I Need A Favour

14 May

Dear readers, will you please do me a favour?  At my church, we are updating our website.   We need some input.  Half of our congregation were born before electricity was invented – Church of England; did you guess? – and wouldn’t know the internet or computers if they jumped up to byte them on the butt, so it’s no good asking them.  The other half is me.

Would you mind answering a few questions?

  • Would you ever look at a church website?
  • If so, why?
  • What would you expect to find on a church website?
  • What would you like to find on a church website?

To add to your goodness, would you mind taking a quick look at the website as it is, and telling me what’s wrong with it?  And what, if anything, is right with it?

Also, if you have links to other church websites, please share.

Please leave all comments below, and don’t worry about hurting my feelings: if ever a website needed an overhaul, it’s ours.  That much I do know.

Thanks 🙂

71 Responses to “I Need A Favour”

  1. vivinfrance May 14, 2012 at 14:27 #

    Punctuation, for a start – but you knew that, being chief of the punctuation police. It could be more lively visually, and maybe the odd joke or levity wouldn’t come amiss: I’m convinced that God does have a sense of humour, but the tone of the site is a bit clinical. Joking apart,

    I had to search to find anything for children and youth – shouldn’t they be on the front page?

    If you boil it down to essentials, look at your ‘market’ – ie regular parishioners looking for service times, who to contact for emergencies or special occasions
    OR newcomers looking for a welcoming community.

    How about a poll of favourite hymns? ask for contributions of original prayers, names of people to pray for.

    Is this the kind of thing you wanted

    Like

  2. Roly May 14, 2012 at 14:40 #

    I would dress up the front page with pictures of the various ministries linked to their individual pages and includes names and phone numbers of someone who heads up that ministry. I have found that most people prefer the picture tour, rather than the sidebar click. Do both if you have the space. Add short personal messages from the leaders of the ministries and grow each page from their with pictures of past activities. A map of the street address could help too.

    Like

  3. Scott Murray May 14, 2012 at 14:43 #

    Hi, I’ve just recently taken to reading blogs and stumbled across your post. My son-in-law is in the process of creating my website for my woodturning, however co-incidentally, he is also in the final stages of finishing off this website for a church: http://www.moraykirk.co.uk Perhaps this will give you some inspiration. Feel free to contact them, their website is http://www.polarisdesign.co.uk I’m sure they’d be pleased to hear from you. I hope all goes well with your website. Kind Regards, Scott.

    Like

    • Tilly Bud May 15, 2012 at 11:41 #

      Thank you, Scott. I appreciate you stopping by 🙂

      Like

  4. alienhippy May 14, 2012 at 14:45 #

    Tilly, I will email you my comment. Love and hugs. Lisa. xx 🙂

    Like

  5. SchmidleysScribbling May 14, 2012 at 14:54 #

    Okay, as a crass materialistic American and proud of it, I think you need to pander to tourists. All churches need money and as a chronic visitor of churches and cathedrals, I know most churches have a place for donations. It you don’t want to have such a location on your web site, then at least add a ‘history’ of your church and a message that all visitors (especially American tourists??) are welcome.

    Some of my best memories in England and other parts of Europe are associated with visits to churches and cathedrals. I go out of my way to visit them in fact. One question I have: “Is the stained glass original?” Either way, tell its story. Also, my husband loves organ music and one of our best times was listening to the organ in those wonderful acoustical churches. Dianne

    Like

  6. misswhiplash May 14, 2012 at 14:56 #

    I used to belong to a church and had they had a website I would most definitely have read it…mainly because it is communication within the family of the church…
    I would expect to see all the current news, interesting things that happen to people not just those in the church but Outreach as well..
    I would expect it to be a happy welcoming place..somewhere that you really wanted to be. It would also have to be encouraging for those who were not churchgoers. Not an easy balance to get but I think that it would be worthwhile

    Like

  7. misswhiplash May 14, 2012 at 15:06 #

    It’s me again… Having answered your questions before I looked at the website as it is ..I will say that it does have all the things which I asked for but….and there is always a but… I would like to see it brighter and more cheerful. At the moment it is stodgy and middle aged..it needs to be vibrant and alive… Get into the 21st century

    Like

  8. Patti May 14, 2012 at 15:06 #

    The first thing I look for in a church website is a “what we believe” type of link. I am including our church website. Also specific details about ministries and staff are important – when I found our church, I knew I had found the right place when I saw that among the ministries, there was a link about hiking and backpacking and in the bios of the staff, I saw that there were folks who were from places we had lived in even though we were now far away from all we had known before.

