The Ultimate Online Technology Strategy For Smaller Churches

Smaller churches are sometimes reluctant to embrace technology and take their churches online. However, having an online technology strategy helps boost member engagement and new church visitors.

Odds are, at least part of your church family uses social media and mobile devices often. This means that part of your potential visitors are online too.

Connect on a wider scale by getting your church online. It’s easier than you might think and the rewards are well worth the effort.

Keep Consistent Branding

One thing to always remember throughout your online technology strategy is to keep consistent branding. From having the same logo to maintaining the same personality, a church’s brand is what people connect with. If you’re always serious on Facebook but humorous on Twitter, people might not be able to get a good sense about your church.

Start With A Websitecustom church website button

Your church’s online strategy has to begin with one key ingredient – a website. Think of it as your virtual home online that happens to have its doors open 24/7. A few elements to include on your site are:

  • Images/videos of your church
  • Short description and mission statement
  • Service hours
  • Contact information
  • Blog
  • Calendar of events
  • Forum for members to interact
  • Social media channels

Obviously, your site can as big or small as you want. Some churches upload their services online, while others only upload a video now and then. The key is to have a place for visitors to learn more about your church.

Plan A Website Content Strategy

With a website comes the need for a content strategy. A church website helps people find your church through search engines, but to rank higher online, you need to keep your site current. This is where a blog comes in handy. To keep visitors coming back, create a content schedule to ensure you’re posting regularly. Even if it’s only one blog per week, it’s enough to stay current in search engines.

Also, plan what types of content you’ll upload. Will you use text, video, images or a mix (which works best)? Will you talk more about church activities, tackle current issues or answer questions from members and site visitors? Having a content strategy in place will make maintaining your blog much easier.

Choose At Least Two Social Networks

It might seem like there is a new social network every week, but your church doesn’t have to maintain a presence on every network. However, your online technology strategy should include at least two social networks. Facebook and Twitter are often the most popular choices because of their large user bases, but you could also choose from sites like Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube. You could even get creative and use Medium since it’s part blogging platform and part social network. No matter which two you use, stay active to help build your church.

Get Members Involved Online

grow your church buttonIf you want your online technology strategy to actually be successful, you’re going to need some help. Get your members as involved as possible. For instance, ask them to connect with the church on social media and share their favorite posts. At one small church, the pastor encourages members to use tag the church on Twitter when mentioning events to drive more people to the church’s social media profile. This same church even encourages members to use Bible apps on their phones if they want.

The lesson is to embrace technology, even in a small church. It’s an easy way to better engage members and bring in new members.

Offer E-Giving On Your Site

If tithing is down at your church, make e-giving a part of your online strategy. Online giving providers serve as a modern way for members and even non-members to tithe. Incorporate a giving form on your site or as a mobile app. In an age where many people only have credit cards on them, it’s easier to set up payments online versus remembering to get cash before church.

Utilize Volunteers

While getting a professional service to design your website is a good idea, you’re still left with maintaining it, uploading content and managing social media. Ask for volunteers to help manage it all. Meet with them weekly to discuss strategy and review what they’ve been doing. After all, it’s overwhelming for just one person to do everything.

Follow The Lead Of Other Churches

Not sure where to start? Search for other churches online and see what they’re currently doing. You can even learn from large churches. Don’t be afraid to send a message to any church you admire to ask questions or see how well their strategy is working for them.

Are you ready to get started on your own online technology strategy? See how our church web design services get you off to the right start.

6 Tools To Ensure The Safety Of Your Church Website

The safety of your church website is paramount to building a good reputation with visitors and search engines. Safety and security are often overlooked parts of website maintenance, especially for smaller sites.

The problem is, hackers don’t care about the size of your site. They love stealing resources, lifting user data and using sites to pass on malware to unsuspecting visitors.

All it takes is a little regular maintenance to protect your church community and potential new members. Besides, no one wants to deal with the cleanup after a site’s been hacked.

1. Use Backup Softwarecustom church website button

No matter what else you do for your church website, always have recent backups. Should the worst happen or a site upgrade go wrong, a backup can save you hours and even days. With a current backup, it only takes a few hours to ensure the backup doesn’t have any of the security flaws of the original (if it was a hack) and get your site back online. Worst case scenario, you may lose a few recent blog post comments or your latest blog post.

2. Install SSL Certificates

SSL certificates are an often overlooked safety measure, but they encrypt the data being transferred on your site. For instance, if you require anyone to log in, without an SSL certificate, that data could be intercepted by hackers and used to easily get into your website. Even if you don’t have any logins, SSL certificates are still helpful. Having that HTTPS in your URL not only makes your site safer, but it can also give you a small search engine rank boost.

One study has found sites with HTTPS ranking higher, while Search Engine Journal warns that Google will start marking sites as not secure if they don’t use HTTPS.

