October 16, 2015
In recent years, the parish website has grown to become one of most crucial tools for parish communication. It is an important instrument for engagement with parishioners, potential parishioners, and the larger population. The parish website is often times one of the first places a person may go in order to gather information about the church. The search might be for something as simple as finding mass times or it might be for a more complex task of scoping out the vitality of the church or learning about the pastor. Whatever the reason drawing a viewer to the parish website, the site should be inviting, informative, and clean.
Recently having moved to a new city, I am still on the lookout for a parish to call my home. When assessing a potential church community, the first place I look is absolutely the parish website. If the website is lacking, this generally, though not always, indicates that the parish is not one of the most vibrant and thriving communities. Often times, if the website falls flat, I cease to look further. On the flip side, if I stumble across a website that is engaging I tend to explore. I may sign up for their e-newsletter or follow the parish on Twitter. A good website illustrates that the parish is up with the times and making an effort to meet the people in this age of technology. It shows genuine interest in striving to make the parish the best that it can be and to share its vitality with others.
What does a “good” parish website have? A solid parish website is clean. The home page should be simple, organized, and free of distractions. In other words, it should be visually appealing. The website should be easy to navigate and have the necessary details for the parish. Information like the pastor’s name and contact information, mass times, current events, etc. should all be very easy to find within a click or two. With parishes in many cities sharing similar names, clearly citing information such as the city name will help visitors avoid mistakenly looking at a parish across the country.
When designing a website, each component of the site should have a particular purpose. Sometimes less can be more. Be intentional about your graphics. Be focused on what you choose to say or not say on the homepage. Create a parish mission statement that explicitly shares the focus of the parish. Keep it simple.
It may not be as hard or expensive as you think to build a great parish website. Without even realizing it, someone at your parish may have the skills necessary to help redesign the site. Put an advertisement in the bulletin and ask around. Another suggestion is to check out other great parish websites for ideas and to see who designed their sites. Oftentimes in the bottom corner you will see credit given to a website designer.
A few of my favorite parish sites are the following:
St. Anthony of Padua, The Woodlands, TX
Church of the Nativity, Timonium, MD
St. Benedict, Halifax, Nova Scotia
While these are intended to be a few helpful tools for bettering a site, there is certainly no such thing as a perfect parish website and there is no “right” way to do it. At the end of the day each parish site should cater to the uniqueness of the parish. Nonetheless, exerting effort and taking the time to create a great parish website is essential to helping your parish continue to thrive.
By: Jordan Russell, Digital Media and Development, Parish Catalyst