Ever since I took over my church’s website, I have thought about two things: its purpose and what would happen when I leave the church. I have previously examined the church website’s purpose but want to look at what would happen if I left. It is important in the light of updating the church’s website. Because of course, if I leave the website could be left as it is.
Having inherited a site that I could not update and which left me with little control, I decided to make sure that anyone taking over the site would be able to continue where I left off, or at least do there own thing. No one plans to leave a church, but various factors (such as house prices, work etc.) will surely lead us away from our current church in due course. And while I will be willing for someone to contact me, I do not want to continue to be responsible for the site. That is one of the reasons while I selected wordpress, so that I could get people on board to update the site even without programmatic knowledge.
Jim Waters has looked at his church’s website, which is of a similar size to my church’s, and asks the question: ‘is it worthwhile updating a church website regularly?’ His argument is that only a handful of people actually look at the site and the majority of these are church members. In otherwords, they do not find out anything on the church’s website that they do not already know. Jim Waters says that while he posted the bulletin contents online, church members pick a printed copy up on Sunday, so all this information is repeated.
He points to a site which says that a church’s website should focus on non-believers who visit the site, as current church attenders already know everything that is on there. But I actually disagree that updates are not necessary, I think it is important to update a site, for two reasons;
- Firstly, in the end, all the church attenders will use the website to find out current information, but only provided it is updated regulary. If people miss church it is easier to go online for information than to call the church office. I use the web mostly as a first port-of-call for information (of all kinds), but clearly this will not happen for everone until more people have broadband etc. But I do think there is an inevitability about this.
- Secondly, church seekers will expect to see evidence of a vibrant community. A church website that has information but that has obviously not been updated will not make the grade. What was acceptable five years ago for a church website is not acceptable now, and what is acceptable now will not be acceptable in a further five years. Those websites that are in the embryonic stage of comunity development are just leaders in this field. Because of the size of congregations compared with nations, it will take a little longer.
Taking the effort to update a rarely read or used church website, can feel like ploughing a lonely furrow, but we have had people who have seen the church website and on that basis visited us, and then become members.