3. Keep Your Site Updated

Many church websites run on WordPress, which is a great CMS. The platform even has security features built-in to help ensure the safety of your church website. However, WordPress releases security and core updates regularly. If you don’t install them, your site could be at risk. While you may face some compatibility issues with themes and plugins, it’s still worth updating for optimal safety.

4. Require Strong Passwords

Are you still using the default username and password for your administrator login? Hackers rely on users to have simple or default passwords. This makes it easy for them to get in without even having to hack anything. A shocking 17% of users still use 123456 as their password. To improve the safety of your church website, require stronger passwords. For best results, use a random password generator, but to create one yourself, do the following:

  • Create passwords from a sentence, using the first letter of each word, along with a symbol and a number
  • Use at least one number and one symbol
  • Use eight characters or more (more characters is harder to crack)
  • Never use any personal information, such as birthdays
  • Use a different password, or at least a variant, on every site

grow your church button5. Use Security Software

You probably have anti-virus installed on your church’s computers to give them safer. Websites need the same type of protection. Your web host may already have security software, such as anti-virus and a firewall. If you’re using WordPress, you can also use security plugins that constantly scan for threats and further secure your site from hackers.

6. Always Update Plugins & Themes

According to Sucuri’s Website Hacked Trend 2016 Report, the main cause of WordPress hacks is outdated and insecure plugins. Just like WordPress itself, you should always keep any plugins and themes you’re using updated. If you notice that they haven’t been updated in a while or they’re not compatible with the newest version of WordPress, it may be time to consider changing to a new theme and plugins. Also, uninstall any plugins and themes you don’t need. As long as they’re installed, they still represent potential vulnerabilities in your site.

Place Safety First

The safety of your church website shouldn’t be taken lightly. All it takes is a single hack to ruin all your hard work. Remember, you’re not just keeping the website safe – you’re keeping all your church website visitors safe as well.

Have questions about creating a more secure website for your church? Contact us today to see how we can help.

7 Top Online Giving Companies For Churches

If church donations are down, the problem might be with your giving options. Take a moment to consider how many of your church members actually carry cash with them anymore.

Odds are, many members, especially those under 50, are more used to carrying debit and credit cards. This means when the offering plate comes around, they don’t have anything to put in it. This doesn’t mean they don’t want to give, though.

Online giving options give these members a chance to give on their terms. They can make occasional donations or set up a schedule, so they never forget. It’s a great way to boost tithing and take advantage of technology for your church.

1. EasyTithe

EasyTithe is a popular online giving tool. It’s easy to customize it to match your church’s branding, so it looks familiar to users. The platform offers mobile, online, recurring, text and kiosk giving. There are no startup fees for any plans and the highest transaction fees are 3% plus $0.39 per transaction. Free and monthly fee plans are available.custom church website button

2. PayPal / Stripe

PayPal and Stripe are similar online giving options. While they’re mostly used for ecommerce, both tools allow you to incorporate a payment area on your church’s website to accept donations. PayPal can’t be customized and the only fees are 2.2% plus $0.30 per transaction. Stripe can be customized, but it’s more difficult than EasyTithe. Fees are 2.9% plus $0.30 per transaction.

3. Continue to Give

Continue to Give is a slightly more expensive option, starting at $15 per month. The platform offers mobile, online and kiosk giving. It can integrate with your existing church website, so members never leave your site to tithe. Pricing varies, but transaction fees are usually 2.9% plus $0.30 per transaction.

4. SecureGive

SecureGive was actually created by pastor who wanted to offer members an easier way to tithe. The platform is well-known for putting security first, which may help put members’ minds at ease who are hesitant to donate online. The online, mobile and kiosk plan starts at $69 per month, while the plan that includes texting starts at $109 per month. Transaction fees vary based on the payment method.

5. Paperless Transactions

Paperless Transactions offers a wide range of online giving services. The service can accept both cards and checks. It can integrate with your website or create a mobile app just for your church. Text giving is also an option. You can also set up specific donor pages for fundraising or upcoming events. It’s one of the more expensive options, starting at $25 per month plus a $500 setup fee.

6. Mogiv

Mogiv makes online giving easy for both members and churches. There are no fees except for transaction fees. It’s free to try and supports online, mobile and text-based giving. It’s one of the best options if you’re new to online giving and want to try it out before committing to a service with monthly or setup fees.

7. Tithe.ly

grow your church button Tithe.ly is designed to boost online giving through mobile, online and text giving. There are no setup or subscription fees to deal with, making it a more affordable giving solution for churches. You’ll only pay 2.9% plus $0.30 per transaction for accepting cards. The platform also accepts funds directly from bank accounts at a fee of 1% plus $0.30 per transaction. There is even an option to show fees to users and allow them to add the fee amount to their donation, making it free for churches.

