Your Church NEeds a Website

by Russ Ward
"Your church needs a website." That is the refrain echoed by many supposed experts in marketing churches. That advice is then usually followed by, "and engage in social media." While in general terms what they are saying is true, that sentiment often overlooks the fundamentals of marketing and public relations.

For instance, one of the first credos of professional public relations and marketing is "First, do no harm." Unfortunately, in the rush to complete a website many churches are hurting their efforts. Just one example I recently found was a church website with a photo caption that read, "Making homemade pizzas." Harmless enough, but the photo above the caption was someone holding a big snake!  Not very appetizing to say the least and that mistake could leave a bad taste in someone's mouth in more ways than one.

Additionally, harm can come in other more subtle forms, such as not knowing the purpose of the website before you start to build it. Without a specific purpose you will never know if it is accomplishing your goals. So, the first step to making a website is to ask the question, "Why do you need a website?" Without the answer to that simple question your site will not produce the results you desire.

There are many purposes for church websites: inform the congregation, be visible on searches, give the youth minister another thing to do, prove you are hip, demonstrate your desire for missions, inform the community about your church, and general outreach are just some. At Speiro Communications we feel that all of the above can be accomplished to some extent but the overarching purpose of a Christian Church website must be to reach the unsaved in your own community. We need to be about sowing seed. Keep in mind that this is not an overt sales pitch to the lost, but a velvet glove approach. Remember the advice that Jesus gave to his apostles before sending them out was to "be as shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves." We must learn to speak with purpose, gently. 

Identifying who you are speaking to through your website is the second step. In marketing terms this is called the target demographic. By understanding the audience of your website you can tailor your content to match those that will be reading it, hearing it or viewing it. This means that a website for a rural church may be different than for one in the suburbs or city. The generational make-up of a community may alter the design. This does not mean that you ignore other demographic groups, but it does mean that we start focusing our efforts more effectively and we begin to think, more critically, about who we are talking to and how we can talk more effectively. 

Once you know why and who, you can start thinking about the message of the website. The message should reveal the purpose to those you can reach in your community. A simple message is often expressed in a vision statement or mission statement. However, the professional designer of a website knows that the message is not just represented in the words, but also in the design, color palette, font choice and layout.

The purpose, target demographic and message should come together to speak to your community about Jesus and His church. Once you have worked through this process, then your church is ready to have a website! 

If you need help with the above contact Speiro Communications. Our mission is to help Christian Churches sow seeds in their community.