Churches can no longer afford to have a shabby website. I’m all about putting substance over style, but in today’s world most churches would do well to set aside significant resources for a sharp, effective website. Like it nor not, it’s the first impression many visitors will have of our church. A website is now an important aspect of what and how we communicate.
As we thought through our digital strategy, we concluded there were three primary functions for our church’s website, corresponding to three different audiences:
1. To serve URC members by:
- Keeping them informed on service times, upcoming events, and news
- Giving easy access to past sermons and events
- Communicating clearly and effectively the church’s positions on a variety of issues
- Helping the congregation know their leaders
- Highlighting upcoming conferences and special events
- Providing access to online giving and volunteer opportunities
2. To serve visitors looking for a new church by:
- Showing up in local search queries
- Including contact and location information
- Giving easy access to key documents and videos that explain who we are as a church
- Providing a glimpse into our community life
3. To serving the greater church by:
- Making all sermons easy to find, easy to download, and available for free
- Finding ways to show up on biblical and theological search queries
- Providing a clear and credible witness to the truth of the Scripture in a variety of areas
Websites are supposed to be an online representation of the offline organization. You would be confused if the local pizza shop had a formal glitzy website. In the same way, a church website should reflect the vibe and feel of the “physical” church. Our church isn’t particularly hip or trendy. We’re all about the Bible. We are a church that cares about people and cares about theology. We’re a pretty diverse group of people from all walks of life. We are fairly traditional, but informal and down to earth. We’ve tried to build a design that honestly affirms who we are on Sundays.
About 45% of our traffic is via mobile or tablet. This is a large portion and to give them a better experience the site now takes advantage of “responsive design” and adapts to be an enjoyable experience no matter the device.
New feature: we are excited to make sermon transcripts available for my morning messages, beginning with my current Exodus series. Just click on the sermon title and the transcript (if we have one) will show up. A few transcripts may still need to be uploaded, but in time everything from Exodus forward should be covered.
Search Engine Optimization
If someone is searching for a church in our area we think it is important that we show up in the rankings. This may seem crass “marketing,” but it’s really about stewardship and effectively reaching our community. The way the site is built should help URC show up on the major search engines.
The Ministries section helps people learn about each ministry, see upcoming events for that ministry, and get in touch with the people involved. We also have a map with pins and quick details about how to join a Growth Groups. Others may want to see Our Staff page, Books by Staff, a page specifically tailored to visitors, and one for members and regular attenders who are looking to get more plugged in.
Our tech folks are working hard to fix any remaining bugs and to make the site better and better. Many thanks to these wonderful volunteers. They are serving the church with their gifts.