Add Online Giving Today

If your church hasn’t tried online giving yet, now is the time to try. The majority of your members probably have a smartphone with them at all times. It’s easier for them to donate with a few taps than try to remember to carry cash around with them. Choosing the right provider is important. While you should consider cost, look at additional features, such as custom branding. The right solution can and will boost tithing.

Need help integrating online giving on your website? Contact our friendly team today to see how we can help.

How The Internet Has Revolutionized The Way Churches Communicate

It’s undeniable that the Internet has changed the way churches communicate. Gone are the days of a few conversations after church, only to see members again during service hours or special appointments.

Now, it’s easier than ever to send an inspirational message in a few clicks or ask for prayers from hundreds of miles away. The possibilities are seemingly endless. While it’s true that some believe the Internet has hurt churches, the digital world has actually opened up more lines of faith-based communication than ever before.

Reach Members Any Time

Your members come to church to worship together, but they encounter issues throughout the week that may test their faith. With social media, a blog or even an email, church leaders can reach out to provide scripture related to current events or remind a member that’s struggling with their own personal demons that you’re there for them.

Of course, it’s not just church leaders who connect. Thanks to social media or even forums on your church website, members can provide support and encouragement to each other. Instead of being too busy to get together, they can socialize online and keep that feel of community even when they’re not at church.

Engage With Non-Members Easilycustom church website button

Pope Francis is the perfect example of engaging with non-members thanks to the Internet. His Twitter account currently has 10.5 million followers at the time of writing. While many of those followers are likely members of a church, there are plenty that likely aren’t. They still find encouragement and motivation from his tweets, though.

In the past, it was difficult to engage with non-members or the unchurched. Thanks to the Internet, they can come to you in their own time. This makes them feel more comfortable and may even lead to them becoming members.

Communicate In Numerous Ways

According to this infographic from Nonprofit Marketing Guide, 80% of non-profits consider their website to be the most effective communication tool. Churches communicate in a variety of different ways now. Phone, physical mail, paper bulletins, and word-of-mouth used to be the only options. Now, you have a variety of social media channels, email, websites, texting and more.

It’s easy to find the new world of options overwhelming but listen to your members. They’ll be happy to let you know which channels they prefer. When it comes to social media, pick a few networks to be active on. The main thing is to keep communication going on a daily basis and not just one or two days a week.

Discuss Questions Throughout The Week

Before the Internet, it was difficult for members to talk to church leaders about any questions that might have regarding sermons or events. Potential members might have felt hesitant to come to church to ask questions before joining.

Now, with email, contact forms on websites and social networks, anyone can contact the church at any time to ask questions. Members can talk to each other easily to further discuss the messages in sermons. This keeps the conversations going long after church is over for the week.

grow your church buttonReach Those Who May Never Join

One of the most important ways that the Internet has revolutionized the way churches communicate is by helping churches reach those who many never officially join a physical church. Many people have odd schedules or can’t find the right church for them. Instead, they seek guidance online. They visit church websites, follow church leaders on social media and even watch sermons regularly online.

Some churches are even taking online communication a step further and creating digital churches. For instance, Higher Dimension has both a physical and digital church. People can attend live streaming services from anywhere. They can also playback services if they couldn’t stream live. This new option gives people a chance to worship on any schedule and from any place around the world.

The Internet is something to embrace. Use it as another way to better connect and engage your members and reach non-members. It’s a valuable tool for communication and church growth.

Ready to revolutionize how your church communicates? Start with a professionally designed website from people who understand church websites.

5 Point Checklist To Get Results Online This Year

Get Results Online For Your Church

2017 is in full swing. Before we know it, 2018 will be upon us unless of course, the Lord comes back(smile). If you are already committed to utilizing the internet as a church, you no doubt want to get results online this year from your efforts. Are you are seeing good results online so far this year? Good for you and this post may help you continue to get results online!

We are now approaching the first quarter of the year. As a church, I am sure you hope that by now you have some good strategy, processes, and goals set in place.

It is easy to think of goals in a general sense at the beginning of each year, isn’t it? Committing to a specific strategy or process to actually carry your goals out, is a whole different story. If you are like me when you start to set goals, you first think of all the big picture and general stuff. Then, you start to bullet point specifics within each of those goals. I find, there is a lot that can get lost when doing it this way.

May I dare say as a believer, the devil is in the details?

Let’s spend some time recapping a lot of the “specific” things for your online strategy. We want to help you get results online the rest of this year as much as possible.

This five-point checklist below will assume you are already online to a certain degree with a church website and using social media also.

1. Start a Blog

We recently put out what we felt was a very helpful post on this very point. A blog will help you with growth and outreach probably more than you may think. A church blog increases your search engine visibility plus some.

custom church website buttonSearch Engines are looking for good, relevant, and current content online. If you blog consistently, people searching online will be directed back to your church website more and more.

First things first. Remember, you need to commit to blogging first. Find a team or a few folks in your church that will help. Who else likes to write at your church? Who is active in the ministry there? These people will be good candidates to recruit.

