Archive for goals

Targeting Your Site

Aiming at two groups of people

The most successful websites are those designed with their target audience clearly in mind. Your target audience is simply those people who you hope to attract to your site. Good church websites are hard to create because they must reach two target audiences, not just one. The key to ensuring that your website works well is to design according to the different needs of these two audiences. Your first and most important audience is those people who are not yet Christians but who are considering coming to your church (perhaps because they have a friend or neighbor who goes, but they want to find out more). The church website offers them an ideal way to find out about the church and the Christian faith in an anonymous way before taking the plunge and coming along in person. Your website’s second audience is your existing church members. This group is less important than the first, simply because there is probably little which you can place on the website that they don’t already know, or can’t easily find out from another source. So do provide information relevant to church members, but not at the expense of making the site inaccessible to your main audience of non-churchgoers.

Providing relevant content

The key to good design is to ask yourself what the members of each target audience are looking for when they visit your website. Potential visitors to your church probably want to know:

  • ·         Is this church weird, or do normal people go as well?
  • ·         What do Christians believe?
  • ·          Why do people go to church?
  • ·         Where is the church?
  • ·         How do I get in touch?
  • ·         What times are the services?
  • ·         Which service should I go to?
  • ·         Are there facilities for children?

Many church websites do not answer these sorts of questions. We often come across sites which look good, but which don’t rate very highly because they are not focused on the needs of non-churchgoers. By contrast, a good church website is aimed primarily at those who do not yet come to church.

The sort of information which church members may look for on the website is very different. They are more likely to ask questions like:

  • ·         Who is preaching next Sunday?
  • ·          When is the next WELCA/Council meeting?
  • ·          Is the prayer meeting on Tuesday or Wednesday?

Since the questions which church members are asking is so very different from that asked by other visitors, it is almost impossible to write one page which is interesting to both sets of visitors. Either you end up giving church members information they already know, in which case they won’t bother looking at the website very much, or you confuse potential church visitors. The solution is to have different pages for different audiences. For example, to tell people about the Sunday services create one page containing the basic information which an enquirer might need to know (e.g. service times), and then provide a link to a second page which contains detailed information for church members (e.g. who is preaching). If this is done throughout the site then you will achieve your aim of providing a website which is welcoming and informative for both your casual visitors and your church members.

An additional audience

There is a third group of people who will visit your site, namely those people who are already Christians but who don’t go to your church. Perhaps they go to another local church and came across your website, or perhaps they recently moved into the area and are looking for a church. Whoever they are, there is no need to design your website to reach these people. If you have followed the advice given above, your site will already welcome them and provide all the information they need to know.

Successful Church Websites Know Their Visitors

It is always a good idea to write the content of your church website for those who will be using your website. A lot of times the website is written for the theologian, the church staff or the pastor. Remember who will be reading your site and style your writing for them. So it is very important to style your writing for the various users of your church website.

  • Church members: This group is probably the easiest to write for. They are interested in events that are happening and the photo album because they might find their picture there and want family and friends to come and see. So the information needs to be accurate, up to date, and something they can show their friends and family.
  • The curious: They have very little experience with the church. Most of their knowledge is from what they see in movies, hear in the news and know from what others tell them. Here is an opportunity to share with them a little about who you are, what activities you are involved in and the fact that they may very well fit in. The website is their front door to easily find out more about you and may even encourage them to visit.
  • The New: I told my son that when someone is looking for a church because they just moved into the neighborhood the first thing they will do is check out the churches website. His comment was that is what he did. Since that is the case, what are they checking out? The first question to be answered: Is there a website to begin with?  The second: Is it up to date? The third question: Are they friendly toward kids? How the website answers these question says a lot to the newcomer and if he will even visit your church.

The church member, curious and newcomer have different expectations and needs. When you’re writing content and managing the website and your website incorporates the needs of these groups you will have a successful church website. Guess who is coming to church?

Objections to a Church Website

1. We have other priorities:

The purpose of the church is not to build Web sites. Nor to build sanctuaries, purchase organs or projectors, build buildings, or any of the many activities we regularly take part in. The purpose of the church is to reach those who do not know Christ with the message of salvation and transformation, teach them to live a life of obedience and discipleship, and prepare them for their eternal home. A Web presence, like the other things mentioned above, is simply a means to this end. In that regard, a strong Web presence has the ability to strengthen the church’s evangelism efforts, support its discipleship efforts, and engage congregants in works of service for the sake of the kingdom. It has the power to strengthen community and develop strong communication among its congregants. It can be utilized by the stewardship emphasis, to the missions committee, to the worship team, in order to better serve the Kingdom of God. Just as the printing press made the Protestant Reformation possible, the Internet has give the church at tool which makes it possible to live out our mission to go into all the world and make disciples.

