I know, totally boring title! However, this is a topic I’m very passionate about. I feel that if you’re not using the internet to communicate with your church… then you are behind the eight-ball (unless you live in a community that is not tech savvy at all… but those are becoming more and more rare). Nearly every church has a website. Regardless if it is pretty or not, is your content up to date, or did you write it 4 years ago when the site launched. Up until about 6 months ago, the church I worked at over 3 years ago still has a page that I wrote when I first got there in 2000. The page described activities that kids could do on Wednesday nights… activities that I had ended shortly before I left. The funny thing is that the website went through 2 re-designs, but the bad content survived.
First of all I want to offer to suggestions to those who have a church/children’s minsitry website or are planning to launch one:
Your website needs to make logical sense and be easy to navigate. Can a visitor find everything necessary within just a few minutes. There is nothing wrong with supplying your ministry philosophy, core values and policy manual… but just attach them on a page as pdf files that can be downloaded. Don’t make visitors dig through tons of content to find out what they really want. It is always better to leave them wanting more. Tease them with the files that could be downloaded, or the link to additional information… don’t force it on them. So, less is more. Oh, but don’t forget the neat part. Avoid loud colors, scrolling banners (Thank God we don’t see these too much any more) and almost anything animated. Yes, the graphic of a letter self folding and putting itself into a mailbox is cute, but I had that on my first webpage in 1997. Remember, your website is a billboard. There is a lot of traffic on the internet and you may only have a few seconds to catch their attention and feed them the information they need.
Yes, a website is definitely a marketing tool for your ministry, a place where visitors check you out before checking you out. Every week I go through the community paper and visit all the church websites advertised that week. I like to check out what others are doing. However, if a visitor comes back to your website a few weeks later and nothing has changed… they will probably never come back! If all you want out of a website is a stationary billboard that never changes, then so be it. However, you are missing out on the powerful tool of online communication through the internet. Your website is a very inexpensive tool for communicating to your church and you will either train people to visit your website often, or train them to ignore it.
The best websites are those that are both neat and simple as well as dynamic. If this seems like a hopeless undertaking, then I would even recommend setting up a blog. Most blogs are fairly simple and neat… and the entire concept of a blog is that it is dynamic. Constantly update your information, letting people know what events are coming up, share information about what kids will be learning next month, post a bio on a volunteer who is doing great. All these things will help keep your site dynamic, giving your church as well as visitors something to discover.
When you are constantly updating your website with current information, begin driving your church to the website. You will find that as you train your church to visit regularaly, you will spend less time making phone calls, sending out letters and making announcements. Advertise upcoming events, pushing people to the website for more information and to register (more about this tomorrow).
Sometimes I’ll event utilize specific websites for easier promotion. For example, my churches website is www.crosstimberschurch.org. Thats a long url. Once you get there, you have to select a campus. Once you select a campus, you have to click on kids. I’m not always convinced that people are even willing to make 2-3 clicks to get to the information I want them to have. I hate advertising: “Go to the kids page of www.crosstimberschurch.org.” So, instead I own www.campxtreme.org. When I want kids to register for camp, I put www.campxtreme.org on everything. No, I didn’t build a new website. I just bought the domain for $8 and have it forwarding to the appropriate page on our existing website. For example, I own campxtreme.org, surgekids.com, venturequest.org, verticalblast.org, ultimatelockin.com, daddydaughterdance.com. It’s easy and it works!