    I’ll look your website over and let you know of any other ideas.

    http://www.valleypresbyterian.org/

    Like

    • Patti May 14, 2012 at 16:59 #

      I really like the fact that the calendar is detailed and seems to be up to date; one thought is that when they say “contact so-and-so” about information or getting involved, they should include more than a name (i.e., email, phone number); I agree with laurieanichols below, that with a church like this, it would be interesting to have a section on some of the history.
      I like the fact that there are photos of past activities
      For me, the appearance of the home page needs some bolder color, not so much white space – though I do like white background for print – just more pictures or graphics along the edges or something.

      Like

  9. laurieanichols May 14, 2012 at 15:07 #

    I never look at church websites, I don’t go to church. But if I did, I would love to know the history of my church, the background of the clergy, calendar of events, sermons from the past, outside activities, the feeling that I would be able to learn as much about my church community as possible. If that helps.

    Like

  10. laurieanichols May 14, 2012 at 15:15 #

    Looking over your readers comments, I see that I’m not the only one to say something without looking at the website first, lol. I agree with misswhiplash, the website is very informative except for the history of the particular church, but that is only me, I love knowing when old churches are built. The website could use a makeover to make it more uplifting and cheerful.

    Like

  11. roughseasinthemed May 14, 2012 at 15:54 #

    1) Unlikely
    2) Architectural photos
    3) Irrelevant
    4) Architectural photos

    Like

    • Tilly Bud May 15, 2012 at 11:47 #

      😀 Thanks. I think this is my favourite answer 🙂

      Like

      • roughseasinthemed May 15, 2012 at 11:59 #

        Oh good. Do I get a prize?

        I could have given you the benefit of my whizzy journalistic/graphic design expertise about the site, but everyone else has done that.

        Who do you want to read it though? I don’t think you said that. That would determine how you structure/write/photo etc the whole thing.

        Like

        • Tilly Bud May 15, 2012 at 12:01 #

          We will have two audiences: the congregation, and people searching for answers. We know we have to find a balance.

          I’ll probably be asking you all in September if we’ve found it. 🙂

          Like

          • roughseasinthemed May 15, 2012 at 12:03 #

            OK. That will exclude me on both counts then 🙂 Just as well I didn’t tell you what I thought.

            Like

            • Tilly Bud May 15, 2012 at 12:05 #

              You can definitely tell me what you thought! I have a thick skin 😉

              Like

  12. gigihawaii May 14, 2012 at 16:25 #

    I don’t go to church, so I am the last person you should ask. Lol. Good luck.

    Like

  13. SammyDee May 14, 2012 at 16:53 #

    Hmmm, I’m trying to leave a comment but WordPress says I’ve already left one… If this message is duplicated please delete the first! What I was trying to say is:

    Hi Tilly, I’m a Manchester Church-goer and yes I do look at Church websites. I mainly visit to check service times and special events, which should only take a moment or two but I love it when the website sucks me in. I can honestly say that I read your Churches website for longer than I normally would – and not because you asked me to.

    I would like to see the website brightened up with bright, colourful and clear / crisp images (on a plain white background to make them stand out) but as far as content is concerned I think it’s currently more informative and interesting than most others I’ve read so I’d be very disappointed if they slimmed it down.

    I personally like the menu at the left hand side – Quick reference for when you need something in a hurry but plenty of interesting categories to come back to when you have more time. (In response to Roly’s suggestion of a picture tour).

    On the events and calendars pages they should add a few sentences for all the items. E.g. explain what the events actually are and what will happen, plus add a contact email for enquires for each. (They’ve done this for some items but apparently not for the bits that intrigued me). I’d also like to see links to other pages / articles within the website relating to similar / previous events.

