Why your church website is (probably) terrible...
“What is the purpose?” If you can’t answer this question well you can almost guarantee anything you are making what turn out well. This is true for websites, social media strategies, ministry events and pretty much anything you are doing. Without clarity of the why of what you are doing it is impossible to create an effective strategy.
Having looked at hundreds of church websites I can tell you that the vast majority of church (and all local businesses) websites are not built for a clear purpose. They are built instead to accomplish dozens of different, often competing purposes. Rather that have a clear goal in mind, they often try to accomplish checking off as many boxes that the decision makers have.
For most local businesses “web design” is a process where one decision maker, or maybe a small group, looks at some websites they like and lists out what they want to included in their site. Then, they try to cram all of these sections into their site. Since they can’t afford the cost of paying a copy writer to provide compelling language or a graphic designer to create stunning visuals this usually results in a website that has way too many sections but none of them work very well and their website doesn’t make much impact on their business. Since they haven’t defined any goals, they can’t even track if there website is doing anything at all!
Churches do this to, but with a larger group of volunteers contributing more things to the checklist and offering even less sense of vision and purpose.
Signs Your Site Lacks a Clear Goal
A Better Way: Goal Orienteed Websites
If all of this sounds frustratingly familiar don’t worry, there is great news! You can break out of this haphazard approach and get much better results by doing less.
Firstly, having a clear goal will eliminate most of the clutter from your site. For some churches this may be as many as twenty pages that aren’t contributing to their goal at all. Secondly, having a clear goal will make it much easier to come up with compelling content for the pages and sections your site actually needs. Lastly, once you have identified a goal you will be able to track results and see the fruit of your effort and continue to improve your website every month.
The Primary Goal: Connecting Visitors with Your church
All churches are different and will have different strategies to accomplish their goals but almost all churches will have the same primary goal of their website: To create a warm and welcoming invitation that accurately portrays the church and how your church can meet the spiritual needs of your site visitor.
The reason this is so important is twofold. First, your church has something special and unique to share with your community. Second, your website is the best way to extend a warm welcome.
Using Your Goal to Chart Your Strategy (an exmaple)
- To put this in context, here is an example of Gospel Church (a hypothetical church in the suburbs of Atlanta) setting their strategy based on their goals.
They know their goal as a church is to invite the people of their community to experience God’s love and be invited into true community. This is a focus of their worship service, discipleship groups, and church events.
Because they know the goal for the church the goal for their website and how it fits into their overall church plan is very clear.
The primary goal of their website is that site visitors will visit their church. They make this more specific for their context with specific steps for that goal and for followup.
They choose to focus on one specific time to visit – their worship service that meets Sunday at 11:00. By choosing just one call to action it becomes much more likely that site visitors will actually respond and allows them to craft the content of their site with much more focus.
They also chart two paths they hope site visitors might take to accomplish this. Either site visitors complete a “plan your visit” form or site visitors take note of their worship time and directions and visit with completing a form.
Lastly, Gospel Church integrates this into a broader strategy to plug in visitors in their church. They plan followup steps once site visitors become worship visitors which include filling out a contact form with just three questions and their pastor replying that day. Additionally, they identify that the next step for church visitors to get plugged in is joining a discipleship group.
Gospel Church has the following metrics they can look at each month:
- Search Views (how times their website was displayed in search results)
- Search Clicks (how many times people clicked on their website in search clicks
- Website traffic (how many people visited the website, what pages they visited, and how long they stayed on each page)
- Plan a Visit Form Submissions (how many people planned a visit)
- Church visitors (how many people turned in visitor cards)