If you are a pastor, it will help if you blog too. A pastor is more than likely the person thinking more about, writing, and already producing church specific content.

A blog will also promote healthy church discussion and more church involvement throughout a given week. A blog can challenge your members to start thinking more about spiritual topics. You will generate discussion throughout a week when folks are not always engaged in church life.

It will help members to think more about reaching and inviting people throughout the week. If you are coming up with good content, people will want to share that content on social media with others.

People can comment and interact on blogs. Do you want people talking about your church throughout the week?

2. Get Results Online: Use Instagram

Almost every church uses facebook now. A lot of Pastors use twitter. Instagram is slowly but surely catching on now within the church as a whole. There are some good reasons for this.

A Recent study shows that many Millennials are fleeing Facebook to go over to Instagram. Why?

The main reason is because they are preferring visuals over text. Millennials also value authenticity compared to an ad based or stock approach.

Is your church authentic? I hope so. One of the best ways to show your authenticity to get results online is through the use of photography.

Church websites that get results online use real, candid, and compelling photos of people within their church.

Do you have a photographer in your church? Are you taking pictures of church activities? If not, can you find some people passionate within your church to do so? Consider hiring a photographer to take photos too if you really want to do it right.

Once you start doing this, add Instagram to your repertoire which is a picture-based social media platform. Millenials and others will appreciate this and your members that use Instagram already will too.

Members will start sharing more of your photography and imagery with their unchurched friends too.

If you need more tips on how to come up with compelling photography, check this past post of our’s out.

3. Get the Google Grant

A lot of churches are becoming more aware of this grant now, but many still are not aware of it. Google makes most of its money by selling advertising. The only way to ensure that you will come up on a google search is to pay for a spot at the top, bottom or right-hand column of a search. And these ads can be very expensive.

But for churches and all other non-profits, google offers a grant that gives $10,000 (not a typo) each month (also not a typo) to be spent on advertising on its search engines. There is an application process but almost every church qualifies if they go through it. You should be doing this if you want to better results online!

If you are looking for a way to reach people and not taking advantage of this program, you need to do so today to get results online.

The average church will pay just under $2 per click on a paid ad in a google search. That means over 5000 visitors to your church website each month. If you can convert just 1% of them into visitors to your church…. that would mean 50 visitors this month.

Would 600 new visitors to your church this year make an impact on your ministry? Let us know if you need some help getting going on this too! We have a service for this.

4. Make sure your church website is Mobile Responsive

Again, this is another area churches are catching onto, but slowly. Over half of all browsing is taking place now from mobile devices. This number is going to rise rapidly this year.

grow your church buttonYou need to have a mobile oriented approach to get results online this year for sure. Specifically, your website needs to be “mobile responsive” though. What does “mobile responsive” mean? It means not only should your website be able to be visible on a mobile device, but it should also “respond” to any device. Whether that is from an android phone, iPhone, or tablet.

Think of it this way, your church website should “transform” from a desktop version and resize itself on one of these devices. Don’t fall for some of the knock-off versions through cheaper templates out there. Some of these provide somewhat of a “mobile version” of a site, but not true responsive design.

Google is now giving precedence to mobile responsive websites. They are flagging unresponsive sites hence moving them lower in the searches. You want to do all you can to come up as one of the first churches when someone is doing a search for one.

If you want to dive into the need for this deeper and some more date, check out more here.

5. Use Online Giving

I almost felt like I should leave this point out. You would think it should be a given by now for churches to be using online giving to get results online.

Yet, we still see a lot of churches not taking advantage of this or serving their membership well with this tool. Why?

The two things I hear the most when consulting with churches are:

“Some people within the church or leadership feel online giving will take away from a member’s worship needs.” Our members need to give in person during a service.

Having pastored myself for several years and being a committed tither, I can appreciate this concern that many churches have. Tithing and giving are acts of worship and obedience for a believer indeed.

I give online and I will tell you that online giving is a part of my personal worship for sure.

It may sound funny, but I pray before I click the give button on my church’s website. I thank the Lord for His provision and have a time of worship when I do this each time.

I prefer to give online as a Gen-Exer who does their banking online also. Online giving allows me to give my first fruits right when I get paid before doing anything else. I bet you may have some people like me at your church or that may consider your church.

The second obstacle I hear is when a church is not wanting to pay the transaction fee of an online merchant. They lose that money as a church when someone gives online.

Yes, there are transaction fees with every online merchant out there ranging from 2-3% on average. We get that concern.

I would submit to you that there will be the people who still prefer to give at offering time with a personal check. You will have people who will continue to give that way. But then there will be people like me who prefer to give online and can stay more disciplined if they do it that way.

An active church serving their local community well with a pure vision may attract online donors that will not be there at a physical service.

