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BIBLEtabletWe want you to have access to the most reliable information available for your instruction and enlightenment of the internet, and how to work with it to help spread the Gospel to as many as possible.  Just as Paul and Jesus went to the synagogue to reach people with the word, so is the internet to today's world.

Ever typed in a website's URL, clicked to the About page, and was presented a giant, novel-sized paragraph? I bet you muttered "forget it" and exited the page without reading a word.
The attention spans of website visitors continues to nose-dive as they are increasingly bombarded with information--ads, links, Flash presentations, videos, and images. Making your web content as stripped down and instantly readable as possible is a necessity.
Website users don't read--they scan. You have seconds to keep a visitor's attention before they leave your website forever, so you must optimize your pages' text for instant consumption. 
Here are five ways to maximize your content's potential and keep visitors on your site.


Avoid jargon.


Most website visitors come to your site to learn more about you. For a great deal of those visitors, your website is their first experience with you. If you use "insider" phrases and words, your visitor could get confused and leave out of frustration.
Churches are especially guilty of using terms that outsiders have no clue of their meaning. Here are a few to avoid and some alternatives to use instead.

Don't Use             Use Instead            
"Reach the lost and dying" Preach the message of Jesus to those who don't know Him.
"Covet your prayers" Please pray for ...            
"Stumble" or "fall"             Sin or disobey God
"Food, fun, and fellowship"             Meet together; socialize; celebrate; spend time with            

Use short sentences.


To make your pages easier to understand, keep your sentences from being too complicated--the shorter, the better.

  • Use the old rule for adjectives: "when in doubt, take it out."
  • Try seperating compound sentences in two.
  • Avoid big words and complicated ideas.
  • Read a lot of Hemingway. He did it best.

Use headers, bullet points, text styles, and lists.


These devices make it easier for visitors seeking specific information to scan your pages. If your About page contains your location, directions, and service times, using a header to separate these sections is a good way to please those only looking for your address.
Bullet points, text styles (bold, italics, all caps), and lists can be used to highlight important content or separate examples from your other content (see the section above as an example). All of these elements come together to turn words into pictures.


Write at an elementary grade reading level.


See your website visitor. He sees your big words. See him run.
Don't introduce your We Believe section with a 12 paragraph explanation of your views on dispensationalism. And don't follow that up with a detailed section on Harmartiology. K.I.S.S.
Visitors want to know what you believe, what you value, and what you strive to accomplish, without having to grab a dictionary.


Write in chunks.


Just like short sentences make text easier to digest, short paragraphs do the same. Try to limit your paragraphs to three sentences. The white space between paragraphs will provide a less intimidating environment to page visitors.
They'll be more inclined to read a page that seems to have less content, even if it really doesn't. The shorter paragraphs "Jedi mind trick" them into thinking they'll have to read less.

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s2smodern

Right now 85% of people will spend a significant amount of time on your church website before they visit. Gone are the days of a quick glance at an ad in the newspaper or a quick flip to “church” in the yellow pages. People expect information via your website.

As my young children grow up they will never understand what life was like before iPads, iPhones, and the ability to Google anything and everything. For our church to be effective at reaching people who are far from God, we have to be able to create a viable presence on the web.

Remember your website is the first impression that most people will have of you.

  1. Have a professional create your website. There are a lot of places where you can launch a do-it-yourself site. 99% of those look horribly cheesy. While your weekend may be an incredibly excellent experience, that is not what your self-made website will be communicating. Pay the money for someone to design it for you.
  2. Make your site clean and easy to navigate. The most commonly utilized page on your site will be the times and directions. Make sure that people know when and where you meet. That info should be on or easily accessed from the home page.
  3. Answer the MOST ASKED QUESTION: “Who are the Leaders?” People want to know who is in leadership. They are wondering if they will be able to fit in. This is the second most viewed page on our website. Make sure you have a contemporary looking photo (leave the Olan Mills stuff at home) and a good brief bio.  
  4. Don’t use fake photos. Be real. In my opinion, the worst thing you can do is load up your site with a bunch of stock photos. Your website is your chance to communicate who you are, and what they will be able to expect. Stock photos are disingenuous and they don’t connect with people.  If you don’t have quality photos, spend time finding some that reflect your church.
  5. Don’t lie.  I read mass mailers and look at websites all the time that are just not honest. Now I don’t think people are trying to lie, I just think they aren’t trying to tell the truth. Don’t put “the best kids ministry in town”  or “the best worship in the city” if you are a new church or a church that is trying to revitalize. I can guarantee that none of those things are true. So tell people what they will actually get, passionate worship and a kids ministry that will be clean, safe and fun. These is all attainable and possible. I am convinced that when people don’t stay with us after initially responding to our marketing it has a lot to do with the fact that our marketing didn’t really shoot straight with them on what they were actually going to get when they got there.
  6. Use consistent branding. All of your marketing should tie together. The mailer, the website, the invite cards, all need the same graphic and language. It helps people understand that it is all from the same place and helps the recognition of your brand.

