Build a Parish website
Advice for parishes who are looking to develop a new or existing website.
A website is a very effective way to communicate what happens in your church to current members and also to others who may be looking join, get married, baptised etc. The Diocese of Chester runs an annual media day which includes the topic of setting up and running a parish website. If you’d like to attend then please keep an eye open for the next one on our events page and in the eBulletin.
For those who are unable to attend or perhaps just want a quick refresh of the key points covered during the day, here are some helpful tips.
Choosing a website:
There are a number of companies that can set you up with a website, some are specifically geared towards creating websites specifically for churches. A simple search on google will provide a number of them to choose from. The cost for a website usually costs somewhere in the region of £100 - £300 per year and is dependent on what type of features and functionality you are looking for. It’s not very much money when you consider what that will give you for a year – a way to distribute news and information about your church for a whole year.
Modern websites are built using a Content Management System (CMS). These types of website make it very easy for people to add and edit pages using a web browser like Internet Explorer, Firefox or Google Chrome. The great thing about them is that, once setup, they don’t require much technical skill to be able to add and edit page content.
The 10 second test for reviewing your current website or planning a new one
Is your website easy to navigate? Attractive? Up to date? Has the right level of information? Easy to understand for people familiar and unfamiliar with the Church of England? Can people easily find essential information quickly?
Content is King:
Once you have your website in place, then next thing you’ll want to do is to populate it with content. Everyone gets quite excited at this bit and there is an eagerness to publish news and information all over the new website, filling every available space with words and photos. Both hold on there, rushing into it can result in a website that is difficult for visitors to navigate and understand.
Take a while to pause and discuss how and who is going to update and maintain the website on an ongoing basis, not just in the initial first few days of the launch. Keeping the website up-to-date will make it a useful resource and is key to encouraging people to visit it on a regular basis.
Key information to include on a Church website:
There are no limits to the types of content you can put on a church website, but before you let your imagination run wild it’s important to include certain information that most people would want to see. Such as:
The Address and location of the Church:
It seems so obvious but some church websites have been known to omit this information. If you know the postcode doesn’t direct you to the church, state this and provide alternative guidance. Advice on parking (and public transport if relevent) can also help put a first time visitor at ease by reducing the anxiety of travel arrangements.
The Church’s denomination:
It a good idea to put this information on your Church website. Many don’t and people are left unsure as to whether St Mary’s, Sometown is Catholic, Church of England, Methodist etc. The best place to put this information is on the homepage where people will generally arrive.
It’s sounds the most obvious thing to do but contact details are sometimes overlooked. The prominent display of a telephone number, email address and address of the church will enable people to make contact quickly.
The one person that really should have their details available is the Vicar but it can also be a good idea to provide a way for people to get in touch with others involved in the running of your church such as Youth Workers, the Church Warden etc. This could be by email or phone but check that post-holders are happy to have their contact details made available.
Events, service times and opening times:
A page that lists services and events is one of the key requirements of a church website. An up-to-date events page will convey the message that you are active and open for visitors. It is important to keep this page up to date as old events that are left on the site for weeks after they have passed will communicate that information on your site might be unreliable. If your church is open to visitors outside your service times, state this too.
Describe your church:
Tell people what what your church is like. Is it ‘High’ or ‘Low’ church or somewhere in between. Does it cater for the young? Is it lively or otherwise. The key is to be truthful and not try to present your church as something that it is not. Different churches have different strengths and whilst it might be tempting to try and be all things to all people, the best outcome is for people to find a church that suits them, even though it might not be yours.
Access and Facilities
It’s helpful to have a brief sentence to say if your building is partly or completely accessible for wheelchairs and has loos (or nearby facilities if not), as this can be one factor on deciding whether to attend for people with particular needs, e.g. a young family. If you have roomhire available, also state this, with a contact for enquiries.
The Diocese of Chester runs an annual media training day which includes a one hour session on Church Websites. If you wish to attend, please see our events page for our next one. It is also announced in our eBulletin.