With online giving, you are also opening a door for people to give on different days of the week and not just on Sunday. Someone may feel led or be better able to make the financial commitment on a different day other than Sunday.

In my opinion, these pros out weight the cons. Most churches see an increase in their annual giving revenue when they add online giving too.

If you need help finding a good online giving provider check out a resource we provided for that here.

These are practical things you can implement to start getting better results online this year. Do you still have some questions or concerns about any of these points I have made? Do you need help knowing where to start? Let us know and we will be sure and give you some good direction and help!

How To Get The Unchurched To Walk Through Your Doors

Get The Unchurched Through Your Doors

We know that most churches are looking for ways to improve attendance and increase their members. Sadly, it’s not always as easy as just posting a “welcome” sign outside the church.

If you want to increase both members and attendance, you need to find ways to get the unchurched to walk through your doors. Don’t discount the unchurched. Many still have faith, but they’re just not sure where to go for guidance or which church might be the right fit for them.

Understanding The Unchurched

The most important to thing to understand about the unchurched is that many still believe, but they don’t associate with any one denomination. They consider themselves unaffiliated. This means you can still reach them, but you have to do it in a way that makes them feel welcomed.

According to Barna’s studies, approximately 40% of Americans identify as unchurched. They might attend an occasional special service, such as a Christmas play, but nothing else. Different cities may have higher or lower percentages, such as the San Francisco Bay Area which is considered 61% unchurched.

Even if they’re not regularly attending a church, they’re not opposed to attending one day if they find the right fit. Of course, some may not be able to attend due to work, which is something your church could appeal to by offering services on a different day or time.

Create A Welcoming Atmosphere

custom church website buttonIf you want to get the unchurched to walk in, you have to create a welcoming atmosphere. Think about what visitors see when they first come in. Is there someone to welcome them? If it’s a larger church, are there signs posted about where to go? Is there plenty of room to sit? Are there hours posted on a sign outside? Is there ample parking?

Believe it or not, simple things like this can make the unchurched believe your church is already full or doesn’t accept new members. If an unchurched visitor comes to a special service, ensure they feel welcomed instead of pushed to the background. When they feel like part of the community, they’re more likely to come back.

Encourage Members To Talk

Get the unchurched interested in visiting by encouraging your members to talk about their faith and invite new members. In fact, 70% of church guests come because a friend or relative invited them. In one survey, 79% of unchurched Americans didn’t mind their churched friends talking about their faith. Nearly half (47%) engage in the conversation.

It’s important to remind your members to talk about their faith but avoid giving a sales pitch. No one enjoys that. Instead, the passion your members have should serve as an example of what it’s like to be a part of your church. Think of it as a gentle way to reach the unchurched without being pushy.

Provide Community Events

grow your church buttonMany of the unchurched are looking for churches that make a positive impact on the community. They’re not interested in churches that rarely interact with the local community or always seem to be exclusive. An easy way to show the unchurched what you’re involved in is to invite them to special activities, such as community service projects.

It’s also a great idea to offer community programs that aren’t just for members. For instance, hosting fitness programs for varying age groups or having a community dinner encourages the unchurched to participate and creates that important welcoming aspect. In fact, 46% of the unchurched are likely to attend a sports program, while 51% would help with a community service project.

Show That You’re Modern

If you want to get the unchurched to visit, you have to step into the modern era. The younger unchurched often feel that churches are out of touch. Singing nothing but traditional sermons and being talked at for a few hours doesn’t appeal to them.

Instead, they want a church that reaches them on their level. Integrating technology, having a website to interact with the church before visiting and focusing on some of their specific needs are just a few ways to become a more modern church that appeals to the currently unchurched.

The unchurched aren’t out of reach. You just have to open your doors, welcome them in and show them that your church meets their needs.

Need some help with modernizing your church? Start with our web design services to attract the unchurched to you.

6 Church Apps To Make Life Easier For Your Members

Apps for Churches

If you want your church members to stay involved even after they’ve left church, it’s time to start recommending some digital options to make life easier for your members. What’s the one thing most, if not all, of your members always have with them? That’s right – their smartphone.

By recommending church apps to your members, you’ll keep them engaged with their faith throughout the week. From socializing to delving deeper into God’s word, these six apps are designed to create a more engaged community, even when your members can’t make it to church that week.

The Olive Tree Bible App

Many of your members may not even carry a physical Bible with them anymore. With numerous options to choose from, it’s important to choose the right app for their needs. They already have a personal favorite, but The Olive Tree Bible App is more than just the Bible in an app. It’s also a powerful study guide and allows users to create bookmarks, highlight passages and easily look up more information.

K-Love

custom church website buttonInspiring contemporary Christian music is sometimes the perfect way to listen to God’s word while your members are out and about. K-Love is well-known for its great music, but the K-Love app provides online listening along with a community of other users to engage with. It’s not just a music community, but a way for others to discuss their faith and inspire others.

