IX Marks of a Good Church Website

*Other than being a fan, I am in no way affiliated with IX Marks Ministries.

Moving to Wilkesboro, we are in the midst of our first ever church hunt. Searching for a church has further emphasized for me the importance of having a good website.

Click for the best, worst church website flash intro ever.

Click for the best, worst church website flash intro ever.

Below are nine marks/characteristics of a healthy/helpful church website (SWIDT?). These marks are observations made by people who have experienced the best and worst of church websites.

I) Good Design

Today, your website functions as the front door and lobby of your church. People have already visited your church long before they entered your building. If a visitor’s first impression of your sanctuary matters at all, then so should their impression of your website:

A church’s website is often indicative of how the church views its community. If the website looks ugly, it tells me the church views its community as unimportant. If the website is cheesy, it shows me the church views its community as childish and trivial. If the website is aesthetically pleasing, it tells me the church cares about its community’s flourishing.
— James Fletcher, Graphic Designer, Wake Forest, NC

Click for samples of James Flectcher's work.

A well designed church website is:

  • Simple, not flashy, with colors that can be appreciated by all.
  • Inviting, does not make you want to click away
  • Crisp, new, like fresh paint
  • Modern, does not harken back to the mid 90’s AOL Browser
   Example of a well designed site. Click photo for more about Batcave Baptist Church. Design by  Servant Design . 

 

Example of a well designed site. Click photo for more about Batcave Baptist Church. Design by Servant Design

II) User Friendly Layout

I want the interface to be intuitive and minimal. Informative but not over-bearing.
— Kirk O'Steen, Lay Person, Hephzibah Bapitst Church Wendell, NC

Most churches consider first time visitors when they design the layout of their lobbies. What should visitors see first? Who will greet them? How will they know where to find the sanctuary, nursery, and restrooms?

Your church’s website should direct visitors to the most important thing. From the most important thing, it should be easy for visitors to navigate to the information they need.

Christ Covenant Church, Raleigh, NC

Christ Covenant Church, Raleigh, NC

Sometimes church websites have a cool layout from whatever template they got but there’s no solid information [such as]: dates, times, information of the church and what they’re about, videos, sermon recordings, etc.. It’s like they got this hip website template from some monthly website subscription but don’t have anyone to update it.
— Kirk O'Steen

III) Good Information

If your church building has a sign, what does it communicate? Besides a pithy saying, church signs include: the church's name/denomination, services and Sunday school times, and the pastor’s name. If your church has a website, I will not visit long if I cannot easily find your service times, location, and pastor’s name/credentials.

[A church’s website] is a big deal. What does your church believe? What are the opportunities for discipleship within your church? Do you have past sermons for me to figure out if your pastor has sound theology?
— Matt Atkins, Sunday School Teacher, Hephzibah Baptist Church Wendell, NC

According to Hubspot, over half of the visitors to your website will spend 15 seconds or less interacting with your content. You have 15 seconds to either, a) communicate everything you want to say, or b) compel visitors to stay for another 15 seconds. What do you want to communicate your 15 seconds? If your church has a website, make sure it answers these questions quickly:

  • What is the most important thing?
  • What time are your services?
  • Where do you meet?
  • Who is preaching? Why should I believe he is qualified?
  • Who else is on staff? Why should I believe they are qualified?
  • What does your church believe?
  • With whom are you affiliated?
  • What is your service like?
This is Vintage City Church, Hickory, NC. The most important thing is the first thing you see.     Scroll Down.


This is Vintage City Church, Hickory, NC. The most important thing is the first thing you see. 

Scroll Down.

IV) Accessible Doctrinal Statements/Distincitves

What do you believe, and what distinguishes your church from the one that meets across the street? Do you have a vision for the community? Are your pastors and elders formally trained? From where?

I am not likely to visit if I cannot discern what you believe.

The Gathering Church, West Jefferson, NC. Click of picture for more information.


The Gathering Church, West Jefferson, NC. Click of picture for more information.

V) Sample Sermons

Even if it is not feasible to record live sermons, post a few sermon manuscripts. This will a) help fill out your blog page, b) let visitors know whether your style is expository, topical, or something else.

VI) Regularly Updated Blog

A regularly updated blog is a great resource church members and visitors; however, I visited several church websites where the last blog post was 2014. It reminds me of that room in the lower level of the church that houses flimsy VBS props from ten years ago—no one is going down there, and it is better off to just throw that stuff away. You certainly would not direct your visitors through that room.

If you are not updating your blog page, it is best to deactivate it.

VII) Real Photos

You would not hire actors to describe your youth group’s mission trip to Guatemala. If you are going to post photos on your website, please do not use stock photography. Visitors want to see you, not paid actors.

Jesus used his surroundings to relate the Gospel of the Kingdom to the people of his day. We must do the same thing. Technology was given to Christians by God to glorify him and spread his truth. A good website shows that the church is willing to interact with culture and reclaim it for his glory.
— Eric Keel, Graphic Designer, Servant Design Bat Cave, NC

-Click for samples of Eric Keel and Jason White's Work.

VII) Good Social Media

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. are all great means by which to update members and visitors about the life of your church. However, like a blog, some social media pages look like they are managed by your Easter/Christmas only members.

If social media exists as a way for a person to keep their community updated about his life, an inactive Facebook page communicates to your community that your church is dead. In that case, it would be better to not have Facebook page at all.

IX) Real Means of Communication

I would prefer to have some contact information for the leaders of ministries advertised on the website. And keep it updated. If I reach out to someone, and then someone else reaches out to me in response, [it] communicates a lack of organization.
— Matt Atkins

Why shouldn’t website visitors have the opportunity to contact the pastoral staff? They would certainly be afforded this opportunity if they visited in person.

Bonus: Buy Your Domain

Oh my goodness, the ceremony will be broadcast on Lifetime, oh dot com, backslash garbage file?
— Liz Lemon, 30 Rock

If your church's URL is looks like: www.yourchurch.blogsite.com/freewebsites, I'm not going to take you very seriously. Consider adding the costs of hosting your church's website to your missions budget. Otherwise, it is legitimate to have just a Facebook page in lieu of the website. 

This is, of course, my opinion. Feel free to disagree in the comments, but keep it civil. Better yet, what do you want to see in a church's website?