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Resource Center

Does My Church Really Need A Website?

Feb 18, 2016 9:00:00 AM

Church Website Pros and Cons

In this post, we'll look at the pros and cons of why your church might need a website (or not). In order to build a successful site, you'll need to make sure to address these important considerations.

Part One: Why Your Church Doesn't Need a Website


In 2001, I was called from seminary to my first parish, a small congregation in a suburb of Atlanta. One of the first things I noticed was they didn’t have a website. A church today must have a website, I’d been told. You can’t do ministry these days without a website or you don’t really care about reaching people with the Gospel.

“Not a problem for a trained geek,” I thought and quickly put together a website. It was a thing of beauty (assuming, of course, one has never seen a website before . . . and is blind in one eye. It wasn’t the prettiest site I’ve ever done.) It had a calendar, news, information, maps, and forums where the members of the congregation could communicate with each other. I built it, announced it, promoted it, and . . . 

. . . No one came. No announcements were made. No forum posts were posted. No events were placed on the calendar. No one used it at all.

To be clear, the congregation wasn’t filled with luddites who hated technology! They went online regularly and many even used the web to communicate with friends and family. But their church relationships, their church family, didn’t talk there.

Instead, the members carried on as they always had. Announcements were made before and after service. Events were scheduled when the folks involved could make it. When they wanted to communicate with each other, they picked up the telephone or just went and knocked on the door. They didn’t use the website because my new congregation didn’t need that sort of website. It’s possible that yours doesn’t either.

Start by Asking the Right Questions

In my rush to make sure I was using the latest and greatest technology, I forgot to ask the fundamental communication questions:

  1. What are we trying to say? (message)
  2. Who are we trying to reach? (audience)
  3. Where are they already listening? (medium)

I had attempted to let the medium control the audience and the message. Never let a particular technology drive your communication efforts. Your audience and your message will determine your medium.

Look for Significant Advantages

So often today, congregations approach building a website as through it needs to become the central planning and communication hub for the church. Unless that church is already speaking and listening online as their primary communication platform, they’re going to struggle with the transition.

For a new communication method to completely push another aside, it has to offer some significant advantage over the older format. The telephone replaced the telegraph because it’s faster to talk and listen than to tap and decode. Email has almost entirely replaced letter writing because of the speed and convenience of both typing and electronic delivery vs. physical delivery of the message. When you adopt to a new type technology for church communications, make sure you choose to make the change because it offers a real advantage, not just because it’s new and high-tech.

Should a Website Be Your Communication Hub?

A website as a communication hub may or may not fit the people in your congregation. It’s likely your church already has communication systems in place. The best place to engage someone in conversation is always the place where they’re already listening.

If they’re active Facebook users, then maybe you need to devote your energy primarily to Facebook. Got a congregation that tweets? Get the word out on Twitter. If they’re the sorts of old friends and family who relish taking the time to sit down and have coffee together, better get a bigger mug. It’s crucial to consider the dynamics of your church first when choosing the right communications medium for any message.

Part 2: Why Your Church Totally Needs a Website

Part 2 - Why Your Church Totally Needs a Website

First Impressions Matter

Many, many people today start all sorts of new things by looking online. Whether it’s looking for a place to eat, somewhere to shop, a new car, or a place of worship, people begin their research on the web. That means one of the first impressions a new visitor will have of your church is your website—and it’s important to make the best impression you possibly can.

So, what do people outside your church need to know about you? That’s actually a pretty tough question because it’s so easy to get “What do they need to hear?” confused with “What do I want to say?” Something that seems pretty important to those inside the church won’t matter at all to a visitor, while other things that are essential to a visitor, we might overlook.

Start by Considering Their Questions

Let’s think for a moment about an example couple, Jonathan and Carrie. They’re a young couple in their mid-twenties, new to your area, and looking for a church home. Carrie’s expecting their first child in a few months, and they’d like to find a place to have their baby baptized. They come to your website and want to know . . .

1. Who are you?

Name and branding are key. You should generally have only one logo, with possible variations for different ministry groups.

2. Where are you?

Make it easy to find your map, ideally with a link to Google Maps, which is easier for mobile navigation. Remember, a large percentage of web traffic is mobile today, and that’s increasing every year.

3. What do you believe?

Carrie just wants the basics, thanks. Jonathan is pretty savvy in this area, but he’ll probably ask those questions in person.

4. What time is worship?

I’m always amazed when I can’t find this information on a church website, but it happens!

5. What is worship like?

Should I expect to chant with a pipe organ or sing with a guitar?

6. What should I wear?

There’s nothing quite as uncomfortable as being over or under dressed in a new place. Pictures can help provide this information without needing anything as formal as a “how to dress” section.

7. Where do I park?

This is especially important if you’re in an urban setting. Regardless, though, if you have special parking set aside for visitors or expectant moms, let them know ahead of time.

8. How do you make a difference in our community?

Are you guys the ones always handing out water bottles on hot days? I KNEW I’d seen your church name before . . .

9. Is there room for us to make a difference?

Younger generations are especially interested in knowing where they can contribute and be valued in your congregation. While they want a bit of anonymity at first, they want to know how they can contribute to something that matters down the road. A “How you can get involved” link can go a long way toward plugging folks in.

Make It Easy to Find Information

Visitors to your church website want to find the information they are looking for quickly and easily. If you have a bigger site with a great deal of content, consider putting together a page solely for those folks thinking of visiting and making it prominent on the home page.

By locating all of the information they want to find in a central place, you’ll help ensure their first experience with your church is a positive one and hopefully the first of many.

Learn more about connecting with visitors online! Downlod our free ebook “9 Strategies for Engaging Visitors with Your Church Website” by clicking below!

See the 9 Strategies

Rev. Bill Johnson

Written by Rev. Bill Johnson

Rev. Bill Johnson serves as the Director of Educational Technology at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne. He’s passionate about finding effective ways to share the Gospel with emerging generations and new ways to use technology to form the next generation of servants for the Church. He lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana, with his wife and three teenage daughters. Please pray for him.