You’ve heard the expression “less is more,” right? Good. Put that on the back burner. We’ll get to it in a second. Right now? I want to talk about more.
There are times when more is appropriate: Ben & Jerry’s cookie dough ice cream, hugs from your toddler son, and rainy, lazy Sunday afternoons. In these cases, more is clearly better.
But more is only better until it’s not. As the late philosopher and hip-hop legend Notorious B.I.G. once eloquently stated: “Mo’ money, mo’ problems.” Much like financial gain, the church website falls victim to the same principle.
More information, more problems. More navigational items, more problems. More stock photos of people who have never been to your church, more problems.
The allure of “more” on the church website is easy to see. Adding more content – information – more stuff makes us feel productive. “We’re helping people!” we say – indiscriminately adding content to the website until it resembles a Jackson Pollock painting. Like Lloyd and Harry picking up the would-be hitman in “Dumb & Dumber” we say, “I’ve got a good feeling about you. Come on in!”
But “more” is the easy way out. “More” is for over-worked, unfocused, harried ministry staff who simply don’t have time to make a helpful church website. Why? Because simple is difficult. It’s easier to make a cluttered, hard-to-navigate website than a simple, clean, intuitive, values-focused one.
I know because I’ve been there. When I was on church staff, it was easier to give in than to fight for clarity. It was easier to make yet another page for the Underwater Basket Weavers ministry than to ask them to rethink the 50 other pages they already had. “If I add this, they’ll finally leave me alone,” I thought.
But getting a respite from the badgering cries of ministry leaders may be the least of your worries if “more is more” describes your church website philosophy.
In an early 2012 survey, 64% of church goers said their church website was important in facilitating participation in their church community. 33% said the internet was the first place they learned about their church. Lastly, 46% of people surveyed said the website played a significant role in their decision to attend their current church.
What does this mean? It means the website is your church’s new front door. It is a vital tool in connecting current and future members deeper into your church community.
Here are a few simple steps you can take to ensure your church website focuses on the right things. Remember, less really is more.
Connect the church website to your mission.
If you do nothing else, do this. Most churches have a mission (or vision) statement. Take this statement and apply it your website. You want to make disciples? Great. How are you going to do that with your website? Want to have a thriving faith community? Awesome. Connect people through your website and you’re on your way.
We spend hundreds of millions of dollars on church building campaigns in the US every year. Elaborate plans are drawn out, meetings are held, and budgets are debated and voted on – all with good reason. So why wouldn’t we take the time to do the same thing with our church website?
Develop personas for your church.
You’ll avoid the “kitchen sink” mentality for your website if you know who you’re trying to reach. Developing personas keeps your content focused on one of four groups: new visitors, regular attenders, committed members, or mature leaders. Assign a persona to each and every piece of content, no exceptions.
No persona? Then it doesn’t get published. Sorry, Charlie. Clutter doesn’t play well with others. Ensure each piece of content has a purpose before it goes live. Content, once released into the wild, doesn’t like to return to the confines of a cage.
Focus on the essentials.
When people come to your website, here’s what they want to do: Listen to and download sermons, find serving opportunities at the church, find service information (times, location, etc.), forward relevant content to others, and read visitors information.
If your website does this, stop. 99% of people won’t need more information. If they do, put the church phone number under the “contact” tab and have them call. Your website’s goal is to intelligently inform – not inundate with information.
Your website is one of the most powerful tools your church has. Ministry can (and does) happen online. You owe it to your faith community, your church staff, and yourself to think through these things with intentionality.
More is more. Until it’s not. And if you don’t know, now you know.