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Church’s Online Ministry Best Practices Overview

The good news is that most church online ministries consist of a website (78%), and some social media (Facebook – 85%).  However, this is not like the movie “Field of Dreams.”  Just because you build it doesn’t mean they will come. 

First, it is important that your current and future congregation can find you online.

maximize your roiSecond, your online ministry needs to represent your church and help accomplish its goals. If your church is not able to produce an online ministerial experience somewhat representative of an in-person experience you are in danger of losing members.   If you do it right you can attract members beyond what is possible with in-person ministry alone.

These two principles should drive both your website and social media efforts.  In short, get found, and represent!

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The remainder of this article will focus on the Church Website, the  Most Important Online Ministry Asset.

 

Mandatory Functionality

The site needs to be visually appealing, well-thought-out, and representative of your church’s brand.  However, before you get in touch with your creative side there is something you must consider and do first.

Online Research to Optimize Your Website For Search

To be found you must first understand what your target audience is looking for when they use search tools like Google and Bing.  Without getting too technical you want to make sure your website is optimized for search engines.

Keyword Search Tool

  1.  Keyword search –  6 Keyword search tools  you can use to see what your target audience inputs into search engines when they are looking for types of churches.
  2. Links, keywords, and high-quality content are all incredibly important for SEO success
  3. This may be a job that you may want to outsource.  However,  if you are brave in addition to the above, make sure the keywords are strategically placed.  Understand the importance of URL’s, image links, headlines, and active versus passive phrasing. We use WordPress and Yoast is an outstanding SEO tool we use that has free and premium editions. 
  4. There are some free tools out there, like SEOBook, 21 Free SEO Tools, and LunaMetrics, but some Church Management Systems (ChMS)  solutions also offer features that can help you get better traffic, like integration with Google Analytics. 

Social Media Integration

We will cover this in more in a future article.  Social Media Integration is very important for medium to large churches.  In fact, it is important to help small churches grow as well.  Social Social Mediamedia can help churches maintain connections with their own members, and visitors as well. Now you have another way to drive traffic to your site!   However, it is also important to keep your sites updated! Updating the church’s social media accounts should be as routine as updating the website.

 

 

 

Responsive Layout

Optimized Church WebsiteEnsuring that you have a responsive layout (mobile-friendly) means it will render to match devices such as smart-phones and iPads, etc.  Additionally, it will help you show up better on search engines (it’s an important part of their algorithms). Your congregation might be more likely to look at it if it’s as easy to view on their computer screens as on their mobile devices.

 

 

 

Church Calendar

Church Calendar

The number one reason your members will visit your site is to stay abreast of what is happening at the church.  Things like church events, ministerial meetings, prayer meetings, etc. are all included in a church calendar.  A good calendar will easily manage recurring and one-off events.  The calendar needs to be updated weekly.

Online Donations

Donations

A good online donation function will enable one-time and recurring payments.  It will also enable designated payments to different events and funds.  One of the great advantages of online donations is that even if the member isn’t in the church they can still make their donation with recurring payments.

 

Optional Functionality

Depending on the size of your church, the makeup of your congregation, your church’s online evolution, and your goals you may or may not need these functions.

Church Directory

Church DirectoryProviding a member directory accessible online can be very helpful for your church. You can often integrate your online directory with your member database. Sometimes you can even allow members to update their own profiles, which is a great time-saver! And of course, this is just another way to make it easier for your congregation to stay connected.

 

 

 

Event Signup

Church Eventa

A good event signup functionality can enable you to better manage sign-ups, payments, and planning for events.  This can save a lot of time and hassle. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Church Blog

Church Blog

This is probably one of the easier secondary functionalities for your church website, and it can really help your congregation keep up with church events, diving deep into scripture, asking and answering biblical questions. 

The big challenge with a blog (as with other social media) is making sure someone actually updates it! You can post different kinds of content such as messages from the pastor, mission updates, event announcements, etc.  You can also categorize the different blog posts for visitor’s convenience.

Online Sermons

Sermon Choices

There are two major components of providing online sermons for your church website. One way is hosting recordings of your sermons on your website. This could mean audio, video, or both. Having an online sermon archive not only lets members watch and rewatch sermons that they weren’t able to see in person, but lets visitors get a better understanding of what it’s like to be at your church.   The sermons can be organized by series, speaker, topics, tags, etc. to enable visitors to find what suits their particular needs on-demand.

A second way of making your sermons available online is streaming them. With the COBVID-19 pandemic, this is a very popular way to provide online church service.   After the pandemic, this will continue to be a great way to reach current members who aren’t able to make it to church on Sunday mornings, like the elderly or hospitalized.

Church App

Church App

There’s no clear-cut answer as to whether or not your church really needs an app. For smaller churches, it may be overkill.  For large or multi-site churches it may be more appropriate for their needs.  The benefits of a church app are that you can have all the information in one place. You might also find that if your website is fairly complex, having an app with its own mobile-oriented system of navigation is easier to use than a mobile version of the site.

However, a lot of the functionalities of an app can be addressed by other services such as social media.

Prayer Wall

Prayer Wall
 
 
 
 
 
 

A good prayer wall will enable the church to post notice of who needs prayer.  Additionally, visitors should be able to post their own prayers, view others, and comment to let those in need of prayer know that they are praying for them.

This is not an exhaustive list of all the functionality you may require to create and maintain a great website.  Our next article will focus on the different pages you may want to include on your website and what each should include. 

For any questions please contact us.

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