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Technology
The advantages available on the web to your church are so vast and inexpensive that churches not taking advantage of them are really missing out.  The list below is not comprehensive, but gives a good starting point for your church when thinking about starting or re-developing their web presence.
  1. Don’t overcomplicate your domain name.– If it’s your churches name, use it, even if it’s long.  Most first time visitors or people looking for your church are not going to know the “inside names” or nicknames you have for the church.  They are also not going to know your church’s mission or other statement you use. – Now there is nothing wrong with purchasing those other names and forwarding them to your main site, but the main URL needs to be your churches name spelled out.
  2. Use caution when hiring a relative, close friend, high school student or church member who says they can do it.Every church has dealt with it, contracting with a member or friend. While in theory it’s not a big deal, when it comes time to a problem, it becomes a big deal.  Don’t give your website development project to someone without experience. – I’ll admit there was a day when we were there. Scrapping along for and building sub-par websites.  What that taught me was that your churches web presence is too important to entrust to someone with no credentials. – But Sue needs a job. That’s fine, give her benevolence, make her do odd jobs around the church.  The church’s website is often the first impression people will get of your church. – Bobby built a site using Website Tonight (or insert another free tool here), he says he’s a web designer. There are tools that make building a website fairly simple and give some people an over-inflated sense of ability.  Just because someone has used one of these tools doesn’t mean they will be able to meet your needs.  Speaking of tools…
  3. Use free tools sparingly.– We are all very well aware of the amount of free and inexpensive church web tools that are available.  Just remember, like everything, you get what you pay for.  Just because it’s free and does the job, doesn’t mean it’s the best solution for you. – Often, these “free” tools come with introductory offers, restricted abilities and other issues that will end up being more hassle than you would have had if you’d paid up front.  If you must use free tools, use them sparingly and do your homework.
  4. Consider the website an investment– The website of your church is many times the first impression someone will get of your church.  You take pride in your building, make sure the grass is cut before Sunday Morning, take out the trash, clean the windows, and make sure there is no paper in the pews.  Why do you neglect what most people will see before that? – I am shocked at what some churches will spend for buildings and still have a cheap template website.  I’m also shocked of churches that have budget struggles that are not taking advantage of the vast potential on the Internet for ministry communication and opportunities.
  5. Utilize your website as a ministry of your church|– I meet with numerous pastors that have told me that they are struggling to see value in their website.  When I ask how they utilize the site, its usually the same answer.  They put basic info on it and let it sit. – Take advantage of the communication opportunity.  Link your site to Social Media and utilize it for your church.
  6. Create a Web Desination– This is a relatively new trend in web development, however it makes great sense.  A website is boring, bland, static, and virtually useless unless handled perfectly. – Why not create a web destination where people can get engaged and connected with your church.  Make it a resource, a place to become part of your church community.
If you’re interested or looking at finding some new ideas for your church’s web needs, I’d invite you to check us out.  We are here to be sure you are taking advantage of the huge potential available on the web for your ministry.  And just so you know, there is no church too small to not need a website! Josh Henry is a Managing Partner with theChurchBusinessGuys.com.  They partner with churches to handle their business operations so the church leaders can focus on ministry.  Everything from accounting to design, they have resources designed to meet “Virtaully Everything for Church” You can contact Josh at josh@thechurchbusinessguys.com check out their website at www.thechurchbusinessguys.com or call 618-283-9542.
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Trends
A new study out from LifeWay Research looks at the topic of how churches use their websites… Here are some of the findings from the LifeWay website: The survey of 1,003 Protestant churches found that while 78 percent have a website, less than half of those congregations use their sites for interactive purposes like obtaining and distributing prayer requests (43 percent), registering people for events and activities (39 percent) and automating more church processes (30 percent). A majority of congregations with a website use it for one-way communication, the survey revealed. A full 91 percent provide information to potential visitors online and 79 percent provide information to the congregation. Fifty-seven percent encourage increased attendance and involvement among the congregation and 52 percent solicit interest in ministry or volunteer opportunities. “Many churches are using their website like a Yellow Pages ad characterized by basic information and infrequent updates,” said Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research. “This is in sharp contrast with churches that use their website like a bustling church receptionist registering people for upcoming events, collecting prayer requests and obtaining volunteers. “There is nothing wrong with using a church website to simply give directions to the church or state the church’s beliefs,” McConnell added. “However, we must realize that more and more people expect to be able to interact online without having to drive or make a phone call to the church.” Larger churches are more likely than their smaller counterparts to use their websites interactively. Among churches with a website, 69 percent of churches with 500 or more in average worship attendance register people for events or activities online, but only 25 percent of churches with one to 49 attendees do the same. Fifty-two percent of congregations with 500 or more attendees seek to use their website to “allow more processes at (their) church to be automated,” compared with 15 percent of churches with one to 49 attendees. In contrast, large and small churches are about equally as likely to use their websites to provide information to potential visitors. There is also little difference between large and small churches using their websites to provide information to their congregation. You can read more here… QUESTION:  How interactive is your website?  Do you do online sign-ups?  Do you offer on-line giving?  Are you plugged into twitter and facebook? How has the web changed the way you are doing ‘interactive’ ministry? Todd
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