Small churches are often strapped for resources. With that, it can feel like they can’t do some of the things they see bigger churches doing, produce what bigger churches are producing and utilize the same quality of tools that the bigger churches are using. This series is designed to equip the small church ministry to do all of these things, especially in the area of Graphic Design, a Website, Stage Design and Video Work. Each week we will be adding a post about one of these areas, so check back often!
The first thing anyone with a smart phone does when they hear about a person, place, thing or idea (all your basic nouns) is to look it up online. A website is a great tool to showcase everything amazing about your church or ministry. It’s also a great way of scaring people away even before they set foot in the building. It seems that many church websites are notorious under-performers in this department, and it’s easy to see why with a small church. No funds usually means no designer or programmer, no custom site and no idea what to do next. But, you really don’t need to be a mega church or have a mega budget to have a solid website, and we’re here to share a few ideas on how to make yours great on a small church budget and time frame.
The domain name can work as a welcome mat to your website, and it’s something that should be thought out. If you are First Community Church in Madison, WI, your website probably shouldn’t be FirstCommPresbyMadChurchWi.com. That is just ridiculous. Might as well call it GodJesusChurchJesusPlaceBuildingSundayJesus.com. There are thousands of church sites out there, so FirstChurch.com is likely taken, but maybe FirstCommunityMadison.com is open. Whatever you settle on, it should be easy to say, short to print on the bottom of a business card and recognizable on a Google search. You can buy domain names through a site like GoDaddy.com or many of the website developer sites listed below will help you secure one.
There are some really quality, easy website builders out there that are free to use. The one that this site is built on is WordPress.com. There are a number of different templates that are easy to edit and insert your cool, relevant graphics you created thanks to our last article here. They also have features for online revenue for giving and video options to post your cool videos you will create thanks to next week’s article (spoiler alert!). It also has a great analytics tab to track how many views you have and what people are looking at. Weebly.com is another easy and free builder that has a number of cool templates and a drag-and-drop format. You have to upgrade to view analytics, which is sort of a bummer, but it’s also not vital information if you are providing good content and promoting the site. Wix.com is another builder that is free and easy to use, though is the most advanced of the three mentioned and probably the most complicated to use. That being said, it has some really cool templates and features.
Even if you can’t check your analytics because you don’t want to upgrade your builder (which we understand, budgets are tight!), you can still use a site well if you cast a wide net. It costs $0 to post your website on your church’s Facebook page. Don’t have a Facebook page? Someone in your church does, have them post it! Put the address on everything you post, promote, pass out or graffiti on bridges. You can invest a few dollars in advertising on Facebook and target who sees it, but if that seems a bit too advanced, just remember to point to that website on every single thing you produce.
CONTENT QUICK TIPS
Your content must be accurate, so be sure to keep that in mind when you choose what to include. There are a few Must Have’s, like when worship begins, where your church is and who the pastor/staff is and how to contact them. These items should be in several places and easy to read. Then there are some Nice To Have’s, like where to park, basic overviews of your theology or why your church is unique, and some instructions for first-timers. Keep things brief and positive; too much is as bad as too little. Updates need to happen to keep webpages current, so be aware of how often you want to update your site before you add content. If you hate working on the site, don’t put weekly content that must be updated every few days. There are some interesting concepts around the psychology of a webpage, too, that are helpful, like avoiding words like “us” and statements like “come visit us!” because they are exclusionary and make readers feel like outsiders. And most of all, keep it simple. Don’t make 10 pages if 3 will do. The more someone has to search, the less likely they will come.
You really can build great sites for your ministry, event or church with no budget and no experience. It may be a new experience for you, but you can have a site that looks like it was designed by a whole team of hipsters in flannel and beanies. And if you don’t want to take my word for it, check out this great ranking of small churches with top-rated websites. Good luck, and check back soon for more useful tips!