Building an effective website is crucial to managing a church and keeping your congregation connected. It’s no secret that new visitors will likely look up your website before engaging, and no one wants to pull up an outdated page with current events from ten years ago.
Whether you are looking to create a new website or refresh your existing pages, we are here to help. This comprehensive guide will teach you how to build enterprise-level church websites, so you can make it easy for new and existing visitors to learn more about your congregation.
We will review everything from creating an accessible calendar and an online donation tool to ensuring that it integrates with your church management software. Let’s dive in!
Connect with New Visitors
Think of your church website as the best way to make a first impression. When someone is looking for a new church, they will first search on Google, and if you don’t have an online presence or appear in the search results, they won’t be able to find you!
Not only do you need to have a website to reach the right audience, but you also need to ensure that it is well-designed and visually appealing. If someone searches for churches near them and comes across an old or outdated website, they will simply move on to the next link.
In other words, the way they perceive your site will translate to how they view your church altogether.
Another reason having an enterprise-level church website is key is that it improves accessibility for your congregation. Your church office is generally only open during business hours, so how else can people get information during other times? What if they couldn’t get a copy of the bulletin or didn’t get a chance to hear the announcement in person? It is essential to make web accessibility a priority for all allowing people of all abilities to congregate.
A church website ensures that your congregation can always find the information they need, regardless of what day or time it is. This accessibility also means that potential new visitors can access event announcements, directions, and service times.
Simply put, your church website serves as an information center that is always accessible!
Focus on Core Functionalities
It can be easy to get carried away when brainstorming ideas for your church website – but try to keep the focus on the core functionalities that are essential to your ministry. For instance, every church should have a site that has an updated calendar, a directory for members, and online donation capabilities.
Update your Calendar
Your calendar should always be up to date on your website. It doesn’t matter if the size of your congregation is large or small – everyone should have an easy way to figure out what is happening at the church.
You likely already have a calendar system for your church office, so the best practice is to computerize this process and automatically link it to the website. If you sync your church management system, where you should be storing your church calendar, to your website, you can eliminate the need to manage multiple calendars at once.
To accomplish this, you can build your website using church software - or use an alternate website creation platform that can integrate with it. Either way, your goal should be to automate as much of the calendar update process as possible!
Create a Directory for Members
Another core functionality of an enterprise-level church website is a directory for members. Your congregation consists of many families and individuals with unique interests and skills. With a member directory, you can ensure that they stay connected and have a reference point when needed.
An effective church website integrates your member database with your online directory. Likewise, you can add tools that let members update their profiles or make changes as they arise – which will free up time for your church staff to focus on other activities.
Collecting donations is another integral part of running your church. These donations help support the community and other important causes, so the more options your churchgoers have available to give, the better!
Set up a link on your website for visitors to donate online. While this may seem difficult at first, online donations do not have to be complicated or a hassle. Most church management systems can facilitate the online donation process and integrate them with your accounting system.
The best part of allowing your congregation to donate online is that you can maximize the opportunities they have to give. Even if they can’t make it to a Sunday service, your congregation will be able to give back through your website! It can even encourage additional spontaneous giving outside of your regular service collections.
When your website allows for online donations, you will also get better engagement from younger age groups. Research has found that up to 40% of younger Christians will donate online every month – and you can boost this further by allowing them to donate to certain funds like leadership retreats or youth missions.
SEO optimization is usually the first thing that pops up when you look for tips on building a website. You may be wondering, does SEO matter for a church website? The short answer is yes!
People are always searching for what they need on the internet – and churches are no exception. Ensuring that you follow search engine optimization best practices will ensure that anyone that searches for a church near you will find your website. Remember that you need to meet your target audience where they are, and that’s online.
The good news is that SEO does not need to be intimidating or overly complex. Many free SEO tools can help you identify keywords that your website should include, as well as metrics that you should be tracking. For instance, if you build your website with WordPress, they will manage the site code for you and the SEO tools are included in the platform.
One way you can improve SEO is to add a blog to your church website. This can be a great way for your congregation to share a testimony or highlight upcoming church events. A blog will boost your on-page SEO by allowing search engines to identify page titles, headings, and URLs that include keywords.
Conducting some keyword research will give you a starting point for your church blog, as it will help you identify the words and phrases that people use when searching for your site online. It is important to note that the content should be relevant, easy to understand, and updated regularly.
The easier it is for Google to search your page and understand the content, the better they will be able to rank your links in the future. Similarly, be sure to link the blog and the RSS feed to your church website homepage so it is easy for everyone to find.
You should also consider setting up Google Analytics to help you review website traffic, where your visitors are coming from, and what they are doing once they get to your page. This will help you determine if people are finding your site through social media, google searches, or other methods.
Integrate your Social Media
If you want to maximize your website traffic and viewer engagement, you will also need to integrate your social media into your church site.
Consider how beneficial a Facebook page might be for your youth group or to promote an upcoming event. Engaging with the younger generation means that you need to be active on social media and use that to drive them back to your church website.
Likewise, you should link your event pages on your main church website to social media. This will allow your churchgoers to share photos, testimonials, and other content on Facebook, Instagram, and other social platforms.
Make it Mobile-Friendly
Your church website must also have a responsive layout that allows it to work on mobile devices. It shouldn’t matter if someone visits your website on a smartphone, tablet, or laptop – your website must work seamlessly either way. Building a mobile optimized website can be tricky, but employing a digital agency to help you along the way will really pay off.
Building a responsive website on Wix or WordPress is easy since the platforms allow your pages to be resized or rearranged to fit any screen size. As such, they are favoured by search engines because users are likely to be browsing on their phones, to begin with.
Many church management systems are equipped with mobile-friendly features, but if you don’t already have a platform that offers responsive web design, you should consider investing in one. More than half of all website traffic is driven by mobile devices, so you don’t want to lose the opportunity to engage with those individuals!
Offer Virtual Experiences
Offering virtual experiences can also help you improve your church website. While you may immediately be thinking about providing virtual sermons or replays of the latest church service, your content does not have to be limited to just that.
Consider creating an archive of video, audio, and other content that can give viewers a chance to catch up on events they missed or get an idea of what it is like to be a member of your church. Take it a step further and like it to YouTube or Vimeo so that you can share these clips on your social media sites too!
Does your church host weddings, baptisms, baby showers, or other memorable events? If so, creating virtual tours of the spaces available can help potential guests get a feel for what the event could look like if held at your church. The possibilities are endless!
Invest in the Right Infrastructure
Our last tip for building a great church website is to invest in the right infrastructure. You may have noticed that integration, automation, and accessibility were a recurring theme in this guide – and that was no accident.
The right church management system will help you create and manage your website without adding layers of additional work and manual processes. You can choose a website creation tool that is sponsored by that management system or opt for a platform that can integrate with it – regardless of what route you take, the tech framework needs to be set up correctly!
A church website is a foundation for the entire ministry. It gives you a chance to make a great first impression, help people discover your church, and keep your congregation informed and engaged. As you develop your church website, make sure that you incorporate these tips to maximize its effectiveness.
It also helps to partner with a digital agency that can connect you with experts that build enterprise-level church websites. They can facilitate the design and management of your site so that you can focus on what’s most important – running your ministry.