A Church Website = An Online Building
My question is how do you graciously but persuasively make a case to church leadership that a reasonable quality website is really important? Our website has out of date info, mismatching colors and the design looks like it came out of the late 90’s/early 2000’s. I’m concerned that it is alienating people, especially young adults newly arrived in the area to attend college, who are googling to find a church in the area. I don’t want to give the impression that the website is a magic bullet to anything but I do need to work out how to appropriately explain the impact of website quality on people trying to find a church to people who are less embedded in the digital world.
Joanna: This is a great question that we get asked from time to time. We all hope that people will be looking for a church where the gospel is preached every week, regardless of what the church website looks like. However the unfortunate reality is that many people still do “judge a book by its cover” before they decide to open the pages to see what’s inside. For most churches, their website is the “functional” front door before people step foot through the “literal” front door. This reality can be hard to understand if church members live most of their life unplugged. “Out of sight, out of mind” is the hurdle that you have to overcome.
You can overcome this communication barrier by using word pictures that the unplugged church member can understand. A helpful illustration that we have encouraged people to use is to compare the church website to the building where your congregation meets. Explain that most people will visit the church online before they visit the church offline. So if your church invests money into maintaining or improving the look and feel of your brick-and-mortar meeting space, they need to understand that an unkept, outdated website is similar to chipping paint, crumbling concrete, stained carpet, and a leaking roof on your physical building.
To put this illustration into practice, we can think about different parts of the church building and how they compare to the church website. If we can help you understand the website in the context of an online church building, you can help your unplugged members do the same.
These 5 items are important when considering a church building.
- Cornerstone – it determines the position of the building
- Foundation – it needs to be big enough for the building
- Floorplan – it maps out every room within the building
- Exterior – it is the outer expression of the building
- Entrance – it is the first impression of the building
The cornerstone determines the position of the building. Its location is mission critical because every part of the foundation is positioned in reference to the cornerstone. The cornerstone of every church website should be the gospel of Jesus. When you clearly articulate your belief in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus as the sinless substitute for sinners like us, you are positioning the cornerstone of your online ministry presence. If your website does not share the gospel, then that is where we suggest you start. When you get the gospel right, everything else will be able to line up accordingly.
The foundation needs to be big enough for the building. It needs to be solid, dependable, and functional. You can only build the building as big as the foundation will allow. The foundation of the website is the Content Management System (CMS). The CMS is the tool you use to build and maintain your website content. It is the backbone of the website that supports the online building. The CMS should allow you to grow your website no matter how big you get. If you have a faulty foundation, it can be difficult and costly to repair in the future. In the same way, be careful when you select a CMS to uphold and power your website.
The floorplan maps out every room within the building. Every congregation needs a type of “sanctuary” where the sermons are preached, a room where church events take place, and an area for additional teaching and gospel instruction to be provided. Just as a church needs these places in their constructed facility, they should also be made available on the church website. The sermons need to be accessible via a podcast and sortable in a sermon archive by date, series, and speaker. Events need to be accessible in an integrated church calendar. Additional teaching and announcements should also be made available on a church blog.
The exterior is the outer expression of the building. It is what people see before they walk through the front door. Some churches have steeples and siding, others have brick, mortar, and concrete, while others might have a renovated store front. The same concept applies to your website. In the same way the physical walls must be sturdy, a great website design must be more than just skin deep. Your church website should be built to address both search engine visibility and the design preferences within your church culture.
The entrance is the first impression of the building. Whether you call it a lobby, foyer, or narthex, this is the room that people experience when they first walk through the front door. Many churches will have people stationed at the entrance with bulletins and a welcome hand shake near a welcome center for new visitors. The home page of the website should function very similarly to your church entryway. Its purpose is to help answer the main questions of who, what, when, where, and how. Just as you think about greeting new visitors and introducing them to your church, you should also give thought to your website visitors.
These essential “building blocks” (cornerstone, foundation, floorplan, exterior, and entrance) should help any unplugged church member better understand the plugged-in church visitor. If you need other creative ideas on how to articulate your online church needs, do not hesitate to give us a call.
Your friends @ Church Plant Media | (800) 409-6631 x 1