    I like what Patti wrote about interesting bios of the team. The personalities influence which Churches we attend and for which services – If they’re interesting people shout about it. It gives us newbies something to talk about when we meet them.

    Other than times and general info I visit Church websites to find out what’s happening in the community including social groups, volunteering and non Church related issues. Your website already covers most of these this but many don’t touch them.

    The website also currently covers some areas I didn’t know I wanted, such as ‘From the Bible’ and ‘Prayer Chain’. These are the things that would make me recommend this site / Church.

    Your Parishes website it far better than most: For me I’d like the same content with a refreshed look – simple design and large colourful images.

    The websites I use most often are Manchester Cathedral:
    http://www.manchestercathedral.org/default and St Annes: http://www.stannsmanchester.com/

    Apologies for the essay!

    Like

    • SammyDee May 15, 2012 at 09:41 #

      Publishing my response twice is cheating you know!(Although it all counts towards the comments count at the end of the year. ;-))

      Like

      • Tilly Bud May 15, 2012 at 11:49 #

        But I didn’t publish it twice! I’m an honest blogger, I am!

        Thanks 🙂

        Like

        • SammyDee May 15, 2012 at 13:22 #

          Lol, thank you for deleting it. 🙂 WordPress was messing me around not letting me type, then saying I wasn’t logged in, then not showing what I’d submitted. The links must have sent it for authorisation but it didn’t say that! I’ll have to remember that for next time or you might get 8 or 9 of the same messages.

          Like

          • Tilly Bud May 16, 2012 at 09:12 #

            Everyone seems to be having WP problems of one sort or another lately.

            Like

  14. Helen Cherry May 14, 2012 at 17:01 #

    I don’t dom church being an Athiest but I had a look anyway Tilly and frankly it’s as dull as dishwater.. the church wants to attract people they need to provide a bit of Pzazz ( or however you spell that! )
    It also needs to be up to date.. there’s stuff on the children’s page from 2011!
    Music would be really good too..

    Like

    • Tilly Bud May 15, 2012 at 11:53 #

      Thanks Helen. I appreciate you looking even though you are an athiest 🙂

      Like

  15. sanstorm May 14, 2012 at 17:04 #

    I look at church websites – if I am travelling and hoping to go to one.
    First up I want a clear statement of faith, so that I know I am not going to have to listen to mince theology that is going to do my head in.
    What would be GREAT but is rarely there is an explanation of what HAPPENS – such as – “enter by the door on the left . You will be met by the welcome team who will…..
    Your children will be…..
    There is a creche…..”
    You have this kind of bumff on the notice sheet, but on the website would be good. Visitors need to feel that they are not walking into the dark.
    Also things like “communion service” mean nothing. Put it into layman’s terms.
    Some visitors care about the style of music. (I don’t – as long as the sermon is not going to be awful)
    I know people who like a sample podcast available.
    I HATE the centred text on the site. But maybe that’s just me.
    Hope that helps 🙂

    Like

  16. sanstorm May 14, 2012 at 17:30 #

    If it was my own church… I would want a quick link to the notices, basic reminders – such as what passages we are going to look at on the Sunday. Personally I’d like mug-shots, bios and links to blogs of the main speakers/pastors.
    This one isn’t my church but a reli is the webmaster for this one:
    http://www.newtonmearnsbaptist.org.uk/
    Quite funky although it doesn’t display correctly on my iphone.

    Like

  17. Barbara Sullivan May 14, 2012 at 17:30 #

    It feels a little separated visually; integrating pictures and text better could become a metaphor for inclusiveness, integrity, connection, and other values. I liked the selections and labels in the From the Bible section, though I might give the link a more apt title–I think people sometimes go to church websites when they’re in need of comfort or inspiration.

