Fact: Technology changes at a rapid pace every day. Because of this, we as a Church need to change with it if we want to continue bringing more people through our doors. The parish website is one of the main ways that people discover a faith community. Whether someone is searching for a parish using location, worship-style, the median age of the community, or ministries available, they tend to go straight to Google for answers.
In an effort to capture these seekers, we need to make our website as user-friendly and attractive as possible. Below are 4 ways your parish can capture the latest trends and grow your congregation using your website.
1. LESS IS MORE
Society is on information overload. The answers to some of life’s deepest questions are now readily available at the touch of computer keyboard, smartphone screen, even a shout-out to Alexa. With that being the case, it isn’t necessary to stack your website with as much information as possible.
To reduce the chances of information overkill, visitors should be greeted with just the basics — a welcome message, the weekend Mass schedule, address of the parish, and a contact name, phone number and email for those who need it. Within your second tier navigation, feel free to put parish history, an explanation of the sacraments, information about your various ministries, and biographies about parish leaders and key staff.
2. QUALITY IMAGES ARE KEY
A central image for your homepage is one of today’s hottest website trends. Most commonly known as a “hero” image, it should be a high quality photo that conveys what your parish is all about. Whether that be a photo of your parish altar head on, a shot of your full congregation at Mass, a close-up of a few parish members interacting, or your pastor in the middle of his homily, these types of photos should have the ability to tell a story without saying a word.
While stock photos are acceptable, it’s best to use a photo that resonates with people, and one that they can recognize if they decide to come through your doors. A few good choices are some general photos of the chalice, a close-up of the baptismal water, or even some stained glass.
If you do decide to use a stock photo, make sure that you’re legally allowed to use it. There are a few websites that offer free images for the public to use, but most (such as Getty Images and Adobe Stock) will make you purchase.
3. MAKE SURE YOUR LINKS ARE … WELL, LINKED
Your website can be compared to a well laid-out map. The paths should be clear, the layout easy to read and attractive, and of course, it should be accurate. It’s vital that you make sure all aspects are in good working order. That means checking each and every link. You want to make sure that if someone needs to see that information, that it’s readily available to them. Clicking a broken link that goes to the wrong webpage (or worse, receives a 401 error message) gives the indication to the end user that correct information isn’t your highest priority.
4. DOUBLE CHECK YOUR MASS TIMES – THEN DOUBLE CHECK THEM AGAIN
One of the worst offenses that a parish can make is to have inaccurate information on its website. Whether that be Mass times that need to be updated, contact information of parish staff members who have long since left, or an incorrect phone number, all of the information needs to be as accurate as possible.
Make it a regular task to go online every month to check over all content. Take into consideration upcoming holy days or days where the parish office might be closed and deleting contact information of that parish staff member who no longer works there. A quick 10 minute glance at your website will do wonders for attracting potential members.