Successful church Web sites target potential members

The Internet is changing how people communicate, and churches that want to stay connected need an online presence, according to the United Methodist Church (UMC).

The UMC recommends church Webmasters include the following when developing a site to reach people shopping for a new church, according to the United Methodist News Service:

A welcome message, preferably from the pastor. People want to feel welcome, whether in the church itself or on the Web site.

Worship service times and descriptions of the services. To simply label a service "contemporary" or "traditional" is not enough.

Ministry descriptions. People shopping for a church want to know how the church reaches out to spiritually feed the congregation and the community.

Class descriptions. Highlight each class or small group with a brief description, meeting location and time.

Staff listing and contact information. A Web site that doesn’t offer an opportunity to gain more information by e-mail, phone or snail mail is like the Yellow Pages without phone numbers, according to the UMC. Include photos of staff members as well.

Core beliefs. Include a few lines or paragraphs about what the congregation believes as well as the denomination’s theology.

Upcoming events and a calendar. Church barbecues, yard sales, blood drives, etc., are often non-threatening ways for a person to visit a church for the first time.

Directions and map to the church. Do not rely on a person knowing how to get to the church, no matter how long it has been a part of the community.

Building maps or floor plans. It’s helpful for a person to have a general idea of how to get around the church before making that first visit.