    Here’s a link to my hometown church website. I’m not a fan of the color scheme, but I do like the prominent horizontal drag-down menu bar that makes finding things easier, and the up-front mission/philosophy statement. There’s also a link under Worship to several years’ worth of sermons for people who are housebound, who just want to hear what the minister had to say again, or who are searching for the reasons I mentioned above.

    http://www.fcceugene.org/index.html

    Like

    • Tilly Bud May 15, 2012 at 11:55 #

      Thanks Barbara 🙂

      It’s nice to see you; it’s been a while 😦

      Like

  18. Pseu May 14, 2012 at 17:32 #

    Milly’s church has a very active website and films meetings so that those who can’t go can see them
    http://www.stm-upton.org.uk/

    Upton, Wirral, not too far from you? 🙂

    Like

    • Pseu May 14, 2012 at 17:35 #

      the ‘Sunday at Seven’ is interesting…
      though I’ve never been – a bit too religious for me…..

      Like

  19. Rorybore May 14, 2012 at 17:37 #

    Oh, yours is by far much, much better than my own churchs’ website — when I can even find the darn thing. Ours is pretty much a blank page right now, and I wonder if it is due to the same questions: what the heck to do with it?
    From a personal opinion, if I consider how I would to like to ours improve, I’d say there should be 2 components: a) for the parishers; thus any relative information regarding activities, sermon times/messages, children and youth programming, Mission statement, budget, etc. etc. and, b) a section for visitors that gives more information about the church, its congregation and how it relates, or functions with it’s community outside the church walls.
    I think in these times, people really want to see a better, more compassionate connection between the church and the society it is supposed to serve with love. They want to see that the church is “involved”…..not just something that remains behind closed doors unto itself. Our own theme is “building bridges”…. and that is what we are committed to doing without our little community.

    Like

  20. sanstorm May 14, 2012 at 17:44 #

    Sorry. Me again.
    I think the trouble with church websites is the dual audience. Who is your audience for the site and what is your purpose? Is it to inform potential members or to be a hub for current members?
    Anyway – here’s my church’s website:
    http://www.maxwellmearns.org.uk/
    I find it useful, but I don’t think it’s a crowd puller, really!

    Like

  21. Hattie May 14, 2012 at 19:46 #

    How about the pic of the altar you have above and a calendar that looks like a calendar instead of a list of stuff? That would be visually much better. And I don’t care for the father and son throwing their arms up in the air. Is that supposed to be groovy? And the musical instrument parts? What’s that about? Why not some pix of actual services and maybe a link to the musical offerings? A You Tube clip or something.
    You want to convey an impression of warmth, welcoming, community.

    Like

  22. kiwidutch May 14, 2012 at 23:09 #

    Ok… I’ll jump in and say that these days Churches are different things to different people.

    – First.. for the services they offer… the site needs show people that it would be an stunning place to hold their once in a life-time experiences such as a wedding service or baptism, (good quality photos obligatory) and a suitably respectful place for a funeral.

    – the times of regular services needs to to to the point and easily seen without too much searching around (maybe with possibility of into in bigger font sizes for elderly parishioners)

    – all contact details need to be clear and to the point, a grieving relative or someone wanting help shouldn’t have to search…

    – a clear page for each group who use the church or each church event… lots of photos to make things lively and interesting and inviting… these should include times, dates and all necessary information as well as an idea of what will be taking place: … also contact info for people wanting to know more. Seperate pages could be for: sunday school page, youth group page, toddler page, the church Fair page, the Christmas Play, Christmas services , Easter pages etc

    – a “real” calendar” would be better than a list I think…

    – warm smiling photos of the pastor and pastoral staff are needed with a short bio and contact details. people need to see who they want and how to reach them. It also gives an idea if this is the church in an area I’m visiting I’d like to attend or if I think the one down the road would suit me better.

    – add a personal history page… where people put in accounts of events that took place there, funny events, wartime events, special events etc …stories that make the history of the place personal…

    – genealogists are interested in churches … maybe it’s possible to put birth, marriage and death records (older than 100 years for living people’s privacy) on-line for people tracing family trees to search.

    – genealogists are also interested in gravestones, families are now routinely scattered around the world, if you have individual photos of gravestones (older than 100 years old?) then I know there are people who love this sort of information as they search into their family roots.