2. It costs too much:

Often this is objection raises its head in the discussion of what particular service to use. Many times it leads to an attempt to find a “free” service. Unfortunately, like anything else, you get what you pay for. The cost of a strong, professional Web ministry depends on a number of factors including type of services sought (do you want audio and video streaming, database enabled services, etc.). As a general rule, a small to medium size church could expect to spend about $20 to $30 a month for web hosting. Consider that over 25 million Americans pay $23 a month for basic Internet service through AOL,, and it’s easy to see that the costs are minimal for a congregation. The cost of not having a high quality Web presence can be much higher. Considering the potential of a high quality Web site to attract new membership, the “reward” of reaching one new member will more than pay for the site in his or her tithes and offerings. Of course, the financial rewards are secondary to the kingdom task of making disciples of Jesus Christ.

3. We are a small church:

Today, a Web presence is an equally essential communications tool. The shift to electronic communications has occurred at every level of society, from rural West Texas, where I recently e-mailed a set of pictures of my new house to my mother, to the largest of cities. Even the smallest churches can receive the benefit of using the Internet for communicating to the congregation. Properly used the costs savings alone can pay for the services. Beyond this, the Internet affords small churches the ability to make themselves known to the community without spending outrageous amounts of money for publicity and advertising. For an example of a small membership church which is using the Web to grow see This church of under 100 members is actively reaching out to the community in a dynamic way through the use of the Web as a communications tool. Using the Web even a small church can have a large impact on the world.

4. We want our church to stay small:

This is an objection which is almost never verbally expressed, but it is often the root of many objections. There are simply a number of church members who do not want to see their part of the kingdom grow. I mention this here primarily as a warning for what can be lurking behind many other objections. The antidote, of course, is a combination of discipleship and leadership.

5. Our congregation is mostly older:

While it is certainly true that a “Grey Gap” does exist in the use of the Internet, the number of older adults accessing the Internet is growing rapidly. This can be attributed, at least to some extent, to the availability of health information on line as well as the desire to communicate with their children and grandchildren. Furthermore, as the Baby Boomer generation ages, the Internet is becoming a more prevalent tool among older adults. It is true that a site designed for older adults would require a different set of priorities and foci, but it is certainly not something that should retard the development of such a site. In fact, the very development of a Web ministry presence could be used to educate older adults in the use of communications tools which could keep them connected with family members Potential younger members will not be able to find your church if there is no Web presence. They do not use the yellow pages to look for anything anymore, they use the Web. If you want to exist in their frame of reference, the Web is essential.

6. We don’t have anyone who knows how to program a Web site:

This is something that can be overcome. Probably the two most difficult elements of Web site design are the graphical interface and the organization of information. Don’t let a lack of programmatic expertise stop you from using this powerful communications too to its fullest potential. Leiturgia Communications will certainly help you program and organize your website.

7. We tried it once and it never stayed updated:

A common experience among churches who have delegated their Web ministry to one volunteer is that they become either overburdened or underappreciated. As a result the site suffers and eventually becomes out of date and unused. Several issues must be addressed in order to sustain a strong presence, the first of which is the building of a Web ministry team. Just like any aspect of ministry it is seldom possible for one person to have all the skills necessary to produce excellence. Have you ever heard a choir of one person? Likewise, a team of people working together is essential to keeping a Web ministry presence updated and current. Beyond this, an appreciation of the importance of the ministry presence throughout the leadership is essential to keeping the site current. Ministry units must be trained to effectively use the Web site as a communications tool; likewise the site must be well publicized and repeatedly promoted in order to keep folks coming back. All of this, of course, requires a team of people to accomplish.

8. We don’t want the Internet to replace the church:

The need for human contact is universal, and the importance of corporate worship, discipleship, and spiritual formation is central to the vision of the Kingdom. Simply put, there is no technological innovation that can never replace the communal power of the church. What a Web ministry presence can do is enhance the ongoing work of face to face ministry by connecting and informing people throughout the week. The Internet cannot make a pastor’s sermons better, but they can allow traveling congregants to listen in when they are away. A Web presence cannot transform a ministry team into a group of strong leaders, but it can extend the reach of the ministry team by allowing them to communicate to each other and the congregation more efficiently. In essence a strong Web ministry presence has the potential to strengthen the already existing ministries of the church bye extending their reach, influence, and efficiency.

9. What about privacy and legal concerns:

Another objection that comes up now and then is the issue of protecting people’s privacy. This is an important thing to consider when establishing a Web ministry presence; policies and standards should be developed to address congregant concerns. For example, if you are going to post pictures it is wise to establish standards for picture use, especially when minors are involved. Policies do not have to be complex; they simply need to express how you will protect people’s privacy. While these issues are important and it is important to work through them intentionally and strategically, they are not enough to derail moving forward.

10. The Internet is not personal:

The Internet is by its very nature an impersonal medium. Even when engaging in activities such as instant messaging and chat rooms, there is a wall of separation between the people communicating. That having been said careful planning in developing a Web ministry can maximize the “personality” of the church and help establish connections which can be made in the “real world”.

The basic goal of all of this should be to move people from an introduction to the church to connection with the church.