April 2021 | Volume 16 | Issue 4
Pack an Online Missions Punch
Learn from the missions pages of these four church websites
When COVID shut down churches’ short-term trip plans, many of their missions web pages essentially “went dark.” But communicating missions on a church website should be about far more than just upcoming trips, so Catalyst set out to look for some good models.
A church’s webpages are often the first place where newcomers and regulars encounter the church’s passion for global engagement and are challenged to consider specific ways to get involved.
A good missions presence on the web becomes even more important for churches who recognize that post-COVID they will continue to have an “online congregation” connected primarily through electronic communication.
To help our readers assess their own electronic pages, Catalyst Services selected four church websites which do a great job presenting their missions involvement. Next we recruited some internet-savvy people to critique all four sites, highlighting the strengths of each as well as suggesting some enhancements. Note: Good webpages are constantly being improved; if you read this article very long after it is published, the content on these sites is likely to have changed.
A special thanks goes to the missions leaders and web managers at all four churches for their willingness to be included in this public critique process without knowing what was going to be published about their webpages!
Before you read our evaluations, we suggest that you take a little time to analyze the content, visual appeal, and navigation on each of the four sites. Look for approaches that you might utilize on your church’s site, then see how our evaluations compare to yours.
Finally, don’t miss the 10 guidelines included at the end of this article that will help your team develop strong and effective missions pages.
Atascadero Bible Church, Atascadero, CA abcchurch.org
What we liked:
- The missions section is easy to find, visually pleasing, and laid out well.
- The intro video from the lead pastor combined with the strong “About” statement shows both a commitment to missions in general and an informed strategy for doing so. The “why” and the “what” of ABC’s global impact was clarified up front. The endorsement of the senior leader underscored the priority of missions for this congregation.
- The videos about each of the initiatives are short and inspiring. We caught the vision!
- We were impressed by the regular updates from outreach partners that evidence how much the church values those relationships. The updates are short enough to be easily absorbed and include specific prayer requests. It looks like most of the partners write each month. Kudos!
- A brief written description of each initiative and how the church is involved would orient the site visitor before they watch the initiative’s video.
- One evaluator noted that all of the videos feature men which could imply that there aren’t important roles for women. What isn’t included can communicate as much as what is included.
- The duplication between the “Blog” and the outreach partners’ updates was a bit confusing. A title like “Partner Updates” rather than “Blog” would clarify that they contain the same information. One evaluator wished that the “Blog” had included updates and prayer requests for the initiatives.
Elmbrook Church, Milwaukee, WI elmbrook.org
What we liked:
- The intro video gives a great background on Elmbrook’s missions history and commitment.
- We loved the map showing where all the missionaries serve. The pop-up info on each worker is helpful, especially if you are looking for someone in a particular geographical area. Clicking on “More Details” leads to informative videos, great ministry overviews, and specific prayer requests. Really well done!
- The explanations and videos under the local partners are great. The information was helpful and most highlighted specific ways to engage.
- The concrete opportunities under “Want to Get Involved” challenged us to action.
- Navigation was our biggest concern on this site. Putting the cursor on “Mission” under the “Ministries” section shows two subcategories that are both local. Some of us missed the whole missions section because we didn’t click on the “Mission” option itself. Also, moving the large social media buttons from the middle to the bottom of the missions page would avoid the danger of visitors missing the important information that follows.
- Evaluators appreciated the emphasis on prayer but wondered if even during COVID, Elmbrook might be able to provide other ways to serve global missions.
- The info about individual missionary prayer needs is presented very attractively on the downloadable guide but it might be even more widely used if it were accessible directly from the website.
LifePoint Church, Smyrna, TN lifepointchurch.org
What we liked:
- The site is very visually attractive and easy to navigate. Listing “Sending” as the very first item in the “Ministries” menu drop-down sends a signal about the priority of missions in the church.
