Monday, November 15, 2010

Haven't We All Heard Enough About Church Websites: The Discussion

Thanks so much to all who engaged in the conversation about church websites.  We definitely all had different sensibilities about website content.  That said, while people will always have varying needs and interests in a website, establishing general trends is useful.

I'd argue that congregations that want to remain vibrant should consider tracking those trends particularly as they relate to "upcoming generations..." because in terms of technological stuff, often the trendsetters tend to be younger, and older generations eventually fall in (think Facebook).

Based on the discussion sparked by part II of this series of blog posts, if I was going to summarize suggestions for someone looking to design or redesign their website, I would say:

1. Photos of people are absolutely key. Especially of ministers and staff but also "candid ones" from church activities or worship. We all agree on that.

2. Sermons are important. Posting just a few of the best ones is useful. Posts should include text. Additional audio (or video) is helpful for those who like what they read and want to follow it with audio or share it in audio.

I still argue that more and more with people my age and younger, the audio and video will be important.

3. Go ahead and include your calendar if you would like, but be sure on your homepage to highlight what is happening with "happening this month" type lists that include the highlights.

Prioritize keeping calendars and lists updated so that newcomers don't ask about that book group, etc. only to find out it is defunct. People want to know what you are really doing.

4. Folks say that they really like to have congregational business online. I will not sway from my position that this stuff is more appropriately placed online somewhere other than your billboard for the world (website). However, as evidenced in this conversation, people do feel it is important to have this stuff online, so by all means, put it somewhere...I recommend private or public blogs, google docs, Constant Contact, etc. A single "congregational business" link should suffice if you want to link it from your website. Link to directories, password protected, if you need to, but I hope you will consider whether there are alternatives.

5. Know yourself well enough to keep your "headlines" clear in that "about us" link.


  1. In regards to #4 - we are going through a website redesign and putting things into a CMS. Anyone will be able to create a logon account for the site, but until a webmaster is notified that the account belongs to a member the account will not have permissions/access to the protected member content. We may even have more specific groups (committees) beyond that. The important thing is that the protected content will not appear in the menu navigation unless you have permissions to it. So the anonymous seeker, and others, will not even knows it exists, and so they will not feel excluded from it. For the members they will not need to remember a dozen different online locations for congregational info. So the 2 positions are not mutually exclusive.

    Google docs and other online utilities are fine. Just make sure to have a church domain alias ([something]@[congregation].org) associated as an owner. Members change and if the content is important to the congregation you need to be able to retain access after people leave.

  2. I would rather watch a video of a sermon than read one - and I'm a reader!

  3. Yes, I personally think sermons aren't written to be read, they are written to be spoken, and thus they really come to life in video format.

    (The preference for videos will become even greater the younger and younger folks are.)