Most visitors will look at the a church’s website before they step through the door of the church building. For your church website to be effective in reaching the estimated 17.4 million American adults who don’t attend worship services regularly, yet have visited a church’s website within the last year,  your church website needs to have these three essential front page features.
1. Where is the church?
Your church website absolutely must say where it is located. If a visitor looking at the site can’t immediately tell what city the church is in, it doesn’t matter if you can have a beautiful website, the most articulate belief statement, or the flashiest photos. If someone can’t find the church, they won’t be there on Sunday morning. It’s nice to have an embedded Google map, or pictures of the building, but only in addition to having the address clearly visible on the front page. The church is not about the building, but to join with the Body of Christ in worship, a visitor needs to be able to find where it’s meeting.
2. When is the service?
The purpose of a church website is to engage visitors to help them come join the church for worship. It’s common sense: if you’re inviting someone to come to something, you tell them when to be there. Don’t make people search through a Worship or About Us page. Make it easy for visitors. And of course, make sure it’s current information. If it’s a holiday season, put the holiday times up, and take them down afterwards. As a potential visitor, if I see times for the Christmas service in February, I’m going to assume the service times are also wrong, and I’m going to look for a different church to visit. In a spring 2012 survey by Grey Matter Research, 36% of non-worship attenders visiting church websites were looking for service times.  Give people what they’re looking for.
3. How do I find out more?
Your church’s website can’t possibly answer every question or concern someone might have. Give visitors the ability to ask questions. Put the church phone number and an email address prominently on the first page of the website. Right under the church address is a great place. If you’re not comfortable listing an email address in plain text for fear of spam, that’s understandable, but link to the contact form page on the website. And make sure the contact form works If the contact form gives an error message, or the email bounces, that’s as bad as a disconnected phone line. As a potential visitor, I’ll assume your church (a) doesn’t want to talk to me, or (b) no longer exists, and I’ll look elsewhere.
Obviously, there are many more good things to have on a church website. But if you don’t have these three things on the first page of your church website, this is where to start. Remember, an effective church website doesn’t have to have a huge number of pages, fancy graphics, or the most expensive hosting. It does need to be friendly and informative for your visitors.
What am I missing? What else should be on the front page of a church website?