Today, looking for a new church often means starting online. Gone are the days of flipping through the phone book or driving around town searching for a new church home. Your future members start (and often finish) their search on their computer or smartphone.
Whether on Facebook or the broader Web, a visit to your online presence has the potential to make a lasting impression on a newcomer. A well-designed, well-maintained, welcoming page is only part of the equation, though. To interest church seekers, your online presence also needs to provide certain pieces of information right up front, without requiring visitors to search or click deeper into your site.
When discussing congregational websites, I always advocate for including what I like to call the “vital stats” on your site’s home page. These pieces of information, presented in an easily accessible way, will help answer your visitors’ questions and let them know how to find you or find out more about your congregation.
Here are some suggestions on what your web presence should offer on first glance:
• Your church’s name and logo (if you have one)
• Your address – It may seem like a no-brainer, but be sure your street address is easily viewable without searching. If visitors need to hunt for your address on your website, they may be less willing to hunt for your physical location. It’s also easy to add information from Google Maps or MapQuest that provide directions from wherever your visitors are (see link: https://support.google.com/maps/answer/3544418?hl=en).
• A photo of your church building — I typically advise limiting the number of church building photos on your site; remember, your congregation is more about the people in it than the building itself. In this case, however, being able to recognize your church building once they follow the directions to get there can be helpful.
• Meeting times – Be sure to list your Sunday worship times, so your visitors know when you gather. Consider including other regular events, too, like Bible Studies, youth group meetings, Sunday School, Men’s/Women’s Fellowship times, etc.
• Contact information – Provide a phone number and/or general e-mail address…and be sure that someone is answering the phone or checking e-mail. Including office hours can be helpful, too, as it lets your visitors know when they can expect a response from you.
• A welcome statement – offer a brief welcome that shares what’s special about your congregation and what a new visitor will expect when they join you for worship.
Keep in mind that many searches for locations today occur on smartphones. How does your site read on a smartphone? More and more templates available for websites created through WordPress, Weebly, Wix and others are designed to work well on a phone – just be sure the “vitals” show up on the mobile version, too, especially the location and times.
As you review your home page or Facebook presence, give some thought to the impression you want to leave with your visitor. Think through what your visitors need to know and make it possible to get to the “important stuff” easily. Because with so many options, making it easier to find you, contact you, visit you and know what to expect can make your congregation’s initial impression a positive one.
Special thanks to guest blogger Mike Riess, Executive Director of the Interprovincial Board of Communication of the Moravian Church in North America & Editor of The Moravian.