5 Essential Church Website Features
Building Even a Normal Website is a challenge.
There's the development, design, graphics, photography, content, not to mention the connectivity to commerce and marketing campaigns.
So if building a simple website is a big job, you better believe building a church website is truly a daunting task.
And it's not because church websites are inherently more complex; it's just they also need media players, video, the capability for a live stream, integrations with databases, and blogs. What's more, most churches are not staffed with website or marketing expect, but pastors and ministry leaders.
That's why I'd like to give you 5 essential features to put on your church website, features churches don't usually think to add. These features are, of course, in addition to the usual stuff and all of them are focused on either connecting new people to the church or connecting the church to deeper engagement.
So here we go. Five essential church website features you may not have thought of.
1. OPT-IN FEATURE
Most church website have some kind of "contact" or "connect" form, which is usually sent to an admin person or pastor. This is totally fine but doesn't necessarily get the person submitting the form connected with the church and the church's communications.
So instead of (or at least in addition to) the contact form, I'd recommend have an obvious and simple opt-in form clearly stating that submitting their name and email will get them connected with weekly emails, service opportunities, and special events.
I would ask for no more than their name and email. More than that might scare people off. Make sure you integrate this with some kind of marketing email campaign that sends this person an automated welcome message and some next steps they can take.
2. CALL TO ACTION
Every website should have something it's trying to get people to do. Amazon wants you to buy, kick-starts want you to donate, and schools want you to apply. So what does a church want you to do on their website?
And that's the problem. We build church websites not with one clear objective in mind, but with 8 or 10. We want people to know our beliefs, listen to sermons, attend a service, give online, connect with the staff, etc.
The solution? Give people a clear action step. Now, this doesn't mean you can't have other information or features on the website. It just means you need to build your website with a clear objective in mind.
If the objective is to get someone to attend a service, then focus your design, content. graphics and flow on this one objective. You can help them take other steps once they've taken this initial step.
3. FIRST TIME?
A growing trend with church websites is to include a section dedicated to helping people jump over the hurdles that get in the way of attending a service for the first time.
This is both in response to people's growing reluctancy to darken the doors of a church as well as our lack of clarity on important details (time, location, parking) and culture questions (what to wear, what to expect) on other parts of the website.
Having a first time?, plan our visit, or new? page front and center can be so helpful to folks who are looking for a church to attend for the first time. I would encourage you to consider making this your call to action but making it a button on your home page banner, top right navigation, or at the very least, a normal navigation link. Go make people go looking for it. Here's a "First Time?" page we built for a church in the California.
4. Next Steps
Just like the "First Time?" feature is for newcomers, the "Next Steps" feature is for existing church members to get plugged into a specific ministry, start serving, or join a small group. These next steps should not be haphazard, instead they should be those strategic steps you encourage people to take to become a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ.
Just like "First Time?", "Next Steps" should be it's own navigation link and easy to find. Here's a great example of a next steps page.
5. Strategic Links
This final feature is super vague...and kind of boring...but bear with me. You see, there's a lot of stuff you can actually build into your website: sermon players, events, small group profiles with forms, and they can work.
But building all of these things into your website can be a lot of work to develop AND a lot of work to maintain.
That's why I encourage churches to utilize strategic applications from 3rd party developers and simply embed them into or link them from their website. A simple and obvious example of this are some of the features in a church management system. Applications like Planning Center Groups, Registrations, and Giving all have public link pages that allow you to link to them from your website. Now, you don't have to update these things on your website, just your database, keeping your website up-to-date all the time.
You can do this by uploading your sermon videos to your youtube channel and simply and seamlessly linking to your youtube channel from your website. Here's a great example of how to link your website to a youtube channel.
Link solutions like these can keep your website simple, clean, and allow for features your website may not even have.
Need Help With Your Website
If your church is like most, you could use a little help with your website. If that's the case, I'd love to have a conversation with you. In fact, I'd love to chat even if you don't need help with a website :)
In either case, just click below to schedule a call and we'll get this conversation going!
Founder and Lead Catalyst for Clearpath.Church. Josh is ordained in the Reformed Church in America and is passionate about helping small churches find their voice. Josh lives with his family in San Luis Obispo on the Central Coast of California.