You Want to Make the Visitor Welcome? Twelve Website Tips

In my current role as “mystery worshiper” for a newspaper column, I have learned a few key pointers about helping others find your church. The number one issue: Never, ever change your normal worship time without splashing it all over your website!

But other than that particular rant, below are some things I have learned after perusing hundreds of church websites.

One: Do not assume that a Facebook page provides adequate electronic presence. You still need an actual, up to date, reasonably professional looking website.

Two: Make sure your website actually shows up using basic keywords in different search engines. There are ways to do this by the good use of metatags. At the very least, your keywords should indicate your city or town, state, and general religious affiliation. Ask multiple people to test how quickly your church site shows up on searches from their own computers and mobile devices. They also need to view it using different browsers.

Three: There should be a clean, usable mobile version of the website. Most people will access it this way.

Four: The front page of your website should be geared to the visitor, not the member. Everything a potential visitor needs to know should be on the front page. That includes times for worship, directions, child-care options and where to find the front door to the campus as many church building are quite confusing to navigate.

Five: Include information about the clergy, including their education, background, and vision for the church

Six: Devote a page to the history of the church. Make minimal use of slideshows for photos. Still photos are far easier to see.

Seven: Devote another page to the essential points of doctrine that guide the church.

Eight: If your church name intentionally does not indicate denominational affiliation, make sure such affiliation is easily to discover on the website. Please. Do not be guilty of deceit here.

Nine: Explain how and when your church celebrates the Sacraments. If Holy Communion is part of the worship experience, describe who is welcome and how to partake. If you do offer a gluten-free station, please say so. If you do not provide it, please also indicate that. Believe me, it’s a major issue.

Ten: Don’t ever use a “contact us” form where people need to give information and then submit the form in order to get a question answered. Instead, set up an email address to an actual person where a potential visitor can ask questions. A name and face help. All such emails must be promptly answered.

Eleven: Make it easy to find a web version of the latest church communications. Do not use PDF’s if at all possible. They are clunky to download and read online. Yes, this is more work. It’s worth it.

Twelve: Today, your electronic presence is the front door to your church.  Just as your physical grounds should be attractive and clean, not cluttered or difficult to find, so should your electronic presence.

12 thoughts on “You Want to Make the Visitor Welcome? Twelve Website Tips

  1. Helpful information. Thank you! Interesting comment about not using PDF’s of communications. What format do you recommend using instead? Our church bulletins are in Publisher, but not everyone has publisher on their computer, so we put them into PDF’s and no one has indicated a problem. Please advise. Thanks.
    Pastor Dave

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    1. The newsletters are far more accessible if the articles are put into html format and posted on a news page. When you turn a publisher document into a PDF, it can be very clunky to download and read and just puts an extra and unnecessary barrier between the visitor and the church.

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  2. This is s great list. I’ve read several of your blogs this morning, but it was #10 in this list that prompted me to comment. I worked in a church office for 12 1/2 years. In that timeframe, I had to contact several other churches. It was frustrating to say the least, and became one of my biggest pet peeves, that churches today tend to promote themselves as unapproachable. Christ was never unapproachable, but unintentionally or intentionally (because I’m really not quite sure), more and more churches are heading that direction. I have contacted several churches through their “forms” in the past and never got a response at all. How sad to me that this is the image we choose to portray to the world. I liken it to having bars on the church windows and doors and armed guards at the entrances. Needless to say, that’s not attractive nor encouraging for the visitor. Thank you again for this list.

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    1. Thank you for writing about your experience of trying to get in touch with other churches. I am often appalled at how difficult it is to talk to a real person in a church and I’ve had the same experience of filling out a form and then never hearing anything back. Makes no sense to me at all, and, as you so very well note, sends a poor message about the nature of Christianity.

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  3. Thank you for saying all of this! I agree completely! I watch tv, listen to music, play games, go shopping and check my mail all of them online – of course I will look up churches online. Things I like to know: denomination, worship style, dress code, time of service, types of ministries, and current bible study topics. I know an always up to date website is an investment, but it is just as important as putting a seed in the soil – having an online presence ministers to those who have had bad experiences with churches and can help undo some of the damage and worry as a first time visitor willing to take on the unknown.

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