There is a lot of discussion today about what church websites should do, be, look like, and so on. My view is that your website’s main purpose needs to be evangelism, and your main target for your website should be new people. With this philosophy in mind, here are seven questions to ask when evaluating the effectiveness of your website:
- Is it functional? Be sure people are able to easily find what they want and what they need to know about your church, including your phone number and worship times (I recommend putting them on every page), and that they don't encounter any broken links. At a minimum, have these areas on your website: About Us, Staff, Contact Us, Directions, Worship Times and Services, and Past Sermons. I also like to add Programs, FAQ, and Visitors pages as well, but the other areas are the minimum required.
- Is it up to date? Check to see if there's anything on your website that needs updating. Don’t let it be outdated! Also, don’t let it feel outdated.
- Can your site be found on a search engine? Ignore what people say about META tags; they are important. Google uses your description tag for their search engine listing. If you don’t have a description tag, then Google will just use some text from your home page. Do you really want that or do you want to set the description yourself? How about a Title tag? Keyword tags aren’t nearly as important, but the other two are. Text on your home page is also important for search engines, so make sure you have text written (not just text inside images).
- Are your main viewed pages engaging? Look at your website statistics, which you should be able to access (if not, change hosting providers). My church's main viewed pages are: Home page (as it should be), About Us/Staff page, Visitors page, and Sermon Archives (in that order). Since these are our main pages, we need to make sure these pages look great. Right now we are in the middle of a website revision and we are working on improving these specific pages. We recently added streaming video and now that page has jumped to be one of our most frequently visited pages.
- Do you post previous sermons? People want this! We currently provide audio and video of our previous sermons. New people listen/watch to get a feel for the pastor. Regular attenders listen/watch when they miss a Sunday. You really need this, so do it! We did audio for years before we added video. Almost all churches reading this should be able to do audio. Although we now do video, we continue with the audio because we have some people who listen in their cars.
- Are you using a committee for a design or redesign? Don't do this by committee—you will never get it done that way. Find two to three people (at the most) to collaborate on it.
- Does your website have a nice feel and a good presence? Don’t keep a bad website up. If it has typos and looks bad and is extremely outdated, then you will actually push people away.
Mark Maddox is a pastor who previously owned (and eventually sold) a successful website business. This post is adapted from “Technology – 1 of 3 – Websites” and first appeared on Maddox’s blog, PastorMarksBlog.com. Used with permission.
If your church website allows online giving, see "Keeping Your Church's Electronic Giving Safe" by Dan Busby, Church Finance Today.
This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is published with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations."
Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully search the site for all content related to the topic of interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.