Having a website for your congregation is not a luxury anymore. I know this has been said before and some denominations have tried to help get websites set up for their congregations, but I find that many still don’t have a website. It may seem like a luxury, or something that is not essential, but the research and the experiences tell us differently. It doesn’t matter what the average age of your congregation is or whether or not you have money. What matters is that if you don’t have a web presence, you will not be found.
The Yellow Pages are a thing of the past, putting an advertisement in a local newspaper might get some attention, sending fliers to the neighborhood might help, but when looking for somewhere to attend church (especially when you are visiting a town) the place most people go it to the internet search engines. Having a Facebook page is also helpful, but if someone doesn’t have Facebook, they may not find you. Pew Research has shown us that for the last nine years, people search for church mostly around 1) Easter and 2) Christmas, but they also search for it year round. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/04/18/when-easter-and-christmas-near-more-americans-search-online-for-church/
I have heard many excuses for not having a website such as:
- It costs too much.
- We don’t have a web designer.
- We don’t have someone to keep it up-to-date.
- We don’t know what to put on it
Let me debunk these myths one at a time.
- You can have a website that costs you nothing. By using a blogging platform like WordPress or Blogger, you can set up a basic website and it won’t cost you anything. If you choose to spend an extra $20, you can get your own web address so it would be something like http://www.saintmonicas.org rather than http://www.saintmonicas.wordpress.org. If you want to set up a free website at either WordPress (wordpress.com) or Blogger (blogger.com) check out their websites which have tutorials on setting up a site, search for tutorials, and ask around the church or community to see if you can find help.
- If you use the above options, you don’t need a web designer. Choose one of the templates they give you (many of which are free) and don’t try to get too fancy.
- While it is preferable that websites be kept lively and up-to-date, the key thing is to have correct information there for people to find. If you can find 30 minutes each month to update the calendar, you will be in good shape.
- What you need to have on a website. Key things to have: Name of your Congregation, Service Times, Address (that is easy to find), Phone number, email contact, and names of the staff. If you want to see a bare-bones website example look here: http://churchwebsitesample.wordpress.com/. Pictures are always fun to have on the site, make sure you have a balance between people and buildings. When newcomers are looking for a church, seeing the faces of people is always more inviting that a picture of a building.
Most importantly, jump in! Don’t be afraid to try, don’t be afraid to ask for help from people you know including Diocesan Staff, other clergy, congregation members, friends, and family. This is an important tool for reaching people and welcoming them into your community.
Rather than letting your fears or questions get in the way, reach out to someone that can help. If you don’t know who to reach out to, contact me and we’ll get your website up and rolling!
Written by The Rev. Shannon Kelly, Originally posted on Faith Formation Learning Exchange