A massive 49% of ALL church giving is happening online - either through a church's website, app, or a text-to-give platform. Even more interesting, 60% - well over half - of a church's congregation is willing to give online. (NP Source). Despite this, churches around the world have websites that look terrible, are hard to navigate, and don't have the features needed to serve a growing online audience. This is a huge issue! To help combat this, we've put together a list of 6 things that your church website NEEDS to have in order to be successful online.
Without a doubt, the most important aspect of any church website is that allows people to give online - EASILY. It shouldn't take more than 5 minutes (and that's an absolute maximum. Make it even less if possible!) for a church goer to give on your website. It needs to be easy to find, easy to use, and easy to share! I really love how Church Community Builder handles giving. You'll get a link that allows people to fill out their information easily and quickly. My church uses it, and I'm able to consistently give in under 3 minutes every time, and it's great! Statistics show that the longer it takes a website user to donate, the less likely they are to complete the process. And it's exponential! If it takes more than 5 minutes to make a one-time donation to your church, your structure needs to be reworked.
Apart from making it easy for your existing audience to tithe online, you need to make sure that any newcomers have somewhere on your site to go that helps them learn about you, get connected, and really feel like they've found the right place. One church in particular that I think does this very well is Church of the Highlands with their "Next Steps" page. It's very easy to find this page just from going to their home page, and once you're there, it's very attractive and has a ton of information - but not an overwhelming about - about what me, the new visitor, should do next to become part of their church.
You can structure this page however you want! It's up to you to determine what steps are important for your church's new visitors, as it's going to be different for every community and every leader. The point is, there needs to be something there for a new visitor to find, latch on to, and immediately know where they should go next.
This should go for every website, not just church sites. People need a way to contact you! Get your location listed with a map, have an email address and accessible phone number, and have an easy to fill out contact form! This simple formula feels like a cliche aspect of every website, but it's absolutely required and a massively important aspect of your website. I recently went through the websites of over 200 churches (And this is all local, within a 30 minute drive! Churches are EVERYWHERE), and even today over half, maybe even close to two-thirds of the churches I looked at, had no way for me to contact them through the site. It's simply not acceptable to not have this 'feature' on your website.
A church is built upon its people, and the leaders are expected to be open books by most people in a congregation - So why not give them information? A church website should include information about all of its staff. Histories, photographs, I've even seen churches get fun with it by including their pastor's favorite TV shows, recipes, quotes, and other fun information! Making this section personable and relatable is key. People want their community leaders to be people they can really get to know, even the weird little things that you might not think are important can prove to be super helpful in making your group of people look friendlier, and making your church that much more approachable to newcomers! After all, they'll already feel like they know you when they walk through the doors!
There is always something happening at church! From seasonal events and festivals to weekly services and small group sessions, there are a ton of things for people to get involved in... but only if they know about them! So many churches now boost their small groups or connect groups as the main thing for people to get involved in - a lot of them even have a page describing the idea of small groups on their site! The problem though, is that while I might know that a church has small groups, I won't know what any of them are, who's involved, who to contact, or when they're held without calling the church office! And okay, sure maybe calling doesn't seem that bad, but the reality is that a growing number of people hate picking up the phone and calling someone. Make information about each of your events, small groups, and services available online, with all the details they need to get involved and go there without picking up a phone.
Last but not least, we have the podcasts. Churches are founts of knowledge and teaching, yet so many of them don't share this outside of their walls. Record the sermons! It's so easy to do, and there are a ton of free audio hosting platforms that will let you upload your messages so you can share them online (and just keep archives of them in case you want a soundbyte for that upcoming promo video). Make them available on your website, on iTunes, on Spotify, and anywhere else you can think of! Your congregation will thank you, and you'll be that much more likely to reach someone who otherwise wouldn't have heard what you're sharing with your audience.
Hopefully this has helped you determine what you need to make sure you have when you're working on your church's website! If you need a designer or developer, we're always available, and we love working with churches, so don't hesitate to contact us!