Put yourself in the shoes of someone who has never visited
your church before.
In our increasingly secularised society, there are more and more people who are like this – people who have never attended a church service. Never been to Sunday school. Perhaps not even set foot in a church for a wedding or a funeral.
These people have little to no understanding of what happens in church, or what Christians believe. Some people may even think you need to purchase a ticket to attend.
By God's grace (perhaps including some helpful promotion by the church), people will explore church for the first time.
When someone who has never been to church visits your church website, what will their experience be?
Take a look at your church's website now – through the lens of someone who has never been before. Does the website help you?
I firmly believe that the number 1 audience for a church website should be the people who don't yet attend that church. First and foremost, these are the people church websites should serve. And there is much churches can do to make their websites more welcoming and accessible to people who are thinking of visiting.
Here are 20 suggestions with examples of how to serve unchurched people on your church website.
Please share your suggestions in the comments below.
1. Communicate why you exist
Every organisation has a mission. This mission should be communicated boldly on every website. The good news is – churches have a glorious, life changing mission. Let people know why you exist and what you are on about.
Here's an example from EV Church:
Here's an example from Church Unlimited:
2. Describe what visitors can expect
Visiting anywhere new can be daunting and difficult. This was true for me when I attempted to attend a philosophy seminar. Even Christians can find visiting a new church a bit challenging. The church website is a great place to explain what to expect, to help people feel comfortable before they arrive.
Here's an example from Eikon Church:
3. Make it clear when the church meets
This should be obvious (if you want people to come to church), but as I discovered last Christmas, many churches fail to provide this critical information.
Here's an example from Risen:
4. Keep service times up to date
If your church isn't meeting over the summer, or if you've left town to go on church camp, it's helpful to let people know on your website. Several years ago I was helping a friend find a new church. We turned up at the church and it was closed. We didn't realise it at the time, but there weren't evening services over January.
Here's an example I recently shared on Twitter:
5. Provide clear directions
Detailed directions can be really helpful. You know how to get to the church – you go there each week. Others may not find it so easy the first time. It can also be helpful to provide details of the nearest bus stop or train station, or where to park.
Here's an example from the Village Church:
6. Use images (lots of them)
When you see this done well, you can see how helpful and engaging this can be.
Here's a couple of examples from Holy Trinity Brompton:
The City Church also does this very well.
7. Provide a means for people to request prayer
Many people will turn to the church for the first time when life turns bad. Providing a way for people to reach out and request is a way to help people in need, opening doors for further opportunities to share the good news with them.
Here's an example from Calvary Church:
8. Make contact details obvious
Don't make people work hard to contact you. This is a topic I've written about many times before, but it's well worth reviewing your website to see just how easy this information is to find.
Here's an example from Fellowship Church:
It's also a great idea to remove any CAPTCHA forms. They're often more trouble than their worth.
9. Respond when people contact you
As I discovered last December, too many churches fail to respond to people who contact them, asking about Christmas service times.
If people contact you, make sure you respond (promptly is good, but as I discovered, even just responding is great start!).
10. Explain the gospel
I am staggered at how many church websites don't explain or articulate the gospel. Your website is a great place to explain the good news, and invite people to respond.
[tweetthis]Wouldn't it be wonderful for someone to become a Christian, just by reading the good news on your church website?![/tweetthis]
Here's an example from Lifepoint Church:
11. Share stories of life change
Knowing God makes a difference, and people want to know what difference it makes to know God. Share the stories of how God has been at work in the lives of people at your church.
Here's an example from NorthStar Church:
12. Communicate that new people are welcome
People may wonder if the church is a club that's open to new members. If you're open to visitors, let them know this on your website.
Here's an example from NewSpring. It's just 5 words, but it makes a difference:
Here's an example from Eikon Church:
13. Make the weddings and funerals information easy to find
Similarly, some people will make contact with a church for the first time at these big moments of life. Help them by making this information easy to find.
Here's an example from The Village Church:
14. Ensure your website is responsive
For the first time ever, more people are accessing the internet on a mobile device than on a desktop computer or laptop. If someone visits your church website on their smartphone or tablet, what will they see?
Here's an example from Church by the Bridge:
15. Have a search function
A great search function serves visitors to your website, by helping them to find what they couldn't locate on their own.
Having said that, you need to check to make sure your search actually provides helpful results – especially for the most commonly search for terms on your website. Google's Site Search (in Google Analytics) can assist with this.
16. Provide some next steps
Help people to see what it might look like for them to get more involved, or to learn more about what Christians believe.
Here's an example from Waterloo Church:
17. Share the songs you sing at church
Music is a great means to communicate the gospel and the things that Christians believe. Sharing the music you sing at church not only engages with people who enjoying listening to music, it also teaches them truth.
Here's an example from Creek Road Presbyterian Church:
I've also written a 4-step tutorial on how to create a Spotify playlist for your church.
18. Invite visitors to a welcome event
This is a great idea from Village Church. Not only does it communicate that visitors are welcome, it provides them with a great opportunity to meet others, and learn more about the church over a meal.
19. Communicate in different languages
If people in your community speak languages other than English, you can serve them by communicating in their native language – and perhaps inviting them to meet up with someone from the church who also speaks their language.
Here's an example from Barney's (I'm not sure what it says!):
20. List the leadership team
Yes, a church is more about Jesus than it is about the pastor/s. But people still want to know who is in charge. Even Christians, when looking for a new church, want to learn more about the leadership team.
Here's an example from City on a Hill:
Over to you – what else do you think church websites can or should do to be more accessible to people who haven't been to church?