Church websites are woeful. We’re continually asked how churches can make their websites better. And I’m not talking about the cool churches with Twitter and video and a pastor’s blog. I’m talking about the churches with a “current” calendar from December 2008. The churches where a volunteer created the site and it shows. The sites that still have animated GIFs.
Assuming the church even has a website. Recent research shows that 22% of churches still don’t even have a website. It’s hard to tell what’s worse, a horribly out-dated online presence or none whatsoever.
So you think your church needs a website. Or a new site. Or a better site. Rock on. Welcome to Church Websites 101, a quick and dirty series about how to start or restart your church’s website. And we’re going for solid, realistic improvements here. We’re not breaking the bank and importing the latest and greatest technology. We’ll go from no site to something better or something cringe-worthy to something somewhat respectable. The goal here is not to compete with the big boys, but simply to get in the game and not make your web visitors laugh.
Don’t Start with the Web
But before you start assembling volunteer geeks and webheads, checking our WordPress and setting up your Twitter feed, stop. Before you dream of flash intros (don’t!), streaming video and RSS feeds, stop. Before you start clicking around the web to see how other churches are doing it, stop.
The first rule of websites is don’t start with the web.
Before you even think about the web you need to have a solid plan. Not just for the web, but for your church’s entire communication strategy.
Do you have a plan? Do you have a strategy for how your church communicates? Have you thought through how your fancy new website will fit into that plan? If not, stop. Just stop.
You can’t start constructing a building without a plan. Well, you can, but it doesn’t get very far. The results are ugly, expensive and dangerous. Same thing with communication. You can start communicating without a plan. You can spit out postcards and flood the web with tweets and the prettiest website you ever saw. But if you have no plan, it’s not going to get very far. You’re going to waste money, effort and time.
Start With a Plan
So before you start building that new website, start with a communications plan. Don’t even worry about your website yet. Worry about your overall communications plan. We’ll get to the web. But you need to take a step back and look at the big picture first. Otherwise in three years you’ll be shaking your head at your lame website and starting over again. Just like you did three years ago.
How does your church communicate? What do you communicate? Why do you communicate it? Who’s your audience? What’s the best way to reach that audience? What are your goals? How are you going to reach those goals? What’s your style? Who’s responsible for the communication? Who makes the final decisions? Is communication a priority?
These are big questions and they’ll take a lot of time, but if you don’t answer them then any work you do on a website is just a waste of time.
So before you dive into a redesign or commit to leaving the 22% club, step back and make a plan.
Here’s a great resource to help churches create a marketing plan. It might not be the fun, geeky web work you were hoping to do, but you need to start somewhere. And you need a solid foundation for that somewhere. Creating a communications plan will give you that foundation.
So don’t start with the web. Start with a plan.
More Church Websites 101:
Check out our the Church Websites 101 series:
- Find a Champion
- Plan the Site
- Call to Action
- Know Your Audience
- Know Yourself
- Time to Surf
- Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
- 5 Tips
- 5 More Tips
- Get it Done
- Remember the Real World
Or get those resources and more in our ebook, Getting Started in Church Communication: Web Basics: