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Your parish website is your opportunity to tell visitors about your parish: where the church is, what happens there and when. It is a crucial first step in inviting newcomers to become part of your church community.
A Church Near You
A Church Near You contains information about parish churches and the services and events that take place there. The site enables people to find the church nearest to where they live (or for visitors, nearest to where they’re staying) and provides a map of the parish indicating where the church is. It also provides an important place for a parish to describe themselves and to invite other people in.
It lists all Church of England places of worship, owned by the Archbishops' Council and officially endorsed by the Diocese. Parishes are responsible for identifying an editor, to maintain the parish's profile.
There are four main elements to a successful website. The technical design, graphic design and maintenance are critical; it must be easy to navigate around, clean and attractive and, crucially, kept up to date. Equally important, however, is that the purpose(s) for the website must be identified in advance and must guide the development process.
Many parishes in London are fortunate to have parishioners with the skills to produce a website for them. Where possible this is probably the easiest solution, though it is best if the site is registered in the name of the PCC.
However, new technology allows almost anyone to build a website without the need for specialist training.
There are hundreds of possibilities for commissioning a website for your parish. Two options are:
Moot Enterprises is a venture of the Moot Community, a fresh expression of church in the City of London. It draws together accomplished practitioners from the arts and media world to provide creative solutions to the needs of individuals, organizations and businesses. One of their services is the design of basic websites. They offer competitive rates.
Church Edit is a powerful website management system designed specifically for the needs of churches. It can be used to manage church rotas and membership groups. Prices start from £149 a year.
The address at which your website is registered is very important, and is known as your domain name. This should reflect the real name of your parish. Once you have established a successful website, the last thing that you will wish to do is to change your website address if you change hosting suppliers.
It is a good idea to register the domain with the PCC rather than an individual. Transferring a domain from an individual (whether the name of the previous incumbent or a parishioner) can be problematic, and the regulating bodies can refuse a transfer.
What to include
Websites can be as simple or as complicated as time allows. The most important thing is that you are realistic about keeping the website up to date. It is far better to have little, but relevant, information than out of date notice sheets and 'coming soon' sections.
As a minimum your site should include:
- Service times
- How to find the church. If you do not have a map try www.multimap.com or Google Maps
- Contact details for the clergy and any staff
- Forthcoming events diary
- Groups in the church e.g. home groups, carer and toddler groups etc.
- News – if you can guarantee to keep it up to date. Either a regular letter from the Vicar or parish magazine-type articles
- Something about the Christian faith. You can link to a very comprehensive site such as www.rejesus.co.uk or write something yourself
- History of the church
- Links to other relevant sites. Please link to the diocesan site at www.london.anglican.org.
Dos and Don’ts
- Do keep the site up to date. As your virtual ‘shop window’ having an out of date site sends unfavourable messages about what the church is like
- Do mention on the front page that you are a Church of England parish
- Do keep pages uncluttered
- Do stick to one typeface, throughout
- Do be concise in writing copy
- Don’t use moving images
- Don’t have a front page with a ‘click here to enter’ tab. It just annoys people
- Do use pictures to demonstrate the character of your community. Keep picture sizes small otherwise pages will take a long time to load and visitors will give up. Use pictures in .jpg format
- Don’t use pictures of children without their parents’ express permission. When you do use pictures of children, do not add their names. This is for reasons of child protection
- Don’t put music on your site.
Publicising your website
- Launch it to your own congregation first and obtain feedback from them
- Add the website address to all your documents and publications: the pewsheet, headed paper, the noticeboard etc.
- Add a link from your A Church Near You profile to your website. This will help your ranking on search engines like Google.