Tips for Building a Parish Website
Websites are effective ways to communicate your parish’s news, who’s who and what’s happening.
This helps the existing members of your church and those new to the area, who want to find out more. It can also help those in your community who may not attend church very often, but want to find out more about getting married, baptisms, funerals or confirmations.
Picking a website platform
There are numerous companies and web designers that can create and host a website for you.
If your local church is fortunate, you may have just such a person in your congregation who can do this for you (at a very much cheaper rate then a commercial operator).
If you are thinking about redesigning you parish website, or starting one from scratch, it’s worth putting out some feelers amongst your community to see whether someone could help. They may not even attend the church, but be happy to lend a hand and advice.
A commercial website developer, depending on the size of the website (the number of pages you have) and the complexity of what you may want to do, could easily exceed £1000s to build you a site from scratch.
Remember, website costs can generally be considered to fall into three areas.
- Building it: Costing anywhere from nothing if you know someone to potentially man thousands
- Buying a domain/url: the “www.mychurch.co.uk” bit - which might only be a matter of pounds per year
- Hosting it: where it’s saved - which can easily be in the region of £100-£300 year.
It is for parishes, clergy and the PCC to agree upon a supplier for their parish website.
However, below is a list of some of the bigger operators to help get your research started, suggested by the Diocese without recommendation or endorsement.
Some of these sites also offer a wider range of support for churches including the day-to-day management of your parish activities.
“A church near you” (entirely free) and “WordPress” (free option available) are among the cheapest options available, but if money is particularly tight and you want another free option to consider, a lot can be done through a good Facebook page, so it’s worth looking into this as an option.
If you have an existing personal Facebook profile, you can build a page for your parish that you and others (with a Facebook account) can edit - more on this can be found here - https://www.facebook.com/pages/create
Remember, no matter who you use to build your site, its day-to-day up-keep will probably be the responsibility of someone within your parish.
So make sure you have at least one suitably trained person able to access your website’s CMS (Content Management System - the behind the scenes part of a website where updates and changes to the content can be made).
A few things you should include on your website
The sky is the limit to what you might have time and be inclined to add to your website. But for a pleasurable visitor experience, the following should act as a guide.
Content is key
Be concise. A rule of thumb is that a website should have 1/3 of the words that you would put in a booklet.
Clear space is fine. Don’t cram stuff in all over the place, section out your website and make the information clear and easy to read.
Give some thought to who in your parish will be responsible for updating certain elements. Accountability is important so you know certain areas don’t fall between the gaps.
Keeping your website up-to-date will make it a useful resource as well as being important to encourage people back time and again to view the content.
The information you really should include
Your Church’s denomination
It’s sensible to include this to help people know what to expect from the start.
The address of your church
Not to be forgotten. If your parish church is tucked away and a newcomer has travelled for many miles, give them all the local details needed to find you. (sat nav friendly postcodes included!).
Have a clear to find contact page listing who’s who and how to reach them.
You should include the clergy, key PCC members and the churchwarden(s).
Events, service times and opening times
People will want to know what’s going on and when they could/should visit. Keep this section clear, updated and easily found.
Some description and history
Churches are marvellous places, full of history. Telling visitors to your website more about your church, the history, the a make-up of the congregation, services for the young or elderly, messy church etc. all go towards helping people get a feel about your church before they arrive.
Facilities and Access
Don’t forget to mention something about the access and facilities. Can someone park near your church, if not, where should they go? Is it easy to access your church or are there steps? Is there a toilet on-site? Is there tap water available, or a small café?
All these little details help people plan for their visit and should be prominent on your church website.