Not Just Words

When members need to quickly look up a verse, it’s sometimes hard to remember exactly where to look. Maybe they remember a few words or a phrase, but nothing else. Not Just Words serves as a search engine to help users find exactly what they’re looking for quickly. All it takes is a few words or a reference to find the right verse or verses.

Superbook Kids Bible App

Kids get bored easily and the Bible isn’t exactly easy to read, especially for children. This is where the Superbook Kids Bible App helps. It’s one of the best church apps for parents. When kids have questions, the interactive app helps them find answers that they can understand. They can read stories, play games and learn more about their faith in a way that’s more engaging to them. As a church leader, you could even suggest different games or subjects for kids to look at within the app so they feel more engaged during the service.

PrayerMate

If members have prayer requests, it can sometimes be hard to keep track of everyone. PrayerMate helps your church family remember who needs their prayers. They can also use it to make notes of anything they want to pray for. Members can also subscribe to content to view prayer diaries and publications from well-known organizations and even local churches. You’re welcome to add your own church’s RSS feed.

Daily Bible Inspirations

grow your church buttonWhile many church apps focus on helping users read the Bible, sometimes your members just need a quick dose of inspiration. Daily Bible Inspirations provides a daily passage to help members connect with their faith every single day. Every passage comes complete with links to share the passage on social media, by email or text. This means they could be spreading the word in just a few taps. Users can set a custom schedule for receiving new passages.

Bonus: Amazon Kindle

While Amazon Kindle isn’t exactly a faith-based app, it is one of the more useful church apps. Your church family can keep a collection of books to inspire them and further study their faith. Many ebooks are free, making it a cheap and easy way to have books on the go. Your members don’t need a Kindle either. The app is available for iOS and Android devices too.

Church Apps Engage Members

Help your members get more from their phones. Tell them about church apps that make their lives a little easier when it comes to their faith. With hectic schedules, they’ll appreciate learning about simple ways to connect to their own faith and community throughout the week.

Don’t limit engagement to apps alone. Find out how a church website keeps church members connecting 24/7 and even brings in new members.

How To Choose The Right Online Giving Provider For Your Church

online giving provider for your church

If you’re searching for an online giving provider for your church, you already know you have quite a few options to pick from. Finding the right one is crucial to increased giving as it’ll appeal to more members and even non-members.

With everything from PayPal to specialized giving providers, you should consider all your options carefully. Don’t worry, though. Once you know what criteria to look for, it’s easier than you might think to find the perfect solution for your church.

Think About Ease Of Use

One of the most important things to consider with any online giving provider is how easy it is to use. If you add an option to your church’s website that requires visitors to go through 5-10 different screens to make a simple donation, they’ll probably just skip it.

Look for providers that make it as simple as possible for a user to go from start to finish as quickly as possible. The easier it is for someone to tithe online, the more likely they are to use that option.

Consider Any Fees

Custom Church WebsitesBeing classified as a non-profit doesn’t automatically exclude you from getting hit with fees. While members might find it more convenient to tithe online, you could be losing 5% or more, especially if they’re using credit cards. It might not seem like much, but if your entire church family uses your online option, you’re losing quite a bit of money.

Look for low fees or providers that offer non-profit programs, such as PayPal. Some credit cards even have programs that allow card holders to donate without any fees. Look carefully at any fees before settling on a provider.

Look For All-In-One Solutions

Odds are, your community prefers to tithe in different ways. Some do it during service, while others prefer their phones and still others like their desktops. For best results, look for a provider that offers multiple options. A few options you might need include:

  • Website giving
  • Mobile giving (46% of churches now offer mobile giving)
  • Recurring giving (set up a recurring payment)
  • Options to give to different programs (especially for upcoming events)

The last thing you want is to have to use multiple solutions. This only confuses your site’s visitors.

Seek Compatible Options

Depending on your website, some online giving providers might not be an option for you. Before choosing anyone, look at any limitations of the provider and your own site. For instance, if you have a responsive website, but a provider’s forms aren’t responsive, it’s not going to be a great match for your church’s site.

Some providers may require you to use a plugin, which may or may not be compatible with your current site. Make sure everyone’s happy working together before committing to a solution.

Remember Security

Growing your churchBelieve it or not, there are scam providers that seek to steal money or even user identities via their tools. Even if the provider isn’t a scam, some online giving providers don’t use proper encryption and security features to keep users’ personal data safe when tithing.

Look at all security features when choosing a provider. If there aren’t any security measures listed, move on to another provider immediately!

Ask The Community What They Prefer

If you’re on the fence about what provider to choose, ask your members. After all, they’re going to be the ones using it the most. Get their feedback on how they’d prefer to tithe and what payment method they’d be most likely to use, such as credit cards.

