The most basic approach to constructing a church website is to publish the same information you might compose if you were preparing a printed brochure. This is the easiest approach since the information rarely changes and therefore rarely needs attention. It's a good idea to avoid time-sensitive information that requires regular updating until you're sure you're ready to keep up with it.
To decide what should appear here, think about your audience. The information in a brochure is essentially stuff your congregation should already know. This site is not for your congregation. This site exists to provide outsiders with the core information about your church and should be built with their needs in mind.
Not only are you providing basic details, your site is an opportunity to make visiting your church as comfortable an experience as possible. Think about the different types of people who might visit and what their unique needs are. For example:
- Where are the handicapped entrances?
- What will I do with my three kids?
- Do I have to wear a suit or is my Harley jacket acceptable?
Let the truth of the gospel make your guests uncomfortable, not finding a seat (that’s a whole different blog…).
At a minimum, I recommend these 7 things:
- Name and City of your church – the city is important for search success
- Contact information, such as phone, email and physical address
- Service times, formats, how people typically dress
- Maps both to your location and then into your location (i.e., if your "front door" is actually the side entrance, say so!)
- Core beliefs
- Children’s programming/childcare available concurrent with services and a mention (not the whole plan) that you have a safety plan in place.
- Your structure for going deeper (e.g., “We have home groups meeting throughout the week, contact the church office for details”)
As you can see, these are only the basics. Even as I compiled this list, I found myself thinking about other information that would be helpful, like the number of events available for youth each week. Yes, the more that your site can currently reflect your church, the more helpful it will be to your potential guests, but someone has to take responsibility for keeping the growing website beast well-fed and happy and that means making choices.
No matter how comprehensive your site becomes, a good handle on the core elements and being seeker-friendly are important to keep in mind. A couple excellent examples of this on larger sites are the Before You Attend page at New Hope Community Church in Loudonville, Ohio, and the New Here? page at Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas.
Next up: Blog as church website.