Though the primary audience for your church website may be visitors, you can’t ignore your current members. They’ll turn to your site again and again for up-to-date information.
Here are the three big needs each audience has for your website, and how to meet them. (And for even more church website building tips, download the free ebook The Ultimate Guide to Building a Great Church Website.)
What visitors need to know
1. What practical needs your church meets
The body of Christ is a sacrificial community; each member serves the others with its gifts.
But when we’re looking for a new place to use our gifts, we need to be sure it’s a good fit. By writing your website with an awareness of potential visitors’ needs, you can help invite them to be an active part of your community.
For example, they may have children or teens. They’ll look to see if you have a children’s or youth ministry.
They may be recovering addicts. They’ll look to see if your church has a support group or hosts Celebrate Recovery meetings.
They may have an odd work schedule. They’ll look to see if your church has Saturday or Sunday evening services.
You can’t anticipate every need, but you can anticipate the most common ones. Make sure your website covers the basics:
- What ministries your church has
- What demographics are represented
- What your guiding beliefs are (including denominational affiliation, if any)
- When and where you meet
- What special accommodations you offer (such as a nursery room, translation services, wheelchair accessibility, etc.)
Since you’re steeped in your church’s culture, you may have blind spots about the important details visitors are looking for. To cover those blind spots, ask newer members of your church what made them begin attending. This can tip you off to the details to include on your site.
2. How to visit
Once someone has determined your church may be a good fit, they’ll want to visit. It’s critical you make this a seamless process. At the very least, highlight:
- Your church’s service time(s), including the approximate end time
- Your church’s location(s), including info about parking or public transit
- Details necessary for planning, like whether you offer childcare or how people at your church tend to dress (visitors don’t like to stick out).
A word on directions: In the age of Google Maps, it may seem unnecessary to provide specific directions, but there are still plenty of people who are uncomfortable with technology.
To ensure you don’t unwittingly exclude anyone, provide written directions to your church from the general regions people could travel from. A lot of church websites have a function where visitors can get directions texted to their phone, which is a nice way of going the extra mile to be inviting.
3. How to get in touch with leadership
Most first-time visitors probably won’t try to get in touch with leadership, but third- or fourth-time visitors likely will.
Make sure this information is easy to find and covers the basics:
- Church phone number
- Email address
- Physical address
- Link to your church’s Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram pages/profiles
Some churches are careful about gating contact information—for example, only providing a general address to the public, versus the pastor’s personal email.
However you want to do it, make sure a responsive, friendly person is available to answer visitors’ questions.
What members need to know
1. How to give online
Online giving is becoming increasingly common, and many members will instinctively go to your website to give. (Check out Why Online Giving Is Good News for Churches and How to Encourage Your Church to Tithe over the Summer for more tips on tithing.)
That’s why a carefully placed link, button, or form is essential. The top right corner of a website is a standard location.
Generally speaking, it’s best not to make the giving link front and center, because it may give the impression that your main goal is to get tithes.
2. How to go deeper in their faith
Members will often go to the website to take that next step toward plugging in or growing in their faith.
For example, they may want to:
- Find a home group nearby
- Register for events
- Watch a sermon
- Learn what ministries the church has
- Sign up to volunteer
- Look into becoming a member or getting baptized
Typically, a menu item like “Grow” or “Get Involved” is where members will look, and it can include all of the options described above (though you may choose to place sermons in a “Media” menu item).
3. How to get in touch with people
Recently my pastor made a plug for signing up for our church management software: “If you haven’t signed up yet, I really suggest doing so. If you put your contact information in, it automatically fills in your spot in the church directory—which is great, because then you can all stop texting me for each other’s numbers.”
He was joking, but only a little. It can be tough to get in touch.
That’s why online church directories are so wonderful. If your church has church management software, it almost surely has a church directory. Include a link to register/login to your church management software, and members will get access to the information they need—so they can better build relationships with each other.
Tip: With Faithlife Sites you get members-only pages where you can store more sensitive documents like church directories. You can also keep your church connected directly through Faithlife Groups, where they can instant message, post prayer requests, and more.
It’s also important that staff, elders, deacons, volunteer leaders, and other important point persons are easy to reach:
- Put the information where people are likely to need it. For example, if someone goes to your church website’s youth ministry page, they should find contact information for the youth pastor.
- Be careful what you make public. Email is safe to include, but many churches stop there. There is something more personal about a phone number, and sometimes calls or texts can become intrusive. You can always hand out your phone number later or include it in the automatic signature of your email. (And if a pastor or leader is at risk of being inundated with emails, consider routing his or her email through a church administrator or secretary.)
However you do it, make sure members (and visitors) don’t have to jump through hoops to be in touch.
Get input from your church
At the end of the day, your church has the best insights for what should be on your website.
Why not send out a survey by email and ask people to weigh in on questions like:
- What do you usually go to the church website for?
- Is there important information you wish the website had?
- What is the first thing you would change about the website to make it more visitor-friendly?
You could also gather your church staff or a core volunteer team for a quick audit of your church website, using the same questions.
Getting multiple opinions on your website will help you ensure it’s communicating what it needs to.