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Mon Jun 17, 2013
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Mon Jun 17, 2013
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Sun Jun 16, 2013
by Josh Mcpherson
5 Principles of Church Website Design
Your church probably has a website—and chances are you think it’s pretty crummy. I meet very few pastors and church leaders who are happy with their websites. It’s often because they have no idea what a church’s website is for.
I hope this framework can help you evaluate the effectiveness of your website and give you some language to help the process go smoother.
1. Tell Them Why You Exist
When we started out developing the new MarsHill.com about nine months ago, we had some amazing wireframes—I was so happy with what I thought was the best website I’d ever been a part of. But then . . .
Our brilliant creative director, Jesse Bryan, took one look and said, “That website doesn’t tell anything about why you exist.”
We decided that the best thing to do was to add our purpose statement right below the logo in the most important spot on the page. You can see it here. It says, “It’s All about Jesus.”
2. Give ’em a Hook
One of the primary uses of a website is to show a visitor what your church service is like and to give them all of the information to get there. In redoing the Mars Hill site, one of the team’s main goals was to get people to find location and service information in the least amount of clicks. This may sound easy, but for a church with 14 locations meeting who knows how many times a week, it was a design challenge. By focusing on this goal as our hook, we’ve been able to almost triple the number of people who visit a location’s page to find out about service times and locations, which theoretically gets more people visiting the locations in person for a Sunday service—that’s a big deal.
3. Cast a Wide Net
A website allows you to cast a wide net and let people come to you. A non-Christian may drive by your church everyday and after a year may decide to Google your church’s name to find out what you’re about. A Christian who’s moving into town from across the country may create a short list of churches to visit before she moves out—what does she experience? A website allows you an opportunity to begin a relationship with these people while they’re still a great distance away from you—this should be one of the primary groups of people you’re thinking about.
4. Don’t Fake a Vibe
What is it like to visit your church? Is it old people, young people, all the same ethnicity? Are you a church that’s somber, traditional, upbeat, happy-clappy? You are who you are, and you’re made of the people God has brought together. Make sure that your site matches the vibe of the church. The thing that always makes me laugh is when church leaders try to use the website as a tool to help drive the vision of what they want the church to be like, rather than what it is. In a old church, they may decide to focus on young people on the website in anticipation of tricking a few youngsters to come, only to have them walk in the door and feel duped.
You want to set expectations well because people are going to make a decision if they’re coming back for a second Sunday in the first five minutes after they show up. If you lie to them on the website, it will be tough to earn trust back. So be honest about the vibe of your church.
5. Show the Story
What is God doing at your church? Are babies being born? Are people meeting Jesus? Are people being served in Jesus’ name? Your website is like a giant spotlight that you get to shine on the things that really matter. At Mars Hill, we stick by the age-old saying: show, don’t tell. Show the face of the dad baptizing his daughter or the daughter baptizing her dad. Get an iPhone and take some shots of the volunteer team member that’s been serving at the soup kitchen for 10 years. When you let people see what’s happening, they get reminded that the church is bigger than just their experience of it.
The Bottom Line
There have been thousands of great churches with awful websites. What really matters is that Jesus is preached about and worshiped in your church. That said, a well thought-out and executed website serves the good purpose of helping people to get plugged in and connected at your church—so it’s worth putting in effort to do it well.