5 Things to Do to Get Your Website Ready for Fall

Posted at July 18, 2011

A friend of mine who worked on the staff of a large church had a great saying.  He described the seemingly-endless treadmill of activity that consumes folks in the church office. It repeats each week: submitting bulletin announcements, worship planning, rehearsals, sterilizing baby toys, setting up cones in the parking lot, testing the check-in kiosks, etc. Rinse and repeat.  As my friend puts it:

“Sundays come with great regularity.”

As much as this is true of the 7-day cycle, you must also admit that there is one time of year that inspires equal portions of anticipation, promotion, repetition, and action in the church world.

Fall kickoff!

That’s right folks, Labor Day is just around the corner and with it come all of the tanned Summer vacationers, kids moving up a grade level, parents breathing a sigh of relief.  Classes will begin. Ministries will have fairs. Youth will retreat. Shiny new activities and programs your church will be launching. Plus, we’ll be that much closer to the re-launch of the Chick-Fil-A Peppermint Chocolate Chip milkshake.

If your heart is beating a little faster as you read this, we know how you feel. We’re less than 60 days out, online ministry people. Let’s shake off the mid-Summer haze, spray the air duster over the laptop keyboard, and get in gear! Your Website can get you there.

Here’s what you can be doing now to get a head start:

Create event signup forms: Many Fall events start taking registration in August, and whether they require payment or not, they’ll probably need to collect responses for later reporting.  Do yourself a favor and set up those forms now while you have plenty of time to write, design, and test.

Plan Friendly URLs so you will have them ready for print ads/video promos/bulletins. Rather than advertising a long, impossible-to-remember address for your women’s retreat, how about just “mychurch.org/women2011″? This is done with a friendly URL, and you’ll need to have these in place before any final promo materials go to press.

Give your staff a refresher on style and branding guidelines. If Summer is a time to be lazy, then Fall is a time to re-bootcamp your hapless fellow staff members so they know where you stand on fonts, colors, logo usage, ALL CAPS, and rogue web pages! If you want to get motivated, check out the story from Potential Church in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Video is below.

Consider a paid search campaign to attract newcomers. If you haven’t tried it before, this might be the year to consider saving a little of your outreach budget for keyword-based ads on Google or Bing.  Remember that Web Search is one of the top ways folks will find a church–why can’t it be yours?  Think like a newcomer, and search for things like “church in <name of town>” or “<name of town> ministry”, etc.  You’ll get a good idea of what people are seeing when they are new to your area.

Test your site on mobile devices and tablets. Pastor just got an iPad 2, uh oh!  Suddenly, Flash is evil and our video workflow must change. Well, the pastor isn’t alone on this one because a HUGE percentage of your current and future attenders are already sporting iWhatevers. Your job is to make sure that they can read, watch, and interact with you online. If you pull up your Website on a smartphone or tablet and it falls short, get in touch with your Web firm now and find out what they can do to help you. It may not be a free upgrade, but this will be money well spent.

Any war stories out there? Lessons learned from past years that might help other church staff be more prepared this Fall?

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