A well-maintained church website is a “tool for evangelism” and vital to community presence, says Lai Salmonson, webmaster for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC).
“Probably less than half actually have a website that’s managed,” Salmonson said about North Carolina Baptist churches in an interview with the Biblical Recorder April 23.
“The biggest part of a church website is to have community presence. Show that ‘Hey, we’re here for you guys.’ … It’s a tool for reaching those who’ve never been to a church. It’s really a tool for evangelism as well.
“If you place a short video presentation of the gospel on the homepage, you never know who you might impact.”
Salmonson began offering workshops on creating and maintaining church websites in 2012 and has since assisted about 80 churches every year.
About eight times a year, the BSC Information Technology & Services team hosts Wix training in the BSC building in Cary. No classes are currently offered due to social distancing restrictions brought on by COVID-19, but a do-it-yourself manual is available for download.
Salmonson said in-person classes are based on the manual, so church leaders or staff who are interested would be able to access the same information. He can also remotely connect to participants’ computers for further assistance.
The online manual is a helpful tool “especially for beginners.” It explains technical terms and domain names and offers tips on graphic design. Salmonson would normally demonstrate the entire process of creating a website and offer hands-on guidance in class, but in the meantime, he said the online manual is “basic enough” to follow, even without prior web management experience.
Salmonson sees websites as a “reach tool” primarily for a church’s surrounding community and then for its members. Basic features should include a photo of the building or pastor so visitors can easily recognize the facility and leaders.
“I find that most folks that look at church websites are transplants. … One of the most important parts of having a small church website is that you are found on Google by those searching for a new church home that have moved into your community,” he said.
Churches that are creating new websites with limited time and resources should also include, at minimum, a calendar. It can act as a weekly digital “bulletin,” he said. Salmonson recommended utilizing Google calendar, as it is automatically updated.
“They don’t even have to touch the website. It becomes more of an informational platform,” he said. Any changes made to the Google calendar will be reflected on the website as they are added.When asked about specific web needs in light of the coronavirus pandemic, Salmonson pointed to the BSC’s COVID-19 resource page, which covers live streaming, virtual small group meetings and online giving, among other essential features. Social media engagement, like streaming worship services on Facebook Live, is especially important in reaching the community at this time, he added.