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The Church of Christ, Congregational Web Site

We suggest that you visit the web site for The Church of Christ, Congregational and tour around it for a while.  Then come back and read the review.  Feel free to write us with your comments or criticisms at feedback@hartsem.edu.

The Church of Christ, Congregational

We suggest that you visit the web site for The Church of Christ, Congregational of Norfolk and check it out.  Then come back and read the review.  Feel free to write us with your comments or criticisms at feedback@hartsem.edu.

The Church of Christ, Congregational in Norfolk, Connecticut has done an incredible thing in the world of church web design – they have established a web presence!  That may not sound like much of an accomplishment but as many as 40% of churches in the United States haven’t invested in a web presence by purchasing a domain name or creating a home page. 

The church’s webmaster, a volunteer church member, introduced the site and his plans for it this way…

“Our church had no web presence before this and I decided to try the single free page, set up through WebMedley.com, as a start. I wanted to use this one page to convey a spirit of welcome-- informing and attracting viewers to church activities.... The purpose of the web page is to advertise the church's presence and programs, and to interest people (both members and visitors) in participating.... I like the drawing of the church, but am not satisfied with the very long URL, and the lack of interesting and useful content for visitors and church members.  I would like to create a real web site where items useful and interesting to church members and visitors (maybe sermons, newsletters, church history notes, church program and event descriptions, map to the church, photos of church events, etc.) could be stored and accessed.”

The Norfolk Church of Christ is an example of a great beginning step.  Through their denomination http://www.ucc.org/ they got free web space and used a template design service called Webmedley http://www.webmedley.net/ to give them an initial professional look.  The site, using blocks of blue and gray color, has a bold yet understated design. 

On this single page site, they provide all of the pertinent information including contact information, mission statement, service times, upcoming activities, and staff information.  There are also a few links but that is the extent of the content. 

So why review a site with such little content and design?  First, we want to show that even a minimal site can be effective.  Second, we want to identify that are many things you can do to enhance a basic site by giving just one hour a week to the site, while still continuing a low maintenance web presence.

As mentioned, the Norfolk Church has provided much of the necessary information on their single page.  They even did it in an interesting way to give a visitor a feel for the church.  Another similar web site also accomplishing this is First Congregational Church of Tulare, CA. Nevertheless, one page makes a rather shallow web site.  Unfortunately the church would have to upgrade its package with Webmedley to make some of the basic changes we suggest below.

The easiest way to add depth and interest to a site is to create a secondary level with a bit more content.  First create a secondary page template by making a copy of your home page with all the body text deleted.  Ideally, your secondary level would have a slightly different look so visitors will visually feel that they are exploring into the site but, again, when faced with time constraints, duplicating the home page design is not a bad thing.  

Using the secondary page template, the material on the home page could easily be turned into three new pages for the site.  Make a new page for your service schedule.  By simply cutting and pasting the schedule from the home page, you now have another page for people to browse.  How can you fill up that page?  Add a set of directions.  If someone is interested in what time your service is, they may also want to know how to get to your location.  Asking any long time member can get this information, but make sure they would be clear to a first-timer.  Directions should be listed from points north, south, east and west to offer visitors specific information. 

Next, the event information could be moved to its own page as well.  Although your church may not have many events, add information about where the event will be held i.e. Fellowship Hall, classroom 5, etc.  Events should provide a contact name and number or any additional information that may be of interest to a visitor.  For example, the “Dominican Republic pot luck dinner + slide show” listed on the home page could include “Join us for a wonderful time of fellowship and food as we view the slides of the ministry work being done in the Dominican Republic.  Please call Joe Anybody at 555-5555 to reserve your spot and sign up for the dish you would like to bring.  This event will be held in our dining hall.”  Adding an additional sentence or two will help to enhance the event and make the page look a less bare. 

Also, consider adding the regular events that you may take for granted such as communion or baptismal services.  Not sure how to quickly describe an upcoming event?  Again turn to the membership, approach one of your leaders at the end of a service and ask for a quick description while you jot it down.  Asking for quick details on the spot is a frequently successful approach.

Finally, there is a good deal of text on the staff and leadership of the church.  A simple cut and paste creates an entire page that should not need any additions, unless you want to add a few pictures.

Don’t forget, as you add these pages, you will also need to add page links to the navigation on the left of the page.  It is recommended that you place these links above those to outside sites since you want your visitors to stay at your site for as long as possible.  The navigation will look fuller with “Service Times and Directions,” “Event Information,” and “Meet Our Staff” listed and will invite curious visitors to explore your church.

Want some other ways to quickly add content?  Find a church brochure or membership manual and copy the text to make pages such as “History,” or “Mission Statement and Values,” or “Our Ministries.”  For now, we recommend keeping the contact information and mission statement on the home page but, in the future, consider new pages for “Contact Information” and the mission statement as mentioned and ask your pastor to write a brief and fairly generic greeting for the home page.  Got a digital camera?  Add staff pictures to their bios.  If you don’t, any roll of film can be developed onto a CD for easy electronic use.

Overall, Norfolk Church of Christ has a great start with which to work.  If the webmaster chooses to take some of these suggestions and spends an extra hour a week adding a page per week, within a month the site would remain low-maintenance but could be more interesting and have quite a respectable web presence.




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