There was a time, not too long ago, when faith-based websites were seen as a little behind the times in terms of design and ease of use. But these days, churches, synagogues, temples and other faith-based groups have some of the best-designed and innovative sites on the web. Although faith-based websites have many traits in common with business websites, they are, in fact, different in the way they connect to users.
Here are 5 things you can do to inspire others with your faith-based website.
1. Choose warm words of welcome
Just as you would welcome with open arms a new or potential member who walks into your place of worship, you want to extend a warm welcome online, as well. A welcome message on your homepage telling visitors who you are and what you stand for lets them know right away they’ve come to the right place, and that they will find what they are looking for, not only on your website, but within your organization.
You should keep your message brief – one to two lines – and inspirational. You can go more into depth about the specifics of your organization on your About Us page, so on your homepage, simply let your faith shine through in your words, and you’re sure to make a connection.
2. Homepage focus: members or the message?
These days, many faith-based organizations use visually striking images on their homepage to set the tone. Some organizations choose to focus on the members of their church, while others focus on the message.
Following are two examples of organizations that use images in two very different ways. The first is New Life Presbyterian Church which has a slideshow of changing images on its homepage, all focused on its members:
The second organization, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Victoria, focuses more on the message of the organization:
Unlike a business website, which wants to show off a product or a service, a faith-based website should choose an image that tells a story – the story of a group of people and their faith. It’s up to you to choose the tone of that story, whether it’s casual or deeply reverential.
3. Easy does it
With any website, ease of use is something that always must be taken into consideration. Visitors to faith-based websites are looking to be inspired. The worst thing would be for them to leave your page feeling frustrated because they couldn’t easily navigate your site. Including a sitemap on the homepage will help visitors navigate your site easily and effectively.
Also, make sure a listing of worship services is easily found, as is your contact information. Your organization’s address, phone number, and email address should be found in multiple locations on your site, including on a Contact Us page, which should also include a map pinpointing your location for those who take in information visually, and directions from major freeways for those who prefer written instructions.
It may seem like overkill to include such detailed contact information, but just remember that while some are coming to your site looking for inspiration, others are just looking for directions.
4. Desire to inspire
While some people who visit faith-based websites are simply seeking contact information, some may be looking for something more – guidance or acceptance, or even a spiritual family. Don’t be afraid to show off the things that make your organization amazing, whether it’s a page dedicated to photos of your congregation, or a blog with stories of inspiration submitted by your members. You want visitors to your site to see themselves happily joining your organization in worship.
5. Stay connected
One of the most important things you can do for your organization is stay connected to others via social media. Make sure that if you set up a Facebook page or Twitter account, you keep it updated frequently. There’s no point setting up a page if it’s going to go forgotten a month later. Many faith-based organizations are either hiring social media managers, or finding members of their congregations to volunteer their time managing social media accounts.
A weekly or monthly email newsletter is also a good way to stay connected, and to let parishioners know of upcoming events or changes to service times. A button can easily be installed on your website asking people to sign up for your newsletter. Like with social media, though, the newsletter will only be a benefit if you’re consistent with it, so make sure you have the time to invest before asking people to sign up.
Faith-based websites have become essential resources for spiritual organizations looking to make a connection with those in their community on a much larger level. Follow these 5 tips, and your site is sure to stand out among organizations of faith and spirituality.