Your Church Website: How (Not!) to Update It

January 12th, 2012

I am a member of a 200-soul Missouri Synod Lutheran congregation outside the Nashville area. I have always been shocked and appalled that my church didn’t engage in what I would consider “marketing activities”—tightly-branded bulletin covers, postcards, gifts for new families, and most of all a website. Being a digital native (well, sort of) I was determined to rectify the church website situation at the very least.

So I did it. I volunteered. To be webmaster. With no end date.

A little background: I have two small children, work full time with a relatively long commute. When I made the commitment, I was finishing up my Master’s degree in what passes for free time in my world. My field of business could be described in many different ways, but most of them involve the words “digital”, “marketing”, and “eBooks” for a large Christian publishing house in Nashville.

I started off merrily enough, removing the line sketch image of the church from the homepage, finding a neat and funky graphic and some distressed backgrounds, along with a super-cool old school Typewriter font for the header. That was in March of 2010. April 2010, I continued to expand the site, adding a membership area, keeping the news and events up to date, and starting to convince my congregation that the website was the place to learn all the latest and greatest news. I set a reminder in Outlook (I’m a busy girl, right?) to guarantee that I could keep this project on track.

By September of 2010 when I next visited the site, the content I so lovingly placed there in April was painfully outdated. I was so embarrassed! I couldn’t believe that I had let my congregation down like this. I reset my Outlook reminder, re-dedicated myself to the project, and promised it would never, ever happen again. This was important work.

The next time I got on the site was to update it for Christmas 2010. Right around December 15th, I believe it was. OUCH.

It’s now January 2012, and I’ve completely given up on any hope of keeping the site updated in a timely manner. Instead of having a bunch of old and outdated material on the homepage, I changed to mostly basic static content so as not to scare any new people away. (I can just hear it: “OMG, did you see that church’s website?!? I can’t believe it is December and they still have that huge Easter image on their homepage!”)

The worst part of it all is that my pastor, God love him, is one of the most wonderful people I’ve ever known. Nearly every time I see him, he makes it a point to tell me how much he appreciates my ministry of keeping the website updated. Which only serves to make it painfully obvious that he’s never been on the site and to trigger my already overactive guilt mechanism.

I believe very strongly that church websites are a necessary tool to introduce your church family to the world. Wouldn’t you want to Google “churches in [your town]” and have your website come up first? You never know when a seeker is looking for a church home, and you need to put your best foot forward. Updated content, decent graphics, and above all your location and service times give seekers enough information to find you and do a drive-by.

Once they walk in the door, the rest is up to you.

(Full disclosure: is my church’s website. No fair commenting on my lack of design skill. In techno-speak, we call my lack of design savvy a “known issue”.)

Myca Alford is the Manager of Digital Marketing at the United Methodist Publishing House in Nashville, TN. She has fun trying to figure out which technological marvel to break next.

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