- Language matters. The choice of the term “living sent” as the theme of the whole section made it feel like joining God’s work nearby and far away is very natural and normal to LifePoint Church. One evaluator noted, “’Sending’ feels like a way of life rather than just a department. Since there was more focus on going, doing, and serving vs. giving and praying, it was clear that the focus is on mobilization, and it was successful in making me want to get involved.”
- Another evaluator liked the prominence of the interest form.
- We appreciated that the categories of “local,” “national,” and “global” are well defined. We loved the many different ways to volunteer.
- The “Sending Experience FAQ” section is very helpful and easy to use.
- There is some risk that someone quickly scanning the website with the question “Does this church ‘do missions’?” misses the content completely (listed as “sending”) and mistakenly concludes they don’t.
- The difference between “living sent” (every believer) and “sent ones” (missionaries) seems rather hard to grasp, especially in the section where the “…we are all sent ones” is immediately followed by the list of “sent ones” who are missionaries.
- We loved that LifePoint offers so many different ways to get involved, but some evaluators found the number of options a little overwhelming.
Park Community Church, Chicago, IL parkcommunity.church
What we liked:
- The site is visually aesthetic and easy to use. Park’s missions strategy is clear. The site invites everyone to engage, including those who may tell themselves that missions isn’t for them if they don’t feel called to go or can’t afford to give much.
- The “About Global” provides a clear, succinct summary of why missions matters, the current state of affairs, and how Park will make an impact. Great job!
- The information about the different initiatives is helpful without being too complicated. Park100 is explained well, and the process and heart behind it come through clearly.
- The simple steps to get involved are motivating.
- A more prominent placement of the “5 Ways to Engage in the Global Church” (currently at the end of the “Get Involved” page) could better highlight Park’s many opportunities.
- One evaluator mentioned, “I would like to hear from individuals or even see pictures of people on the site. While security concerns may prevent the use of global workers’ photos, they could feature a pastor or church members.”
- Another person felt that a bit more information prior to the “email for more information” buttons would have piqued their interest to take the step of making contact.
10 BASIC GUIDELINES
for great missions pages on your church website
- Make sure that your missions pages are super easy to find and follow. The best information is useless if people can’t find it. Sit down at a computer or on a cell phone with someone unfamiliar with your site and watch them navigate through your pages. Can they easily discover and move through your essential content?
- Begin with a clear summary of your missions vision presented in a short, memorable statement.
- Short explainer videos (2-3 minutes) or a strong video endorsement from your senior pastor are great.
- Follow security guidelines for what you can post about missionaries, but don’t eliminate all information about what God is doing in high-security places. Instead, engage your creativity to present compelling updates using pseudonyms, and general rather than specific locations.
- Use strong, close-up action shots wherever possible; avoid a lot of large group photos.
- Include a call to action for a variety of ways to serve but don’t overload your site with details. You can link to additional information or have people contact you to learn more.
- Include multiple learning modalities: text, video, and interactive elements (such as a map with links).
- Small amounts of information that are changed frequently are better than extensive pages that are “dusty” with age.
- Evaluate your site to see if you have included diversity of gender, race, age, and interests. Visitors will quickly determine if you had them in mind when you designed your pages.
- Ask a volunteer to sweep your pages once a month to find and update out-of-date information and fix broken links.
A special thanks is due to our critique team:
Bryden McGhee completed biblical and theological studies at Gordon College and has done short-term missions in several countries. Currently she works as a pastoral trainer at Hillsong College in Phoenix, AZ, helping to raise, equip, empower, and release Kingdom-minded leaders to carry the gospel message around the world.
Sam Pritchard is senior manager of client care at Varsity Tutors overseeing digital customer service and technical support. He completed an M.Div. from Fuller Seminary in anticipation of becoming an overseas church planter, but God has led him to stay stateside.
The Postings editing team also weighed in on these sites: Denise Nichols, copy editor, heads the very active Middle East FOCUS team at Grace Point Church in Newtown, PA. Ellen Livingood, editor, seems to stay perennially busy with Catalyst Services ministries.