By Aaron Earls
Before we all learned what “social distancing” meant, a website was the “front door churches often forgot.” Now, it’s basically the only door open for our congregations.
With that being the case, your church’s website has never been more important for ministry right now and to establish your ministry going forward.
Here are eight components that your church website must have during the coronavirus pandemic.
1. Actually have a website
In 2018, Lifeway Research found 84% of churches have a website, but that leaves 16% of congregations (mostly smaller) who don’t have a web presence.
Even if you are a small, rural church, chances are unchurched people in your community will still search online and visit a church digitally before they make the trip physically.
Numerous web solutions for churches are discounting their services right now, including Fishhook offering a half off sale exclusively for smaller churches through May 31, 2020.
If your church doesn’t have a website, it’s past time you took that step.
2. Up to date info
For those that have a website, you have to keep it updated—especially in a time like this.
The websites of too many churches make no mention of any programming shift and are still inviting guests to come visit.
Make sure your website makes clear what your congregation is currently doing (or not doing).
3. Contact info
This should always be a priority for churches, but even more so during a time of intense stress.
Don’t bury contact information behind multiple layers. Provide a clear and easy way for someone to call and email a pastor.
If no one is in the office regularly to answer the call, make sure someone is checking the voicemail regularly and returning messages.
4. Highly visible video content
If your church is going to the effort of streaming your services, make sure people who visit your website can easily see those services.
Place links to your YouTube or Facebook page (or whatever platform you may be using) at the top of your front page.
If possible, embed the latest sermon video on your home page, so people don’t even have to leave your site.
Provide any needed instructions for watching the services for those in your congregation who may not be tech-savvy.
5. Welcome guests
Continue to be as hospitable as you possibly can even if you aren’t able to shake a guest’s hand when they come into your church building for the first time.
Have a page of your website specifically designed for those who are new to your church and think of creative ways to welcome.
Provide a digital gift card to a meal delivery service for anyone who gives their contact information.
Have a printable coupon that allows the guest to bring it to your church as soon as you can gather again to receive a free Bible or another gift.
6. Discipleship content
With more hours at home, many people have more time to invest in their spiritual walk and they may turn to your website for help with that.
If you have some online curriculum for your small groups, provide links to that.
Even if you just add a few links to trusted resources online, that could be helpful to your congregation and others visiting your site.
7. Online giving
In the 2018 Lifeway Research survey, only 30% of churches said they offered online giving through their website. Obviously, that has to change as churches are struggling financially.
At the end of March, 52% of churches said their giving was already down compared to earlier in the year. Of those who said it had dropped, 60% say it has dropped by 25% or more.
Online giving won’t be the only solution to that problem, but it will help. Find an online giving service to help your congregation quickly add that option.
For example, Generosity by Lifeway is available for churches to start with no upfront costs, no subscription fees and no contract.
8. Office hours
If you have a pastor or staff person who is manning the office at certain times of the day for people to drop off their tithe or for emergency reasons, have those times visible on your website.
Maybe you are opening up the building for people to come and pray during the day, make that clear on your website.
If your building is open, specify why exactly you will be there and have those times on your website.
Communication has never been more crucial and your website is one of the best ways you can communicate with both your congregation and your community.
AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of Facts & Trends.