From planning the Ash Wednesday service and coordinating Scripture studies to scheduling additional sacraments like Confession, your staff will definitely be busy this Lent. Keep things on track by preparing your parish website with all the information parishioners and visitors will be searching for.
1. Anticipate Your Searches
A 2016 survey conducted by the research group Nineteen Sixty-four found that during Lent, just under half of all U.S. Catholics (46 percent) receive ashes on Ash Wednesday. So even though it isn’t a holy day of obligation, it is heavily attended. With that in mind, make sure that people not familiar with your parish will be able to find out when Ash Wednesday service takes place.
Consider adding a special page to your website that lists all Lenten activities for your parish, such as Scripture studies, suggested reflection guides, and additional opportunities for Confession. You’ll also want to link to any additional information that might be helpful, such as an examination of conscience and guidelines for fasting and abstinence. When it comes to the matters of faith, it’s better to err on the side of caution and direct them to more information, rather than assume they know more than they actually do.
2. Rethink Navigation
For those who work in and for the church, it can be hard to separate our way of thinking from insider to outsider. While we might know the significance of various customs and rules in the Catholic Church, more likely the average Catholic won’t have a need to learn about them. That’s why it’s important to keep the information you have on your website to the very essentials.
Think of your website like the front porch to your parish. You don’t need to display everything you have and everything the church offers all in one swoop. Something simple, easy to read, and with little effort to navigate is all that is needed. According to a survey conducted by Brafton, the average website session duration is 2 minutes, 17 seconds. You need to give them the basic information that will move them from the front porch (website) and into the living room (parish).
Make sure that the Mass and Confession times and address and phone number are easily found on your website. If you have special services or additional sacraments scheduled, add them as well. The rest of the information you have is just gravy.
3. Make It Mobile
Another discovery recorded in an updated Sweor survey found that if a website is poorly designed, or not optimized for a mobile or tablet device, the less time people will spend on it and the more likely they’ll distrust the organization. With that in mind, make sure that your website is simple, clean, and attractive.
Remember: images should be sized for your website (not pixilated) and content should be written for your audience (avoid “church-speak.”). Consider adding Mass times somewhere on the homepage so that visitors don’t need to dig too hard through your website to find out what time you gather on Sunday. And keep your contact information in the footer.
4. Offer Lenten Resources
There are so many different programs out there for Catholics to get the most out of Lent. Gather a list of free or cost-effective programs, and publish them on your website for those looking to dive a little deeper this Lent.
Some things to consider are daily email reflections from Dynamic Catholic, small videos from Ascension Press/Fr. Mike Schmitz, and Word on Fire/Bishop Robert Barron, as well as simple children’s pages for them to follow along with the Sunday Gospel. (You can find children’s Gospel resources on LPi’s WeCreate platform. Be sure to let your parishioners know either through the weekly bulletin or the pulpit that these items have been added to the website.)