Church Website FAQ: Bucks, Privacy, and Pastoral Issues

Church internet consultants answer frequent questions about the same topics.

Church internet consultants answer frequent questions about the same topics.

Bucks as in money. If your church doesn’t have any money to develop a website, Dave Bourgeios suggests that you at least “register your church with Google Places and similar sites so you show up in search results and make it easier for people to find you on maps.”

Neil MacQueen runs his business, Sunday Software, from Kingshill in the Virgin Islands. He’s a former pastor and now serves as parish associate at the 80-member St. Croix Reformed Church. MacQueen used wordpress.com (not wordpress.org) to build a free hosted website for his church. They pay a fee of $15 a year so that the domain name appears as www.stcroixreformed.org instead of www.stcroixreformed.wordpress.com.

“If money is an issue, it’s probably wiser to ditch a newspaper or yellow page ad for a website,” Jerod Clark advises. Many churches use Clover, a content management system (CMS) designed for people with no web experience. “For a $1,000 setup fee and $20/month after that, a church can get a template website that’s well designed, easy to use, and equipped with sermon media players, online calendars, photo galleries, and search engine optimization,” Clark writes in a Church Juice white paper.

Bucks as in “the buck stops here.” Bourgeios recommends identifying one person who’s ultimately responsible for the church website. Ideally this point person is on staff. He or she doesn’t need to know how to update the site but should work directly with people who do know how. It often works well for ministry leaders to update their own parts of the website, such as calendars, sermon podcasts, or Christian education updates. You’ll still need a team that meets regularly so that the website will evolve along with changes in ministry and technology.

Privacy issues. Google the words church website privacy to read privacy policies posted on church websites. Congregations and church internet consultants vary quite a bit on this issue. Many churches include people’s first and last names, postal addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, prayer requests, and so on in printed church bulletins and newsletters. Some post those print materials as is online, while others scrub identifying information.

“When we redesigned our Friendship CRC website three years ago, we really struggled with this issue,” Mike VanLaan says. “We decided that the privacy of our members needed to be protected in many cases. Therefore, we have a 'members only' section, My FCRC, that requires people to register and login. We use it for meeting minutes, our ‘focus’ section of the bulletin (which contains names, phone numbers, e-mails, and other things that should be kept private), budget reports, and our prayer line.”

Pastoral issues. Thanks to social media technology, people expect interactivity online. In his Church Juice white paper, “10 Essential Questions to Ask Before Using a New Communications Tool,” Brian Speelman writes that dealing with pastoral questions is very important. If your church site includes email addresses or contact forms or allows visitors to comment on blog posts or post on your Facebook wall,then your web visitors may ask questions, share needs, or respond to a volunteer opportunity. Who will follow up with them, and how…by phone, email, or another way?

Corry First United Methodist Church in Corry, Penn., has a red “Need a Listening Ear?” banner on its homepage. Clicking it leads to a page where, if the green button is on, you can have a private chat with Pastor John Zimmerman and ask him to pray with you. It’s powered by AOL’s free AIM WIMZI widget. 

Comments