I like seeing houses with a bright front door that stands out from the rest of the building.
Every building, every house, every church has a front door. It is not just a great place to put an accent color for your building, but the place that people enter.
In the past, we saw the front door of the church as the place where newcomers first made contact with your church. That has changed.
Your church’s website is your new front door. People look you up online before they actually come to your building and take in a Sunday service. They can get a sense of what your church is like before they even show up.
How welcoming is your “front door”?
Here are three of the most important things you need on your website.
1. The Physical Address
Make sure the first thing people see when they open your website is your physical address. I know a number of rural churches have a box number for their mailing address, but this is not what people are looking for. It is important that a potential newcomer knows where the church is. Include a Google map with directions to your church, and check for accuracy before posting.
2. Service Times
If someone is considering attending your church, they want to know what time to show up. Not every church meets at 11:00 am today. Churches with multiple services should also include any differences between services, such as different ages available for children’s ministry. Make sure to update this every time a service time changes. There is nothing worse for a newcomer to show up late because you forgot to update your service time!
3. What to Expect
Some churches have a short description of what people wear. A common example could be something like: “Most people come in jeans and shirts, though suit and tie, or a dress, are fine too.” Here is a personal example: If you have never been to a symphony, you might want to know what to wear. I went to my first symphony with my brother-in-law, and I had not come prepared. I had no suit like everyone else was wearing, and I felt really out of place. People who have never been to your church want to know how to dress.
You might also lay out how the morning works. If you have coffee available, let them know they can take it into the auditorium with them. If you send the children out to their classes part-way through the service, explain how that works. Add anything that you think a newcomer might need to know when they show up.
If you have these three, you are way ahead of many churches!
There are a few more items people look for. Easy to find visible links to the following items allow searchers to quickly identify how to find the information they are looking for.
4. Contact information
Have a link to a page with all the information. This includes the church phone number and email address. It might be good to have the same for your staff. And while I think about it, post your pastor’s name somewhere that is easy for people to find. I am surprised at some websites. It seems the pastor’s name is a secret they don’t want to share, or just assume everyone knows. You might even want to have a brief video welcome from your pastor on your home page.
5. Beliefs and Values
When I moved to a new city, I decided to look for a church by first checking out a number of websites. One of the things I was looking for was a church that believed the same way I did.
6. Ministries and Programs
Have links to all ministry or program pages.
Children: Most families want to know what to expect for their children. Be clear about whether they are included in the main service, or if they are dismissed to their own service. There should be no confusion on this issue at any point for. Also, make it clear that families can choose to keep their children with them in the main service.
Make it absolutely clear that you have a plan to protect children from any harm. Describe exactly what your protocols are and how you screen and train your volunteers who will work with the children. Include links to any outside regulations or certifications adhered to by your church and denomination.
Youth: Provide clear information on what ages these programs are for and when they meet. Include the same safety protocols as with the children.
Small Groups: Most churches have some form of small groups. Explain how yours function and how someone can join a group.
Other programs: Let people see what you offer and where they can be involved.
Have at least a few recent sermons recorded and available to download on your website. People might want to hear a sermon before attending, so they know what to expect.
There are many other options, but remember that the target audience for your website is new people. Yes, there are some pages that might be for in-house information, but the primary audience should be the newcomer.
If you would like to improve your “front door”, you can check out a Website Audit here. Call me if you would like some coaching help to improve your front door welcome.
Keep looking up!