At Vanderbloemen, we spend a lot of time on church websites. Probably more time than anyone you know.

In our time, we’ve seen a lot of good websites…and some that, well, leave a lot to be desired.

We’ve seen it all, so we know a great website when we see it.

Churches use a wide variety of styles and designs. Whatever your style, brand, or feel of your church, there are a few things that every church should do to make a great website.

Your church website is often a visitor’s first impression of your church. Is it welcoming and easy to navigate as first-time guests seek to learn more about your church? Is it easy to access essential information for current members? How does it look on desktop and mobile? And is it both functional and beautiful?

Your website is your most visible asset. Almost every guest that walks through your church’s door will have visited your website first. It communicates your church’s culture and mission to the viewer, so it’s critical to get it right.

Here are seven essentials for your church website to remain helpful, relevant, and inviting so it can be a tool to help you grow your church, keep your members engaged, and move the Kingdom forward.

1. Easy Navigation

Ever been on a scavenger hunt? While it can be fun, it can also be frustrating and time consuming. Your website visitors should be treated just like your in-person visitors: with welcoming, clear communication. Don’t bury essential information deep within your site map and make visitors work to find a page. Make it easy to access by having clear labels and website copy.

Think of your audience and the age ranges of your typical attendees and make the site accessible to all. Have a mobile-friendly website along with easy-to-read typography.

Map out all of the pages you think you need and examine the steps needed to access information. Does it take multiple clicks to find an important page? Can a visitor to the home page easily see where your church is located and what times services are? Can they access your ‘About’ page or ‘Statement of Beliefs’? Run some tests and get feedback about how your visitors access information. Try to optimize and simplify your navigation to provide the best possible experience for visitors.

Marketing company HubSpot offers a free website grader tool to help you assess how effective your site design is. While it’s not perfect, it can be a good place to start to identify areas for improvement.

2. Good Graphic Design

Your website should be treated like a stained glass window. Make it beautiful but functional. Incorporate your church’s vision and personality into your branding. Let your branding and design invite visitors in then point them to the information they are looking for. In a small, but important way, they experience your church through your website.

We’re wired to gravitate to beauty. If your website looks like it’s from the 90s, well, the perception will probably be that your church is also stuck in that era. And it sends the message that you don’t care enough about your visitors to invest the time to make a modern, clean website.

Would you go to a fancy dinner in shorts and a T-shirt? Never! Because it sends the message that you don’t care.

If God is good, true, and beautiful, what we create as humans should reflect that. Your website is no different.

3. Professional Photos

Quality matters. While raw photos have a place on social media and can help tell your church story, a pixelated hero image is a major website deterrent.

It will be worth it to contract with a professional or find a church member with photography experience to take photos that paint your church in its best light. Don’t settle for okay. Shoot (pun intended) for great images that truly tell your story.

Your photos are a first impression of the culture of your church, and often communicate other important information.

For example, if someone has never been to your church, the thing that causes the most anxiety about a first-time visit is often, “What do I wear?” Seriously! Think about it. If they’ve never walked through the doors, they don’t know if it’s best to wear a suit and tie or t-shirts and jeans. Have photos of smiling church members in their Sunday attire.

A staff bio page is another great way for visitors to begin building relationships with your staff. It humanizes your church when you allow outsiders to know who you are on an individual level.

We went the traditional headshot route on our team page, but we couldn’t resist including our Chief Canine Officer, Moses Vanderbloemen.

Things that you might want to include: a good staff photo, a short bio with family info and church history, social media links, contact information, and a fun fact.

You can demonstrate a relaxed culture with fun, smiling pictures, a buttoned-up culture with traditional headshots, or whatever you choose. Thoughtfully consider what you want your pictures to communicate. You can carefully choose the background of the picture, the dress of your staff, the poses, and any other details you feel demonstrate your culture well.

Just remember: the personality of your staff communicates the personality of your church.

4. Social Media Links

Social media is a powerful online tool in today’s day and age. It’s expected for most churches to have a social media presence on channels like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Provide a way for visitors and members to connect to the church, ministries, and pastors online. Social media is an important extension of your website, and you should invest significant time in branding those channels and posting content.

Content you share on social media should always direct users back to your website. From there, hopefully they will come to a service or join a group and become involved, invested members of your church.

Social media, rather than your website, may be the first place visitors or members check for updates or important information, so it’s critical that website visitors can access that information.

5. Your Mission

What do you stand for? What is your ‘Why?’ It’s important to include this on your website in a visible, accessible place.

People want to be a part of something great. Invite them in!

This could include a doctrinal statement, your mission, vision, and/or values, or it could just be a statement such as: “What matters to us is…” Included in this should be an invitation to join in with what you are doing.

How are you advancing the Kingdom, and how can people be a part of that? It’s critical to get this messaging right so visitors know what to expect when they visit your church.

If you lead with this messaging on your home page, visitors will immediately get insight into the spiritual component of your church – and isn’t that what’s most important at the end of the day?

6. Essential Information

Now we’re getting down to specifics. Visitors are often wondering, “When do I show up?” Do you have services with different worship styles? Is there an informal time where visitors can talk to a pastor or hear about the church? Visitors and even members need to know when and where they should arrive for services, Sunday School, meetings, etc. Parents will want to know where they should take their kids (older and younger) on Sunday mornings or during the week.

A great way to do this is to have a “What To Expect” or “FAQ” page that answers all of these questions.

And while we’re talking about important info, don’t forget to include your address and contact information in your website footer, including an email and a working phone number.

This is the most essential information for your church website along with your church name. Make your address extremely easy to find. You may want to embed a map on the website as well.

This seems obvious, but you’d be surprised at how common it is for some churches to omit their location on the home page and throughout their website.

Do you have multiple campuses? Display each of the campus addresses on the home page and make it easy to identify which is the main campus. Gateway Church in Dallas, TX beautifully displays the service times and addresses of each of their campuses.

If your church’s mailing address is different from the physical address, clearly state that on the front page as well.

Your website should also provide a variety of ways for people to contact you: phone, email, or perhaps even through messaging. People might be more comfortable with one form of communication compared to another, so giving them options will make their online experience a positive one, and encourage them to reach out.

7. Current Content

What’s new at your church? Has something exciting happened recently? Is there a major event on the horizon?

Visitors want to know what you’ve been up to, what you are preaching about, and what your worship experience is like. They don’t want to know what it was like three years ago. Members who missed out last weekend also want to hear recent sermons. Having current content on your site allows your church to remain fresh and inviting.

If you can, post regular news updates to share stories from within your church. Consider hosting video stories that also bring your church to life through the lens of your members. Mariners Church in California is a great example. They have a Stories page that features videos and is periodically updated with content.

So, if you want visitors to take you seriously, get serious about your website. Take these essentials and invest in your online presence. If your website is inviting, your church will be an attractive option for a new visitor and you’ll be more likely to retain current members. While the majority of your ministry may be in person, don’t discount the importance of your online presence. A good website is a critical tool to help to grow your church – so give it the care it deserves.

P.S. We just conducted a survey about the online church, and found some amazing ways the digital church can help move the Kingdom forward. You can check it out here.