Websites and Sharing About Your Parish: Some New-and Old-Suggestions
This article was originally published on the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) Diocese of the Midwest website by Joseph Kormos, Parish Health Facilitator. More parish development resources are available here.
Are you tasked with keeping your parish website fresh? Here are some tips.
Declutter your site and get all the ancient stuff out of there. Get six new people to tell you what's wrong with it and why they still can't find information on the current events. What did they try to find that they would never, ever find?
Make Basics Easy to Find
Most site visitors are looking for basic info. Make it easy to find. The basic questions:
- Where are you located?
- How do I get there?
- Is there parking?
- What times are services? In general? Specifically?
- How do I contact the church?
- During what hours can I contact the church?
- How can I contact the priest?
- What kind of church is it?
- What kind of Orthodox Church is it?
Photos! Photos! Photos!
Use lots of clear, attractive photos. Group photos are fine but photos of people "doing" are best. Show action, not group photos. Show people more than buildings on the landing page.
Avoid Unfamiliar Terms...
...Of which we have many. It makes you sound unwelcoming and complex. As if only those already Orthodox are allowed in.
In our opinion it should be dignified while also informal and welcoming. Avoid a sense of sounding ancient and foreign in favor of presenting your parish as today, alive and here.
Understand Your Audience
Ask yourself what kinds of people are realistically most likely to be attracted to your parish.
Which will stay and grow in their love for Christ? What are their needs and questions? What are the important qualities of your parish and of Orthodox Christianity that should be attractive to these audiences? How can you communicate this better?
Think clearly about the communication needs of your internal audiences. Various age groups. Teens? Parents? Seniors? Singles? What do they need/want to know? Can they find it? Fast?
Why not a brief welcome video ala those shown in video section at beginning of this newsletter. (No -- not the coffee hour instructions!)
Add a "How to Become a Member Page"
See this article for suggestions on describing membership expectations. . But really something simple will do. Give people a sense that you actually do receive (warmly, and successfully) new members.
A listing on Google Places allows you to be shown when searching in the neighborhood.
Church Address on Landing Page
Not "directions from the west". Many out of town visitors don't know which direction they're coming from. GPS systems need an address.
Go to Google Places and follow the guides for submitting your organization as a business. (Surprisingly they don't have a category for Orthodox Churches!) This will list you on a Google Map when a user searches in your area
In trying to find out the Holy Week schedule for an East Coast parish a visitor was forced to join the parish Yahoo email group to access the worship schedule! Unwilling to put up with such barriers, she went to a different church. If you think only in terms of current members, all you will get is current members.
Audio Default to "Off"
If you include music on your site default the audio to "off". People are likely viewing this while surfing at the office!
Go Easy on Parish History
A short parish history as a small portion of website content is fine. But if it's a top level menu selection -- you need to find something else to talk about. Present yourselves as forward–looking, while respectful of past inheritance.