Directional Digital Strategy: Using your Church Website to Meet Long-term Goals

by Jeffrey Pearson

Long-term communication goals. Despite the importance of having these goals, many ministries fail to establish them. There is often a lack of recognition that long-term goals don’t mean sitting back complacently and waiting to take action in the future. 

 

Reaching long-term ministry goals starts now. So, it’s a leader’s job to determine which people and tactics to use so goals are achieved. Development of a strategy and its consolidation on a ministry website provides leaders a great place to start pursuing communication goals. 

A quality ministry website is immediate, relevant, dynamic and ongoing. 

Immediate- Once a website change is made, people that visit the website will immediately see the change. The speed with which updates can be made, and the number of people that can quickly view the updates sets websites apart from many other channels of communication. 

Relevant- Since updates and changes can be made so quickly on a website, they have the ability to reach a high level of relevancy. A website’s changes can coincide with any changes that are occurring in the ministry. This will allow the site to connect with users. 

Dynamic- There are many technological features online now that allow a website to be exciting for users. For one, several media can be incorporated on a website. This offers ministry members alternative ways to receive information other than the traditional method of simply reading information. In addition, websites are often interactive which helps ministry members build a sense of community through online conversation. 

Ongoing- Once a website is up, it stays up. People are always able to visit it and find out information. While updates may be made to the site, the site can still be viewed.  This means communicating with a website greatly minimizes lapses in the communication process. People can access the site whenever they want. With verbal communication, both parties are limited to a time when they are both available. No such restrictions exist with a website. 

For these reasons, websites are valuable in reaching long-term communication goals. Any communication tool is important, but a website stands above the rest for the reasons listed. If constructed and maintained properly, they can immediately and effectively connect with the target audience.  

With an effective website, Churches can further enhance their ministries and reach their goals online. This begins by finding an effective solution.

 

Connecting Digitally: A Restructured Website Solution for Churches

by Jeffrey Pearson

Frequently, ministries are not optimizing their websites. As a result, Church websites are often in need of help, upkeep, etc. The benefit gained from having the website is diminished when this is the case. 

Many Churches are still following the traditional model of the church website market.

The Traditional Model: Right now, Church websites are often done on a transactional basis. In other words, Churches spend a lot of money to receive a website. Design companies simply build the Church a site and hand it over. With time, this leads to an issue of relevancy; in many ways its like bailing out a sinking ship. There’s a cyclical process and a dwindling of relevancy. This ultimately results in a website that is incapable of connecting with the target audience in a meaningful way and has to be scrapped completely and replaced with a new one. The process then starts over. In short, churches are investing a lot of money on websites that have a shelf life in regards to relevancy. 

The new model for Church websites addresses these glaring issues and sets churches up for greater communication success online.  

The New Model: After their construction, websites need to be constantly maintained because not only is the online realm always changing, but ministries are always changing as well. Due to these changes, websites need to be tweaked frequently so that they are kept timely and relevant. This will avoid a drop in effectiveness over time, and ensure the website is constantly fresh. This new model of Church websites features continuous service that can maintain a high level of relevancy on church websites. Rather than totally redesigning a website once it is ineffective, the new model features a proactive approach that updates websites before there is a drop in relevancy. The key to this is the idea that a website unlike the old model, is not a simple transaction; it’s a relationship. Websites should not be constructed and pawned off to Ministries. An agency should build the site and then provide the Church with assistance for the entire life of the website. This is a great way to enhance a Church’s online presence.      

Each Church has its own specific needs, passions and pursuits. Because of this, how you structure your website is extremely important. Remember, relevancy is becoming more and more important, especially in this new age. 

Want to hear about some ways you can adapt into the new model and keep your website relevant? Check out our BlendFive solution.

How to Best Hire a Designer

by Stephen Tisch

At some point you're going to need, want, or discuss hiring a designer. Here are some things to think through!

Maybe you are looking for a designer or agency to do some work for you, and maybe you are even capable of spending a good chunk of change in order to receive value. We've all - at one point or another - hired the wrong company, and it's quite a painful process. As you continue your search for the perfect designer or team, remember the three R's: Relationship, Responsive, and Reliability. 