Hope some of this helps as you put together your website. Praying that God uses this to work together for His glory.

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s2smodern
I have noticed a few things while reviewing other church websites that may help you out.
  1. The locations and times that services will be held should be stated clearly and in simple terms.  A visitor to the church web site should be able to easily find the times and locations that a service will be held. An example of what not to do, would be putting the service times under a section titled “Who We Are” or something like that.  Where, if you want to find the service times, you must first navigate to “Who We Are” and from there, click “Visiting Us”. This is a poor way to list service times, as neither “Who We Are” nor “Visiting Us” seems to be related to when events are held.
  2. The church address, written directions and a map should be made readily available.  Make it as easy as possible for potential new visitors to find the church. One option to help accomplish this is by embedding a map from Google Maps into your webpage. To do this, visit google.com/maps. Type in your church’s address, and then click the “Link” button which can be found in the upper right hand corner of the map. This will give you an HTML link code, which you can paste into your directions page, providing visitors with a visual representation of your location.
  3. Make sure your “Contact Us” page can be easily found.  The Contact Us page is one often not given proper attention on church websites and can result in being placed in some obscure part of the site. Visitors will not be able to contact you if you do not make your contact information easily available. Details that should be included in this page are a working e-mail address, the church’s office phone number and the name of one or more general contacts such as an office manager or secretary. Including photographs of church staff along with their names and e-mails is also a very nice, personal touch.
  4. Eliminate non-working pages.  Many websites have an occasional page that is not functional and instead contains only a message such as “More Info Soon” or “Check Back for Updates”. These should be removed because it gives your site the appearance of being unfinished. This is not pleasing to many website visitors.
  5. The Events page should be continually kept up-to-date.  This can be an easy one to forget. Make sure you check the event calendar regularly for accuracy. Your visitors will rely on this calendar for things such as service times, prayer meetings, youth events and concerts. Providing correct information will ensure that your visitor arrives at the correct date and time.
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s2smodern

A church website is by far the best communication method for enabling members to get the information they want, to the level of detail they want, at the time they want it.  Done right, your church website can be the best communication tool in your tool box, and the people of your congregation will be better informed, feel more connected to what’s going on in the church, and be more involved.

Here are 11 tips for making your church website a great informational resource for members.

  1. Keep it current. Your church website should be updated at least once a week.  If people go to your site and see old information, they will be far less likely to check it in the future.
  2. Make it comprehensive. Your church website needs to have information on EVERYTHING that is going on.  If you leave things out, people will be far less likely to check it in the future.
  3. Send a consistent message. If you’re announcing an opportunity from the pulpit, in the bulletin, on the website, and by other means, use the same language in every case.  It will save you time, and provide clarity.
  4. Double-check it for accuracy. I recall one time when my church’s bulletin and website gave two different times for an event.  You can imagine the confusion and frustration that caused.
  5. Proof it for errors. If your website includes spelling and grammatical errors, people will question the accuracy of the information, the church’s commitment to the site, and the competence of the website staff.
  6. Mention the website address repeatedly in every other form of communication. “For more information see our website at blahblahblah.com” should be the most repeated phrase in verbal announcements, phone calls, the church bulletin, flyers, voice mail, email signatures, etc.
  7. Use an intuitive layout. To help people find the information they are looking for, use the same menu navigation on every page.  Put some thought into how your organize and name the sections and pages of your website, so things are easy to find.
  8. Calendar. Put a calendar on your website and keep it updated.
  9. Bonus features. Include things in your website that your members can’t get anywhere else, like photo galleries of recent events.  This will give people additional reasons to visit the site.
  10. Two-way communication. Provide many easy ways on the website for people to contact church staff and ministry team leaders if they have additional questions.  That means a phone number, email address, or contact form for the point of contact on every page.
  11. Be inclusive. Don’t allow your desire to make your church website a great resource for members overwhelm the need to be welcoming and inclusive to visitors.  Keep information for visitors as the top priority on your website, and don’t use insider words and phrases without explaining them.