    – people interested in the bricks and mortar of the church building itself… it’s full history, carvings, architecture, masonry etc (as many photos as possible historical and present day more or less obligatory)

    – people are really interested in things like stained glass… again, the more photos and the closer up the better. (know anyone with a small cherry-picker you could borrow?)
    People travel around the world to see great examples of stained glass up close and personal… and it makes for a more “complete” website of everything the Church is.

    – the balance between photos and text could be about 2000% better… the site need to be an advert for everything the church wants to sell… humanity, warmth, fun, security, hope, friendliness, faith and support.

    Please don;t shoot me for such a long list… you did ask LOL!

    Like

  23. Elaine May 14, 2012 at 23:13 #

    I would really only look at a church website to find out the times of services, sunday school or any other meetings that might be on during the week. If I was travelling to a church I didn’t know for a wedding or christening, it might be useful to have directions, or a link to google maps.

    If I looked at a church website I would expect to find service times, an address, and some general information about the church – who the minister/vicar is, what sort of activities the church has, perhaps the type of services that they hold.

    I wrote the above before I looked at your website.

    It seems to have the things I would expect to find. I would have preferred the list on the left of the page to be a slightly larger font to make it stand out more. I think the colour scheme on the home page is a bit too cold for my liking, although purple is a good ‘churchy’ colour.

    I’ve never looked at a church website before, and it’s much more comprehensive than I thought it would be.

    Like

  24. judithatwood May 14, 2012 at 23:42 #

    Hi, Tilly Bud. Your newsletter is quite thorough in disseminating the structure, schedule, and mission of the church. My single biggest suggestion is to humanize — little flowers around the title, or shoot the lay leaders together in one shot — those three do not do them any favors. You have scads of information, all so important to the church’s members and supporters. I’m not trying to be flippant when I say you might be well served by lightening up just a little — more clip art, fewer columns of info with no break. I wish the churches I served had this thorough attention to detail. And you might want to think about making the header more accessible. Any two people, back to, are harder to relate to than any people facing forward, smiling.

    You have a solid foundation, which is paramount. You’ll figure out the rest. Good luck!

    Like

  25. judithatwood May 14, 2012 at 23:45 #

    One other thing — many newsletters benefit from listing different kind of info on one page, and then continuing on a page specific to that topic. That might work. Again, good luck — if you can add your native light and joyfulness to it, you’ll hit a home run, or so I think!

    Like

    • Tilly Bud May 15, 2012 at 12:03 #

      Thanks Judith 🙂

      Like

      • judithatwood May 15, 2012 at 12:15 #

        Please don’t think of my comments as anything but support for your already great blog. I realized I might have been a little preachy. 😎

        Like

        • Tilly Bud May 15, 2012 at 12:16 #

          Not at all! Everything is valid, and I appreciate you taking the time to respond.

          Like

  26. jmgoyder May 15, 2012 at 03:44 #

    Everything on a church’s website should be brief, incisive and compelling – big font for the elderly, graphics for the youngerly.

    Like

  27. The Wanderlust Gene May 15, 2012 at 11:22 #

    Tilly, I hope this doesn’t repeat.

    Really, what is the purpose of the site? Why was that rather disjointed mission statement the the first thing to come up on the home page? I think the theme needs to be 1000% more visual, more welcoming and ‘human’.

    It looks like a beautiful old building, but the couple of photos look very empty and lifeless – as one suspects the church is, too often?

    If you’re aiming to reach your natural congregation, you need to show them around, make the church and the activities around it, and any other buildings welcoming, and representative of your fellowship group to entice them back to the regular services, and to participate in the work of the parish.

    If you’re aiming to attract Christians looking for inspiration or help, I didn’t feel there was much there, without searching. And where’s the welcome?

    You need stories, with illustrations. Does the Vicar speak well? Publish his (edited?) sermons, complete with illustrations. Feature stories about the work of the parish, the people of the parish, its institutions … Where once it was a given that the church was the natural centre of the community, now you need to show how relevant it still is within the community.

