Now more than ever, it is essential to have a well designed and engaging church website. Here are my top ten commandments for getting the most value out of your church website.
1. Focus on Newcomers
Your church website's primary value is as an introduction to newcomers and then secondarily as news, resources, and information for members. Of course, there is overlap between the two. The difference is that members know where to find what they need. First time visitors don’t.
The home page and prominent menu items should focus on newcomers, providing the most crucial information on the first pages they see. Of course, you also want news and information for current members. You can place links/portals with this internal communication, especially administrative information, to the bottom or side of the page (and let people know where to find them.)
Photo by Candie_NThe most common question that arises when I talk about social media is the question of time. In one way or another, people almost always ask, "How much time do you spend on social media?"
I've always struggled to provide a good answer to that question - and until recently I didn't know why.
When the question came up again during the discussion panel at the Massachusetts Council of Churches conference on Christian Unity in the Digital Age it finally dawned on me:
The reason its so hard for me to answer is that we are often dealing with two very different assumptions when it comes to time and social media.
Twitter is a great way to learn more about and build relationships within your local ministry context. I am using it to get to know my new neighborhood - Ambler, Pennsylvania - a month before I even physically move there. Here's how I'm doing it - in five pretty easy steps:
1. Update Your Profile
Make sure it is clear in your Twitter profile that you are associated with the church. Include the church's twitter handle, if they have one. And be sure to update your location. You'd like for local people to follow you back on Twitter. Make sure it is obvious who you are and why you are following them - because you are also part of the local community.
This is the big question in social media and pastoral transition and the way you answer this question has a lot to do with your Facebook philosophy.
If you are among those who see your Facebook profile as a professional tool, you may be more inclined to unfriend former parishioners. Your professional responsibility ends with your call and you can go on to apply these tools to your new congregation.
However, if you see social media as something more than just part of your professional practice - as something about relationship and community building, the sharing of grace in a network that extends through and beyond the local congregation (as Elizabeth Drescher and I suggest in our book Click2Save: The Digital Ministry Bible), you may be more inclined to remain friends with former parishioners. Yet, this raises a set of complicated questions about appropriate boundaries and digital ministry practice.
I started a sermon blog in 2006 for myself as a way to easily search and sort my sermons using categories and tags. It turned into a useful service to our congregation, and eventually, with the ability to share them through social media, to many people beyond Redeemer.
I called the blog Sermons at Redeemer, and included this explanation, “Our sermons at Redeemer are our weekly blog. They are our reflections on the ways God is at work in our lives, our church, and our world.” We included sermons by our deacon and guest preachers.
Now that it is time for me to move on I’ve been wondering: whose sermons are these, anyway? They live on the church blog and I wrote them on the church’s time. They represent my intellectual work but they were inspired by experiences within the congregation. Should they remain on the blog, be deleted or live somewhere else?
Social media presents those seeking a new call with great opportunity but also potential risk. Today, you must be digitally savvy not only to help land a call, but to manage your digital connections and communication during the interview, call, and transition processes.
Calling is a heady, intense, and disorienting time and often the last thing on your mind is digital media. I’ve just been through it myself and these nine big things I learned.