Relationships: In life, business, and even ministry, relationships are the currency of power. 

Having a personal relationship with the designer or agency that you are working with is crucial to the success of your project. Relationship's build rapport, create trust, evoke accountability, and intertwine your missions. A good question to ask is, "is this team more concerned about the relationship or the transaction?" 


Responsive: A team's responsiveness highlights their care. 

A team's level of responsiveness highlights their care for both the client and the project. Also, we live in a mobile world. The majority of your website's visitors will be coming from a mobile device; this is why your designer should be building with responsive design (this is different than creating a mobile website). Responsive design means that your designs will automatically reformat to the device(s) they are being viewed upon.


Reliability: A team's reliability reflects their integrity. 

As you look into the reliability of your potential designer or agency, think about whether or not their products, platforms, and perspectives have your organizations future & capabilities in mind. Be careful not to let them put the cart before the horse. Your employed designer should also support their products; again, think relationship, not transaction. 

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

- Martin Luther King Jr. 


Whether hiring a designer is a need, want, or simply a discussion, remember the three R's and you'll be just fine. If you have any questions, I'd love to help. As always, have a blessed day! 

Stephen Tisch
Agency Director 
steve@sheepishdesign.org
 

Top 5 church website design mistakes

by Luke Frederick

As 2013 wraps up we think forward with communication. Here are the top 5 church website design mistakes in our opinion. 

  1. Not using header tags correctly and increasing the size of text instead. While this may bring prominence to the phrase in your text, it is out of the design guidelines set by the CSS of the website. Keep things nice and neat by using header tags properly. 
  2. Rotating banners created by someone without a design gift. We understand you need to get things done on a budget, but don't sacrifice the quality of your site to do this. Once bad web banner can hurt your church's brand. This is why we have added web banner design to our monthly packages, so you don't have to worry about this anymore. 
  3. Stealing a graphic from the web that looks cool on a given site... but not on yours. When you are reactive in church website design, it can lead to liking design ideas and trying to implement it on your website. The problem is, your design may not fit the style of the element you are taking, causing your website to look slapped together. 
  4. Poor content. A great website design is only the beginning. You need clear and unified content to bring value to visitors. A common mistake is to have each department head write their own content for the web and put it online. This causes the content to look more like a mosaic than a unified brand. Pick one person on your staff to be the content brand manager and align everyones content. 
  5. Out of place navigation. Sometimes when people are put in charge of updating the church's website, they think their content is more important than everyone else. This leads to the youth group tab being in the main navigation instead of in the ministry folder. Make sure to follow good sitemap architecture. 

We hope these top 5 mistakes of church websites help you dial in your current site. If you need or want help looking at what else you can do to increase the impact of your church website, give us a call.

Do you Value the Connotation?

by Stephen Tisch

There’s a tough reality in our society. Connotations exist, and your website is not immune to this fact. As our culture becomes more and more connected online, it’s important that we understand the connotations our platforms are representing. What is the connotation of your website from the seats of your audience?

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When you value your website's connotation, your online audience values your Ministry 


50% of online sales are lost because visitors can’t find content.

This directly relates to ministries. Think of it this way, if the website is difficult to navigate, interpret and understand, you’re going to lose potential visitors and members. As and agency, we’ve created a solution to help with this. See it in action here. We call it the Mega-Pull. It’s an information architecture that serves up relevant information to a specific audience member in a relevant and effective way. 

More than ¾ of the population is online.

This is your congregation, potential members, community partners, etc. The reality is that the individuals surrounding your ministry are online. Have you thought about what connotations your website portrays to these audiences? 

72% of online consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

As a ministry, one aspect of importance is always community, trust and spiritual integrity. Your website also represents this through things like testimonies, visuals experiences and relevant designs. Your website is often the initial introduction to an individual looking to visit and/or join. It's important that our websites are appealing in a relevant, comfortable and trustworthy way.   

Have you thought about the connotations your website represents online? It's time for ministries to analyze our connotations and online presences. Join the movement here!