The more you know about what your current member prefer, the easier it is to find a provider that meets their specific needs. While you obviously want something that appeals to non-members as well, the odds are good that whatever your church family wants is what visitors to your site would want as well.

Incorporate Online Giving

Don’t be afraid to add online giving as an option in your church. With many churches struggling with overall offerings, it pays to have as many options as possible for members and non-members to give what they can. Online giving is convenient and no one feels judged if they can’t give as much as usual.

Ready to add an online giving provider to your website? Contact our friendly team today to see how to get started.

The Absolute Worst Church Website Advice We’ve Ever Heard

the absolute worst church website advice

Your webmaster told you what?   Oh. No. He. Didn’t!

There is no shortage of terribly bad church website advice out there. We hear it every day. Some person who used to work in some tech field says that your website needs to do this and not do that.

Here’s the thing – What may have been good advice in 2008 might be a terrible idea today. In fact, some of those “great tips” might be hurting your website today.

Let’s walk through the bad church website advice that we hear most often.  If you have to open a new tab make some changes to your site while you are reading, that’s okay too.

Let pictures do the talking

Grow Your ChurchWe have all heard that old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words.  The right image can make an immediate emotional impact on a site visitor.

The problem is that when it comes to being found online the math doesn’t add up.

Search engines are smarter than ever. They can pull information from pictures, but your church website still needs text content to rank on google.

We see a lot of sites that have almost no text content on the homepage.  Google and other search engines will struggle to learn what your website is about. This will make it hard to recommend your site to searchers.

How much text should you have on your homepage? The more the better, as long as it is in keeping with your design.  According to the search engine gurus at Yoast at a minimum, try to include at least 300 words. 

Let your whole team manage the site

On the surface, this sounds like a good idea.  Who doesn’t like to share the load of managing a whole website for a church?

Nearly every modern content management system allows you to set up multiple users to manage the site.  So why not use this feature?

Because there isn’t that much work to do and you are only adding complexity to your site.

If you have a website set up properly and have one person trained to update the site, it shouldn’t take them more than a couple of hours per week.  Even for a large church.

In talking with our clients we find that the average church of 500 spends about two hours per week working on their website. This includes uploading sermons, creating events and generally managing the content on the site.

There are exceptions to this rule.  If you have a church blog (you should), it is okay for all the writers to have access to the site.  In WordPress, you would set them up in the “Author” role.

For very large churches, with multiple technical staff members, there are exceptions to this rule. That being said, the vast majority of us should choose one person to run the site.

Train them.  Give them the tools they need, and let them manage the site.

Use social media instead of a church website

If you haven’t heard, this whole social media thing is kind of a big deal.  Your church needs to be using it to engage with your community.

We recommend that churches use Facebook, and consider using Twitter and Instagram.  There are great tools like Buffer to help you keep all your accounts straight and cut your admin time. 

While you need to be on social media, it can’t be the center of your online presence.

On social media, you don’t have home court advantage. Facebook does.  They decide how far your posts go, who will see them, and you have limited control.

In fact, your church’s social posts are not going nearly as far as they did a few years ago.  It used to be when you posted on Facebook, your post went to everyone who liked your page.  Today, unless you are willing to pay big bucks, your Facebook posts will only hit a fraction of your fans.

Don’t let them control the game.  You need to have a home base where you make all the rules. Your website is that home base.

One of your goals should be to get users on social media to make it over to your website so you can further engage them.  Video and blogging are great ways to do just that.

Use your city and the word “church” over and over again

custom church websitesSearch engines are smart today, but that wasn’t always the case.

Several years ago when you wanted to rank for a search engine term, you could just use it a lot on your site. Google would assume that you were the best result on that topic.

The problem was that with a little effort someone could use a keyword over and over and cause a lot of trouble.

To get in on the action, some people have advised churches to use this tactic to try to get their church in front of as many people as possible.  They would tell churches to stuff their content with things like “Madison Church, Church Madison, Madison Churches, Churches in Madison, Church in Madison” and 50 other words with the same general meaning.

This tactic used to work, and I don’t blame those who tried it.  It was for a good cause.

The problem is that today, all the major search engines are smart enough to detect this. If you get caught, the penalty is harsh. Your site will be demoted in the search rankings. Your website being the first impression for the vast majority of your visitors. If you aren’t on search engines, you are invisible to most people.

Your church can’t afford to take this risk.

Make sure visitors hear your worship band

We know you love your worship team. They are awesome and are leading people into God’s presence.

Your community may well love your worship team too. In my experience, however, your worship time on Sunday rarely translates well to the web.

Producing live music is an extremely technical process. It requires experience and equipment that few churches have. If you are wondering if your church has it, you probably don’t.

Like the old saying goes, you only have one chance to make a first impression. If someone’s first impression is a video filmed from the back of the church and direct audio from the soundboard, it will be a bad first impression.

Even worse are those sites where music will auto play when someone first gets onto the site.  Nobody appreciates that.

