So I was meeting with the Pastor and a couple church members of a larger and growing United Methodist Church the other day about their website needs. I had heard and responded to their needs and then I told them about our services and how we work. Told them about our strategies for church website management. That it wasn’t about the technology, or the web pages or where a graphic should be, but rather it is all about WELCOMING THE FIRST TIME VISITOR! 🙂
And so they loved what I was saying, it was all good… and the discussion turned toward – “ok how much will it cost us to do all of this stuff”… I told him based on the size church they were that we recommended our Church Webmaster 8 package and the price is $399.00 per month which includes the hosting of the site (and all the technical expertise that hosting requires) as well as 8 hours of monthly content management of their website to keep things optimized and current.
The church member told me that he thought our prices were reasonable, but he said he just didn’t know if their church could afford to pay these rates.
Before I could say anything the Pastor chimed in and basically said what I try and gently tell any church that says this: “we can’t afford NOT to do this.”
The thing is… a website is not a cost item. It shouldn’t be looked at like paying the electricity or the mortgage… it is not a “necessary evil”… it is the #1 best and sometimes ONLY way you have to reach new people to make new Disciples.
My question to your church – if you are having these types of discussions – is what is your BOTTOM LINE? Is it saving money? Is it trying to be the church as cost effectively as possible?
OR is it “making disciples of Jesus”? If your bottom line is “making disciples” then you have to look at the world that you find yourself in and use the best tools to reach people in today’s world.
You have at least two major classes of people that you want to be welcoming into your church (if your church really is ready to grow):
- I have some church background and am now looking for a new church (due to relocation, it’s just that time in my life, some big life changing event, I want my kids to be raised in the church, etc)
- I am not thinking about God or going to church, BUT I am having some type of major upheaval in my life where if presented with the idea that perhaps God is the answer, I might be open to listening.
So obviously out of these #1 is the easiest to approach. If someone is actively looking for a church today – how will they find a new church? Regardless of whether they live in an urban or rural setting, regardless of their age or sex – at least 90 to 95% of the time, they are going to pick up their mobile phone, tablet or computer and do a Google search for “churches in your town”. They will then proceed to click on the first link they see that looks like a church (and not a yellow pages listing or something like that).
And then they will load that first church website – if they see something that turns them off – like the website design looks 10 years old, or the site is impossible to view or navigate on their mobile device, or you have a nice large button that says “Give Online!” they will likely close that window and go right on to the next church website.
When they find one that looks appealing, has a modern design, has nice photos of friendly, warm people having a good time, then they may spend more than 5 seconds looking into the details. Where are you located? What is your denomination (if they care), what are your beliefs (if they don’t know), what types of programs do you have for my kids (if they have kids), etc.
If they find all of the right answers, they might IMMEDIATELY stop their search and determine this is the church to visit this Sunday morning. If they only find some of the right answers, they may continue on to the next website.
Now imagine that your church website didn’t even show up in the top 2 or 3 search results. Or even worse, you don’t even have a church website. Your church will NEVER have the opportunity to even be given a chance at a visit!
The reason Tyra and I started ChurchBuzz four years ago is that we knew that the Church Website was becoming more and more important. Today it is the new front door to your church.
The point is there is a LOT that goes into having a great website that attracts visitors to your church. Here is a quick list of things you must be doing correctly (all of which take a lot of time, effort and expertise):
- Optimizing the church website so that it shows up as the #1 search result for “churches in your town” – but ALSO for people searching for churches in neighboring towns as well!
- Making sure the homepage is 100% first time visitor friendly. Lots of great photos, a small smattering of current events, some blog posts by the Pastor, a highlight video of the church.
- Making sure it is kept up to date
- Making sure it plays well with social media
- Making sure it plays well on every type of mobile device (huge!)
- Making sure it has a professional design
So hopefully by now you realize, this website thing is way bigger than just having the church secretary update a few things on the 10 year old website once a week so that members know when the bake sale is (members don’t use the church website anyway).
The church website is an INVESTMENT!
Please hire someone who is an expert in this field – ideally a church website expert, but if not someone who does internet marketing with websites and has the time to do your website. And I don’t mean a volunteer. The website is important and you need to be able to hold someone accountable and to be able to depend on a timeline of things getting done.
A local person who is a member of your church will always be the best solution, but those folks are very hard to find.
The next best thing is a firm like ChurchBuzz – I have worked hard over the past four years to build a very systematic process in our business with the right staff so that we can take care of everything you need.
Our team stands ready to help in any way we can. Please contact me if you have any questions or needs.
If you have experience in this area of successes or failures with your church website, please share them in the comments below to help others with the same problems.
May God bless the people in your community through your church,