out including postcards and brochures
Once you get in the groove of promoting your online ministry it'll become second nature.
“The hours/information/dates/staff is wrong.”
When someone tells you this, your church website can't be updated fast enough. If information on the website doesn't get updated in a timely fashion, people will stop relying on it.
Keeping the website as up to date as possible means always ensuring all photos are current, there are no events still listed from the previous months, and all contact information is correct. Besides being a reliable source of information, keeping it updated is also important when it comes to integrity and credibility—two things that your church should take very seriously.
“I didn’t tell my friends about the website.”
If members of your church aren't referring to the church website when inviting their friends or acquaintances to church, it might be because they're embarrassed about the quality of the website.
Other reasons they might be refraining from telling people about the website include:
- The website looks like it's stuck in the 90's
- They feel potential visitors won't find any value or see any reason to check it out
- They feel like it doesn’t accurately represent the church, as in “we are way cooler than the church website!"
Your website should be an integral part of the ministry and should be seen as a way to further the mission of your church. It's also something members should be excited to share with others and when that's not happening, it's definitely a red flag.
“It’s hard to find information.”
Websites exist for one primary reason—so that people can find information they need. If people are coming to your church website and are getting frustrated because they can't find what they're looking for, chances are they won't be back. If your website isn't functional or intuitive, you need to update it or get a new one. Some bits of information that should be especially easy to find include:
- Church location
- Service times
- Contact information
- Page for new visitors
This important information should be clearly visible on either the homepage or the "about us" page.
“I don’t use the website.”
It's pretty sad when members aren't even using their own church website! If people who attend your church, or who are involved in your church in some way, aren't using the website, someone needs to figure out why and then do something about it. In order to get people to use the site, consider adding the following features:
- Staff names and titles, along with a professional-looking photograph of each person
- An opportunity for online giving
- A blog
- Church calendar
- Sermon archives (audio or video)
- Major announcements
- Social media links
If you make your church website fun and interesting, chances are members and visitors will be checking it out on a regular basis.
“It’s hard to find the church website.”
If a person doesn't have your website address, they will try to Google it. If your church website isn't optimized to show up on Google, people won’t be able to search your church, let alone its website! When it comes to finding a website by using Google or other search engines, you need to try a strategy called Search Engine Optimization (SEO). You want your church website to be one of the first ones that appears when someone is doing a search. In order to achieve this, you should:
- Put high quality content on each page
- Make sure your pages load smoothly and quickly
- Build pages that are easy to navigate
The easier it is to find the church website, the more likely it is people will visit your church.
So you may know your church website needs a serious overhaul—but does the rest of your staff? You probably need to do some convincing before everyone else is on board and ready to put forward the investment. Here’s how to explain the value of a custom church website design.
Let’s set the record straight: your church website design should be a beautiful representation of your church family. But––above all else––the design of your website is a problem-solving tool. Visual design and aesthetics are important, but they’re only one step in a detailed design process.
If you’re going to take away one thing from this blog post, it is this:
“Design” is so much more than pixels, fonts, pictures, and colors. It’s an overarching process where we strategically look at your church’s unique goals, critical paths, and problems, then use all the tools and knowledge at our disposal to make sure your website design is truly able to rise to the ministry challenges you face.
And here’s where the value of a custom church website design comes in: A custom design is built just for you.
A design shouldn’t just be “pretty.” It should be built around this process around your goals, paths, and––most importantly––your problems. No matter what’s trending or being used by other churches, your finished product needs to be distinctive to your online ministry needs.
Custom Design Versus A Template
If you start your church website design with a template (or a theme), you must find creative ways to make your content fit within a predefined design. This causes some give and take between what you want and what your theme options are.
Think of this like buying a house: What features are non-negotiable for you? What could you live without? What’s the most important idea, or what’s only “just kinda nice?” Once you know your list of “must-haves,” you can search a theme that satisfies those needs. You can add functionality by tailoring a theme to meet your needs, but remember that tailoring is an added expense, and you’ll want to be sure your website can still effectively meet your church’s unique needs.
As you prioritize the features and functionality your church needs, you may discover that you don’t want to work within the bounds of a template. If you need a more robust church website, you’ll find immense value in custom design work because the sky’s the limit. Your entire site will be built around your needs and goals––to solve your problems.
Working From the Ground-Up
Custom design and development means that you will begin your strategy with a blank slate *gulp*. Once you have your ministry goals (and your strategic solutions) set in place, you can sprinkle in your *hopes and dreams!*
Say that you already know your church family responds well to visual imagery and videos, and your goal is to get your congregation more involved with your online ministry. A great way to build impact in that situation is to make the church website focus on videos about your congregation. Build your website to focus on the worship and work of your congregation and what their lives look like.
In this example, if you choose a theme, you may not be able to find a way to adequately add emphasis to photos or add the ability to feature your great videos. But if you’re in the custom design process, your whole site will start with that premise––that visuals are the focus of your website. It’s your goal to make your site a visual hotspot that features your church family in snapshots and real videos.
This is the kind of built-from-the-ground-up mentality that will provide so much value in a custom church website design. You have no existing parameters or framework to fit within, and your new site will be a completely unique creation.
Dig Into the Details
Being “unique” is a good segue into the other half of the value in a custom design: no other church will have a website like yours.
“Going custom” means getting into all of the particulars that make your church special and individual. We want to draw out those elements and build a site that suits YOUR goals and solves YOUR challenges.
For instance, maybe your church family is especially active in mission work––both domestically and abroad. What makes you different from other churches is your strength and generosity and mission work, or in volunteering and service programs.
This is the type of functionality you can put at the core of your whole website strategy if you use a custom design. You shouldn’t have to squeeze your highly individualized mission work, or service opportunities into the generic framework that themes have.
We love our themes, but the custom design process allows us to dig deeper into your church’s personality to ensure it shines through in the finished product.