How to Build a Church Website
Spencer Robertson Jr.
Why is it important that a church maintain a good, up-to-date web site?
Most churches spend 1,000’s of dollars on outdoor signs, plush carpet, clean bathrooms, and all of the other things that go into projecting an image. It is amazing to see that some of these same churches either have no website at all or their website looks so out of date and cluttered that they would be better off if they did not have one. The real issue is that the web has really taken off over the past 12 to 15 years. In that time the working class, middle aged person with a family uses the web for everything. Even if they see your sign that you paid thousands for, they will still check out your website before they visit in most cases. The generation that is still in many pulpits has a great dis-connect from this cyber world that the rest of us live in day in and day out. A clear up to date website is one of the best marketing and evangelizing tools a church has. It lets people know who you are and it sends the gospel out in a way that is relevant and convenient to this new generation and the generations to come.
What does your company offer that would make it stand out from others?
This is a loaded question but is pretty easy to explain in laymen’s terms. There are really 3 types of church website options for those seeking a good website for their church or ministry. First there is the monster company who is stuck in the routine of only what they offer. In other words they build all kinds of sites and have generalized tools that are not specific to the church world that we in ministry live in every day. You tend to pay 1,000’s of dollars only to pay for their elaborate corporate lunches and oversized employee roles. These companies build all kinds of sites and then hide behind smaller domains that specialize in specific niches, so that even though they say “Church Website Design Company” really they are any kind of a website company. This is fine in some cases but usually you are just another number in the bigger system.
The next kind of website company that churches will look into are the hobbyist ones. These are those sites where a guy works a regular job and does a few sites on the side. You can usually tell this by the size of their portfolio. If their portfolio only has 10 sites in it and they are $100 a month, than we know they are not surviving off of that. This is ok for some churches but it lacks in many areas. This is because the support is usually very slow since they are working their “real” job somewhere else, and their resources are very low. They are often stuck into the email me your updates syndrome. This is really not the best choice with all of the options that are out there today.
The final type of company is the type that we are. We are a mid sized company that specializes in church website design. We are a real company with real people working, and with real phone numbers (including 800 number). We build relationships with our clients and there is a trust factor in knowing that we will be there whenever you need us. All of our sites are built in a content management system so that you can update your website with an Internet connection with no special software needed. This is huge because it gives you the flexibility to update your website but it also connects you to 24/7 support whenever you need it. This is the marriage of two worlds into the perfect scenario for most churches. You get the freedom with the support.
What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of a good church web site?
A good church website will first be designed to match the look and feel of where the church is going. Many make the mistake of building a website that looks like where they are, but a website is a cheap way to project a huge vision. A great church website will have some moving parts but not be crazy with too much. Our rule of thumb is no more than 2 moving parts on any given page and it should not distract but complement. Flash intros and forced music in the background is also a bad idea. While we have done this for customers that absolutely will not take instruction, we still highly favor not doing either. They become annoying to a visitor. It is good for the first visit or two, but imagine if you walked into your house only to hear the same song every single day and then every time a door opened a new sound would happen. After a few days you would want to move away and that is exactly what your visitors will do if you annoy them with unwanted forced upon media. A website should be scalable, functional, and beautiful. If you settle for anything less than all three of these then you will be tearing it down at some point and rebuilding it.
How can a church best keep their web site current, fresh, and up to date?
Another important factor in a church website is how do you keep it up? I mean most websites are done by an in house person who changes each page individually and then when you want a special user area or some type of script function you have to install a bunch of different things in different locations. Can you imaging having to login with a different username and password for every type of thing you wanted to do. This is like the church that adds an addition every 10 years and never thinks of the flow of the layout. It gets “hodged podged” and awkward until you finally tear it down and build it again from scratch. This is why you need a good CMS.
This stands for Content Management System. They easiest way to explain this is to think of a CMS like you do your operating system on your computer. You have one operating system like Windows and then you install different software into that one operating system. You do not reboot every time you open a new software program. A CMS is like that operating system. It then has other software, modules, and plug-ins that operate within that framework. This sounds very technical so I won’t bore you with the details, but remember this. A CMS is like giving your website “brains”. Your user can login, submit information and then output the info back into the screen in real time. This is what we call a dynamic website. This is a website that is “alive” and can do many things that an html site cannot. This is all done under one login and one administration. A CMS is the way to go with any website, but even more so in a church website that will most likely need to be scalable and heavy with media, etc. With a good content management system you can also give different levels of user groups so that only certain areas are accessible to certain people. This is great for the church staff. With the given rights they can login and update their own page right from their browser.
This article “How to Build a Church Website” by Spencer Robertson, Jr. was excerpted from: www.buildachurchwebsite.com web site. October 2009. It may be used for study & research purposes only.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”