By Aaron Wilson
If the technology had existed at the time, I’m confident Paul would’ve had a website for his ministry.
I gather this from his words in 1 Corinthians 9:22-23: “I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some. Now I do all this because of the gospel.”
In context, Paul was referring to Jews and Gentiles. However, for a 21st-century culture, the application of these verses certainly extends to the digital world.
Here are eight website essentials to consider as churches steward online resources for the sake of the gospel.
Church buildings typically require fundamental elements such as ceilings, doors, and parking. Church websites also call for basics, some of which are:
• Self-hosting. If a church’s web address ends with something like .wordpress.com or .blogspot.com, it’s a clear sign to internet-savvy guests the website is lackluster.
Owning a domain through a self-hosted site (such as www.yourchurchname.org) allows for professionalism and greater creative freedom.
• Church address and contact information on every page. At its most rudimentary level, the internet is a tool for quickly gathering information. Placing contact information on every page serves those who just want to know how to get to church.
• Mobile-view compatibility. More often than not, visitors will use smartphones to visit a church’s website. Churches should cater to this by making their sites mobile-friendly.
• Contemporary visual layout. This is always a moving target, but that’s the point. Digital styles change often. Every couple of years, it’s wise for churches to evaluate their digital aesthetics to see what message they’re sending.
Once a church has made a commitment to maintain these basic web requirements, it’s time to understand the digital audience.
Church website users fall into two categories: those already connected (members and regulars) and those asking whether they want to be (potential guests).
It’s important to serve both categories by creating clear lanes for each to travel. Here are some website essentials for reaching each group.
• “I’m New Here” button. This should be the most prominent link on the site. It should send users to information such as church beliefs, frequently asked questions, information about your children’s and youth ministries, and introductions to the staff.
• Online sermons. Many people will sample an online sermon before ever visiting a church. Posting sermons online serves not only visitors but also members who might be out of town or sick on a Sunday.
Serving members and regulars
• Discipleship content. A church blog can offer value to members as well as guests. Blog entries aren’t dissertations. They’re short reflections that provide discipleship guidance throughout the week.
They can be easily posted on social media outlets, giving church members a culturally relevant way to share what they’re learning.
• Online giving. Failing to offer this service handicaps a generation that doesn’t use checkbooks or ATM machines. Traditional offering methods such as plates, boxes, and baskets can be used in conjunction with online giving to allow members the opportunity to give in a practical manner.
Hundreds of other elements might be of strategic benefit for a church website. As communicators weigh decisions that affect a church’s digital presence, it can be helpful to revisit Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9:22-23 and ask how each line of web coding helps to advance the gospel in a digital world.
AARON WILSON (Aaron.Wilson@Lifeway.com) is associate editor of Facts & Trends.