This month is a milestone for this website. Although I actually registered the GoodChurchWebsite.com domain in late November of 2012, my first post was on January 4, 2013. In the just over 6 months since I started this project, this site has had over 1,500 views, a number which I would love to see continue to grow.
Inspired by the mid-unit goal re-evaluation I just completed for my clinical pastoral education (CPE) unit at Mayo Clinic, I’m taking this opportunity to re-examine the purpose and future of GoodChurchWebsite.com.
I originally started this project as a way to produce some sort of tangible resource out of my J-Term independent study project for my first year of seminary. My college degree is a double-major in computer science and religion, so church websites are one of the few natural intersections between those two realms.
I realized last fall that I had said to many people asking how I was going to combine my majors, “Whatever church I end up at as the pastor, it will have a good website.” But the more I thought about that statement, the more I realized that I didn’t really know what it is that makes a church website “good,” or how to articulate it. So, when I had the opportunity to do an independent study, that was the question I wanted to answer. I wanted to produce a resource to help local congregations and pastors make a “good church website.” A few of my posts, like Three Things Every Effective Church Website Needs have been related to this goal, but I think I can be a lot more focused on it in the future.
In addition to that abstract motivation, when I moved to Wartburg Seminary in summer 2012, my passion for good church websites became more practical. My wife and I were looking for a church here in Dubuque, Iowa. Our story of finding a church is its own post, but I realized that our church shopping process was conducted completely online. If a church didn’t have a website, it didn’t exist for us. Also, the website of a church completely shaped our perceptions of that church. I think that’s true for the vast majority of people looking to connect with a church today, and I don’t think congregations and pastors appreciate how much of the church search takes place online. So, my second goal has been to help churches realize how much their online presence matters, whether that be their website or their social media presence.
Along the way, I’ve learned a lot. In the last 6 months, I’ve posted 25 articles on this site (including 3 guest posts of varying quality). I’ve looked at the church websites of every church in the Dubuque area. I’ve come to a greater appreciation of the difficulties that overwhelmed, underfunded churches have with maintaining or even creating a church website. I’ve set up a Church Website Tips Twitter account which, as I write this, has 436 followers. I’ve participated in chats on church social media with people around the country. I’ve discovered the power of podcasts, which in turn have taught me valuable lessons about internet marketing and SEO techniques applicable to churches. And if anything, I’m even more passionate about the topic of church websites than when I started.
So now what? Where is this site going? After learning a lot about how I operate when I’m maintaining a website, I think I will be more effective in my work here if I publicly write down some of my hopes and goals for GoodChurchWebsite.com. So, here are some of the future directions I see this site going.
Better front page content.
Right now, visitors to the front page of the site see a carousel that rotates several manually highlighted posts. Below that, there is a list of all the posts on the site with the posts’ cover images and a brief excerpt of the article’s content. Moving forward, I’d like to have a more attractive first page with some quality static content right on the landing page. I’m guessing this will mean that I need to change the WordPress theme, which can be an involved process, but I think it will be worth it to have the front page be more valuable.
Along similar lines, I need to rewrite the about page to have a better explanation of what this site is, particularly since my J-Term class is long since completed.
Effective Church Website Gallery
After six months of looking at what keywords bring visitors to my site, it has become clear to me that many people are looking for some examples of good church websites. I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to do this yet, but I plan to create some sort of gallery of the best church websites for people to study as examples of what’s possible in online ministry.
The second part of the gallery plan is to have a gallery of the best mobile church websites. There are already sites that list some good traditional sites, but interest in mobile church websites is currently skyrocketing, so I’d like to create another gallery of the best mobile sites.
Beyond a gallery of actual church sites, I also think it would be helpful to create a gallery of the best WordPress themes for churches. My post on WordPress security tips has been one of my most popular posts,so along similar lines, I might also do some reviews of church WordPress plugins.
Also for future site content, I would like to post some interviews with people involved in church websites, social media, and online ministry. I’m not exactly sure how to go about doing this, but it’s definitely something I’ll be working on. I think the people who read this site would appreciate hearing what others are doing.
I also plan on doing some more reviews of church website books. Last January when I was in the midst of my independent study, I read quite a few books in this area and reviewed them. I have a few more either in my possession or coming soon, so I hope to post some more reviews in the near future.
Thank you to all of you who have supported this project so far. It has been a huge blessing to my ministry both now and in the future to connect with so many people through this website as well as on Twitter and Facebook.
Thanks for reading this far. Please leave comments below with your opinion of this site so far and with any ideas for the its future direction. Blessings on your ministry!