    Lol
    m

    Like

  28. Tilly Bud May 15, 2012 at 12:10 #

    I haven’t answered each comment in detail – or at all, really! – because I’m going to take them away and discuss them with my team

    I want to thank you for the level of thought you have put into your answers. They are going to be enormously helpful as we re-build the website.

    I keep saying it, but I really do have the best readers!

    Thank you all 😀

    Like

  29. sarsm May 15, 2012 at 16:18 #

    I’m late to the party. Again!!

    Reading through previous comments I think people are suggesting quite a mix!!

    I think it’s very dependant on your audience…

    I’ll confuse the mix a bit and say I really liked the father and son header, though I thought the side pictures detracted from it, somewhat. I also liked the sidebar menu. That would be my personal choice over pictures because it states quite clearly and simply where the information is.

    The last time I went on a church website I wanted to look up the vicar that had previously worked there. I think it would be nice to have a page about previous vicars. It may sound a bit odd but I think vicars can have a huge effect on peoples lives and so it might be nice to commemorate them or have a ‘where are they now’ piece.

    I think a google map link is an essential.

    I love the ideas above about the history of the church itself. I think that would interest a lot of people.

    Perhaps a kind of newsletter about what’s happening in the parish. It could include anything from births, deaths, weddings and Christenings to fund-raising events to coffee mornings to well, whatever you desire really. Perhaps people could even subscribe to the newsletter part.. I know you have a lot of these things on the page but they could become more joined together as one form. The calendar could also be incorporated.

    I think there could be more photos and they could be more exciting. Perhaps you could invite art students from a local school/college to take pictures (or even draw/paint) for you and pick favourites in the form of a competition. You could even host the whole thing as a church event in the church hall, setting up a gallery for a few days for people from the parish (and further afield) to come and see and give their opinion.

    You could also add information that’s useful to people in your parish (so they come to your page first and perhaps click around). Like the local weather forecast. You could even go as far a side page advertising local trustworthy business. Instead of advertising themselves they could be recommended by members of the parish (perhaps several?). – You mentioned a lot of elderly people may read your website. You would then be providing a community service for people who nowadays, may feel vulnerable about which workmen to trust.

    OK. I’m getting carried away now!!

    Good luck with it! I’m looking forward to seeing the transformation!

    Like

    • Tilly Bud May 16, 2012 at 09:18 #

      Better late than never!

      Thanks for your input 🙂

      Like

  30. eof737 May 15, 2012 at 21:25 #

    They need a better template that uses warm inviting colors. Right now, it is bland and dull. More information on the church and its offerings would be great. First change that dull template. 😉

    Like

  31. katharinetrauger May 16, 2012 at 05:27 #

    1. Would you ever look at a church website? Absolutely!
    2. If so, why? As a parishioner, I look at ours often to remind me of what I forgot, schedule-wise. As a new-comer to town, I would seek one to learn about the churches around me in my new place. As a disgruntled parishioner in another church, I might use it to sort of window shop.
    3. What would you expect to find on a church website? Schedules, lists of activities, photo, map, address, phone, office hours, email address, constantly refreshing Bible verses, statement of doctrinal beliefs, list of elders’ names, names of pastors, projected sermon topics, sound recordings of most recent sermons, maybe some singing if someone in congregation is a singer, or music if a musician, maybe pullquotes of endorsements by local important folks or even satisfied parishioners, list of outreach activity such as to nursing homes or orphanages.
    4. What would you like to find on a church website? The above.

    Like

  32. barb19 May 18, 2012 at 09:36 #

    Please add a Guest Book to the site so that people can leave messages. I say this from experience, because I had lost contact with my brother in Scotland for years, and it was through the Parish Church in the town where we were both born, that we found each other again. I left a fairly detailed message in the Guest Book on the site, and everything happened from there!
    Also, photographs of the church – people find them very interesting!
    I wish you luck!

    Like

I welcome your comments but be warned: I'm menopausal and as likely to snarl as smile. Wine or Maltesers are an acceptable bribe; or a compliment about my youthful looks and cheery disposition will do in a pinch.

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