The Liturgical Christianity Portal

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Parish Websites 101

While a good number of parishes out there have websites, many still don’t. After a webhost has been found and a webmaster has been hired (or voluntered), one huge question remains: what do we put on the website? Every parish website should have, at least: 1. A listing of service times 2. Information on weekly activities and Sunday School 3. Contact information for the church office and 4. directions or a map for getting to the church. A good website should be updated at least once a month, weekly updates are even better. As for HTML programs, if your webhost doesn’t provide a site builder, there are many good ones you can buy or download for free. Ones that I have used and like are Dreamweaver (the best, IMO, but very expensive), Microsoft FrontPage Express, Netscape Composer, and Ace HTML. If you don’t like doing the HTML code manually, make sure your HTML editor is a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get), which allows you to edit without knowing any programming languages like HTML or Javascript.

Now, with all the techie stuff out of the way, here’s the fun part: deciding which features would be most helpful on your website. The following are just suggestions, but may help make your site a winner.

Episcopal (or Whoever) Church Info This is basically the online equivilant of a literature rack. While a good majority of your visitors will probably be denomination members looking for a parish to attend, many others will probably be “church-shopping”. You can write your own material or link to sites with the material you need (it’s a good idea to ask the site owner’s permission first).

Your Parish’s History A brief history of your parish, supplemented by pictures if possible, is a sure way of attracting visitors. If your church has any special features to it (such as special stained glass, a garden, or artwork), information on it will also draw interest.

Question of the Week/Month I saw this on a parish website once, and thought it was a good idea. The rector posted a question monthly along with responses received on a variety of issues on the website. Subjects included how to respond to Christians who don’t observe Christmas and Easter, the Trinity, whether homosexuals should be ordained, and what the gift of the Holy Spirit means.

Guestbook This is a real must-have for any site. Here, your visitors may leave feedback on your site and leave other information about themselves, such as their e-mail address and a link to their own site. There are many services that provide guestbooks for free, and most are fully customizable. If you know Perl script, you can even create one from scratch yourself. Helpful hint: Make sure you have the option of editing or deleting any offensive entries such as ads or links to pornographic sites. Also, e-mail notification when someone signs the guestbook is helpful.

Related Links A page of related links is another feature that will keep visitors coming back if it’s updated reguarly. If possible, see if the sites you are linking to will provide a link to your site in return.

Pictures of Parish Events This is a good way to show your visitors who you are as a parish. Just make sure whoever’s in the pictures doesn’t mind them being displayed on a website. Most hosting packages offer software that allows you to create a photo gallery easily.

Pages on Ministries Special pages on groups such as choirs, acolytes, youth groups, etc. are a good way to help newcomers find out what activities they may be interested in.

Sound & Video Clips Sound clips of your choir(s) singing and sermons are a great feature to have. Some churches even have live webcasts of their services, but this can require a lot of work each week and require a LOT of webspace.

Sermons & Newsletters Many people will enjoy reading through an archive of past sermons. Some churches put their parish newsletters on their website, and this is especially helpful if printing expenses are an issue. Helpful hint: Your newsletter should be in HTML or Adobe Acrobat format. This way it can be read by PC and Mac users.

Messageboards A messageboard or boards are a great way for your visitors to interact. There are many places where you can get a good messageboard for free and many hosting companies offer board software with hosting packages. One parish I know of hosts a Bible study on their messageboard forum that’s open to the larger community.

Prayer Requests Providing visitors with a place to submit prayer requests is a wonderful thing to consider. This can be in the form of a messageboard or guestbook where the requests can be seen by all, or a link where the requests can be e-mailed to the rector or church office. For even more “Prayer Power”, team up with other ministries that will let you send requests you receive to them.

So, for starters, these are some ideas. If this article has helped you to create a site for your parish or you’ve got one and want to share it, please let me know. )

May 5, 2008 Posted by | Technology/Internet | Leave a comment