The Latest Trends In Church Web Sites
By Nick B. Nicholaou
Most North American churches today have Web sites. While some are one page, most have many pages, and some have hundreds. Few, though, are effective at helping their church accomplish its mission. Let’s talk together about what some are doing that are effectively helping their church fulfill their mission.
Church Web sites tend to come in one of two general flavors: static (information never changes; it’s just a brochure) and dynamic (content is intended to be constantly changing to reflect current events and program). Unfortunately, many dynamic church Web sites have dated information that shows no one has maintained the site in a long time.
The two biggest hurdles to keeping Web sites current are:
- Pages can only be updated by one or two people.
- The Web site is managed by volunteers.
As our firm has consulted with hundreds of churches and ministries around the United States, we have learned that the use of volunteers in Web site maintenance rarely works. While that is not always true, it is true so often that we recommend having staff responsible for Web site maintenance.
An increasing number of Web hosts are using systems that allow you to develop your Web site on a template foundation that are designed and maintained on their servers. These allow you to:
- Maintain specific template elements that enforce corporate branding, while also allowing appropriate audience-specific creativity.
- Identify which team members can update certain pages based on their site-login security profile. This is important in keeping Web sites current because it allows each ministry area to keep their areas of your Web site current, removing the bottlenecks that might otherwise slow that process down.
Church Database Interface
Some church management system databases are using SQL or some other database engine that allows them to interface with church Web sites. This means a church may be able to put a login link on their Web site that can take members into a read-only directory. Some are also enabling database change capabilities so members can submit change requests that, once approved, write directly into the church’s database. This kind of capability saves time and money by eliminating the need to print a church directory and by eliminating the need for the staff to enter some database changes.
eCommerce In The Church
Some are opposed to using eCommerce in the church because:
- It uses credit cards.
- It’s a step closer to a cashless society.
eCommerce historically relies heavily on credit card use. Today, however, there are online merchant account vendors like Agora (http://www.agoraservices.net) that can accommodate checks and debit cards just as easily. And the fees are dramatically less than when using credit cards.
Keep in mind that there are some in our society who just won’t give without this option.
Great eCommerce opportunities are donations (obviously), message CDs, DVDs and tapes, and promotional items such as T-shirts, caps, and stickers.
Calendars & Event Registrations
Some master calendar systems, like Dean Evans’ EMS (http://www.dea.com) have the ability to publish events to a church’s Web site. This can be a great way to make your church Web site a valuable resource for your congregation and community. With the right online store vendor, you can even allow people to register for events online. An important item to include with your online calendar is a keyword search. Google provides their search engine for free. Read about it at http://www.google.com/faq_freewebsearch.html. What a great addition this can be to any Web site.
I’d Like To Introduce You To …
Many church Web sites are including information on their Web site that can introduce someone to Jesus. Whether it’s using just text, graphics, audio, and/or video, this is something every church Web site should consider. One Web site has a link that simply says Free Gift. What visitor wouldn’t try that link.
Friendly Visitor Centers
Consider adding a friendly Visitor Center to your Web site that includes:
- A method to introduce visitors to Jesus.
- Easy-to-read maps and directions to your church property.
- Pictures of what it looks like when driving onto your church property.
- FAQ’s: phone numbers, addresses, e-mail addresses, service times, dress styles.
To Blog, Or Not To Blog
A blog is an online journal file that is open for the public to read. This started up as a big fad a few years ago and has begun to wane. But it is a great way for pastors to share their daily devotional journals with their congregations, and it is easy to use. There is a lot of free blog Web site code available, so this could be added to a church’s Web site.
Those are a few of the current, leading edge trends we are seeing in church Web sites today. By using technology wisely, we can attract more people into our churches and into the Kingdom.
Taken from NACBA Ledger. Copyright Â© 2004, by Nick B. Nicholaou. Used with permission.