If you don’t have the gear and talent to pull off live music recording well, keep your visitors in suspense.  Your sermons are still great for the site.  Voice recording is a much simpler task than trying to pull off music.

Tired of Bad Church Website Advice?

We hope this list of what not to do has been helpful to you. The web remains one of the biggest opportunities for the Church. We will continue to write posts like these to help you improve your church site.

However, if you really want to take your church website to the next level, we can help.

We helped one small church of 50 people see over 300 first time visitors in 2016.  Nearly all of them found the church online.

Do you want to reach more people in your community? Do you want to see your church grow? Start getting serious about your web presence. Take advantage of our free church website strategy review.

Has your church received any bad church website advice?

What church website advice have you heard?  Anything that we missed? Let us know on social media or in the comments below.

 

 

 

7 Signs That Your Church Website Is Stuck In 2006

7 signs that your church website is stuck

The web development world has gone through an enormous amount of change in the last decade, and sadly many church websites seem to be living in the past.

Here are 7 signs that your church website might be two thousand and late.

1. Drop down menus to get to the content

Back in 2005, we loved drop-down menus.  They were a great way to squeeze in those extra pages without cluttering up the menu.  They solved the problem of churches having 20 items in their main site navigation. Now they could nest pages under headings in the navigation and keep things well organized.

custom church website buttonAnd that worked great until mobile browsing came along.

When people view websites on a mobile phone, there is no equivalent to hovering your mouse over a menu item. This made all those pages nested in a menu item you have to hover over impossible to reach.

While a modern site can have drop-down menus, all content must be accessible on a mobile device.

2. Separate page for everything

There was a time when we believed the more pages the better.  Did a ministry meet at some point in the last 36 months? If so, then give them a page on the church website.

As this trend continued church websites got bigger.  As they got bigger the really important content like the service times, youth, and children’s ministries began to stand out less and less.

One thing we have learned over the years is that while all ministries are important, not all of them should have equal weight on the website.

We need to keep the main thing, the main thing.  Ask yourself what a visitor to the site needs to see.  If the content is not something that they need to see, then be ruthless.  Just as a great sermon need not be long, and great website need not have 30 pages.

3. Flash

This used to be the go-to tool to make things move on a website. This drew attention and helped us tell better stories online.  A site with a flash element was a great way communicate that your church was up with the times and a great place to visit this Sunday.

Today, that same flash that dominated the internet for a decade has gone the way of the cassette tape.  While its capabilities are still unmatched, it is simply not compatible with too many mobile devices to be used.

 

Too often that great first impression you were hoping to make will just be a gray box telling your users to install flash.

4. Landing page before you get to the site

Up until this point, the items in this list served a purpose at one point.  Making your visitors go to a landing page before they went to your site should never have been a thing.

The thought was if we had a page that was dedicated to only cool design elements with a link to enter the church website, we could make an even stronger first impression.

The reality was that most people would locate the “Enter Site” button before the page even loaded, and all you really accomplished was wasting a few seconds of their time.

People go to websites for information.  The websites primary job is to deliver information.  It is important to engage people while they receive that information, but never make the mistake of thinking that people go to your site for the first time in order to be engaged, impressed or entertained.

5. Background music

Who among us has never been scared by music playing way too loud online when you least expect it.  Background music on a church website has always been a bad idea.

grow your church buttonWe understand that you want to give people an idea of the kind of music they might experience if they visit your church this Sunday, but there has to be a better way.  And there is.

When you can pull it off well, video of your services are a great addition to any site.  If you can’t do that with excellence, then let the photography tell the story of what to expect.

And under no circumstances should anything on your site auto-play. That is a sure way to annoy your visitors.

6. Church website is left justified

Any designer will tell you that should almost always be left justified. That is the truth.

But your entire website should not be on the left-hand side of the screen.  That is something from the prehistoric web days.  Even the Space Jam website is centered on the screen. (Yes, I am referring to the  original Space Jam website, lying in state, the way it was when the movie was released).

While multiple lines of text should almost always be left justified, the body of the website should be in the middle of the screen.

7. Content is not full screen

We used to have a rule in designing websites where we would try to keep the entire site “above the fold”, a term borrowed from the newspaper industry.  Rather than bury the lead, newspapers kept the most important parts of a story above the spot where the newspaper folded.

In web design that meant making everything visible to the user without having to scroll.

Today, scrolling has become much more acceptable due to the rise in mobile phone usage. People scroll for days on social media apps and that has become a much more intuitive way to browse a website.

The days of narrow columns in the middle of the screen are also over.  Today with 1080p screens being the standard, a site should take advantage of all that real estate.  Full-screen images and even video are the way to go.

How does your church website measure up?

Does your site break any of the rules above?  Did we miss any signs that your site may be past its prime?

Not sure how your church website is working for you? Sign up for our totally free church website strategy review.