Why Your Church Needs a Web Site

Word-of-mouth has long been many churches’ primary method of attracting newcomers. Often, people might wait to attend a church service or call for more information until they have the “inside scoop” from someone who already attends. Places of worship offer opportunities for community-building and sharing in worship, but they can be disquieting to those unfamiliar with their specific customs and traditions.

While many people might first hear of a potential new church home from friends and neighbors, the Internet has offered them a way to find out exactly what makes a particular church tick. What exactly is the focus of the congregation or parish? While worship is often the primary center of church operations, other factors may influence whether someone is likely to feel at home there. One church might place a secondary emphasis on education; another might feel social service and outreach is more crucial to fulfilling their mission.

Providing a website to potential newcomers and members is more than just a simple service. Most churches across the country have two main needs: more members, particularly young families, and more funds from these members to sustain vital ministries and programs. Young people, the very demographic that churches are trying to attract, are more likely to use the Internet to find information than they have in past years. According to Knowledge Networks/SRI, 27 percent of people used the Internet in 2001 to look for goods and services, compared to 17 percent in 1998. If this trend continues and young people decide more and more to use the Internet exclusively to find a new church home, a church that did not list itself on the Internet would practically cease to exist.

And why not only use the Internet to find a welcoming new church? An organization’s website, much like a person’s clothing, has the potential to reveal an incredible amount about its priorities, professionalism, and modernity. A high quality website updated on a regular basis and providing at least basic information about worship and ministries will show potential newcomers that the church has made an investment in technology for their behalf; that their knowledge about what is available is essential to the church’s prosperity. If one church lists only its contact information in the phone book, but another provides a small website with information about worship services, ministries, volunteer opportunities, Sunday school classes, and links to newsletters and e-mail addresses, which would you feel more likely to attend? As we continue on through the Information Age, information needs to be ever more present and accessible to people whose time becomes more and more precious.

Luckily, many resources and possibilities are available for developing a high quality website. Companies such as Yahoo and EarthLink offer decent rates for web hosting, and programs such as Microsoft FrontPage (included with some versions of Office) provide user-friendly web publishing. For larger churches who wish to increase their professionalism, hiring a web designer or communications director would be an excellent move; if this expense is not in your budget, try finding a high-school or college student with some background or knowledge in web design to volunteer or work for a small stipend. Providing even a basic website to your community, as well as it is well done and updated often, will be a huge asset for your church.

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