Putting others first is what Christians do. Considering their needs, and doing what we can to meet them.
Unfortunately, this approach isn't always adopted when developing and maintaining church websites.
I have visited many church websites, and many if not most appear confused about who the website is for. Is it for church members, or is it for people who don't yet attend the church? Is it for both?
Most websites lean towards being a repository of information for church members, with a few references to new people ‘being welcome'.
I think this is the wrong approach. Here's who I believe church websites are primarily for:
Church websites exist first and foremost for people who don't attend the church.
This might sound controversial, but let me explore this with 2 questions:
- If someone who attends the church wants to find out what's going on at the church, what means do they have to do this?
- If someone who doesn't attend the church wants to find out what's going on at the church, what means do they have to do this?
There are many ways in which a church member can keep informed:
- Church announcements and bulletins on a Sunday
- Email newsletters during the week
- Contacting staff or other members
- Social media channels
- Church website
For the person who doesn't attend the church, the options are more limited. And for these people, a website is where they will often look first. People much prefer to browse a website for information than making a phone call, or walking in the front door. They will often do this browsing when they are away from a desktop computer – which is why you need a responsive design.
Serving these people means considering their needs, and providing for these needs on the website. I'd encourage you to consider the questions they might have. Questions like:
- What time does the church meet?
- Who is in charge?
- I wonder if the church has a playgroup?
- I saw something about an event to support married couples – when's it on?
- What does it cost to get married there?
- Would I need to purchase a ticket to come along?
How does your website shape up when it comes to addressing the questions of people – Christians and not-yet Christians – who don't attend your church?
Let me be clear – meeting the needs of non-attenders doesn't mean the church website shouldn't meet the needs of church members too. But, their needs shouldn't come first.
As you review your church website, consider these 2 questions:
- What would people who don't attend our church like to know?
- How can we make this most accessible to them?
As you do this, you will consider 4 key areas:
- The content of the website (providing information that people are looking for).
- The structure of the website (providing this information in a way that people can find).
- The wording of the website (providing this information in a way that people can understand).
- The accessibility of the website (providing this information for people with different limitations and on different devices)