The Flywheel Effect

When you first commit to making your website a great informational resource for your church, you will put a lot of time and effort into it and only a few people will notice.  But don’t be dismayed — as you consistently update it and refer to it in other communications, more and more people will begin to notice that they can reply on the website for current, accurate information.  Momentum will begin to build.  Before long, you’ll notice the same amount of work it took to inform a handful of people at the onset now helps dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of people stay informed. This is what Jim Collins) in his book Good to Great called “The Flywheel Effect.”

When accelerating a flywheel, it’s important to apply force continuously and consistently.  If you’re inconsistent, the wheel will begin to slow or wobble.  The same is true for your church website.  If you follow the 11 tips above consistently, you will continue to build momentum.  Before you know it, your church website will become a great information resource for the people of your congregation.

- See more at: http://blog.ourchurch.com/2006/04/04/11-tips-for-making-your-church-website-a-great-resource/#sthash.onWNSs7N.dpuf

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s2smodern

“We need more lodgers,” said Maria Silversmith to her husband Joe one evening. Ten years back, they had bought their large rambling house to accommodate six children as well as two elderly relatives. With only the two younger children now left at home, the house seemed achingly empty, even with the presence of Tim their lodger, who had become like one of the family. “Let’s make a webpage, then people looking for lodgings can easily find us,” suggested Joe.

Their family home was an ideal place for lodgers. They were easy-going and welcoming people. Maria was a caring woman who could be motherly to student-age lodgers or a wise friend to anyone nearer her own age. Joe liked the extra company and was a gracious host, while Sue and Jason (10 and 14) already treated (or boisterously mistreated) Tim as an older brother. Indeed, Tim’s stay with them had been a healing time for him in many ways. Of course, as in any family, there were grumpy times but these usually evaporated quickly.

“Let’s sit down after dinner and list what to put on our webpage,” announced Joe the next day. There were so many things they might have said. How Joe loved fishing and motorbikes. That Maria was a music teacher and played in a band. The way Sue and Jason played a mean game of tennis. Even how Tim their lodger had found healing and acceptance in the Silversmith household.

But somehow, despite their gifts and interests, the Silversmiths found it hard to communicate when not face-to-face. So their webpage ended up looking rather like this:

  • one photo of the front of the house (no people pictured at all)
  • measurements of the rooms available for lodgers, with details of the decor and furniture
  • a list of house-rules and meal-times
  • a short history about the building of their house

And that was it. The Silversmiths could never understand why “the website didn’t work”.


 

Digital and your church

Church websites can be outsider-friendly (Colossians 4:5). But this must be an intentional strategy. One of the best places to learn more is Internet Toolbox for Churches. You can also test the outsider-friendliness of your church website with this free assessment tool.

This year’s Internet Evangelism Day is set for Sunday 1 June – a great time to focus on the wide range of digital opportunities for evangelism and ministry available to both the church leadership team and individual members.

Churches can benefit from appointing a digital advocate – someone who can resource the rest of the fellowship by explaining these opportunities.

Another option for those with the appropriate gifts is to become a digital mentor, working as a volunteer for a large online outreach team such as Truth Media, and helping inquirers to their websites, by email.

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s2smodern

ToolsWe have curated and authored articles that will help you understand how you can build a better website.  Not just what others are doing, but pieces about why you are using this medium to reach the lost.


ChartWhat are infographics? Information graphics or infographics are graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge intended to present complex information quickly and clearly. They can improve cognition by utilizing graphics to enhance the human visual system’s ability to see patterns and trends. These are chosen for their ability to enhance understanding about certain points about Interner Presence.

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