Taking Christ into the digital 'streets' (News Release)
August 19, 2014
The 750th and final episode of The Good Catholic Life radio program
June 13, 2014
Interview: EWTN News Nightly with Brian Patrick
September 25, 2014
Insights from Chad Babin of St. Gabriel Parish in St. Gabriel, LA
December 1, 2013
This is an additional resource for readers of Transforming Parish Communications.
St. Gabriel Catholic Church St. Gabriel, LA
1. What impression (first impression) are you hoping to create with the St. Gabriel parish website?
The first impression I hope to create with St. Gabriel’s website is a feeling of invitation. I like to see visitors taken in by artistic imagery of the church and parish grounds making it a real place of community and worship. My goal is that people will say to themselves, “I want to visit this parish!”
2. What do you believe are the most important elements of a great parish website today?
I believe the most important elements of a great parish website are timely, community-driven content and a design that best reflects what makes your church parish unique. Visitors need see your website as an accurate and timely source for parish news and events. Also, our parish of St. Gabriel has a long, 240-year history. I feel it is important to reflect that rich history in the design and layout of the parish website. It is a great aspect which sets our parish website apart and makes it special.
3. What is the role of the website in the parish’s communication and evangelization efforts?
I feel the role of a church website in parish communications and evangelization is not just to inform, but also to encourage parishioners and newcomers to participate and attend campus events and Masses. Church happens when members congregate. In our parish, we strive to build family and community. Encouraging website visitors to attend functions and liturgies should be a goal in communicating and evangelizing which furthers the communal life of the church.
4. What elements on the website do you think are most valuable to parishioners? What elements do you think are most valuable to newcomers/seekers?
Website elements I feel are most important to parishioners are the ability to stay informed about upcoming events and to easily sign up online for parish ministries. You can never give someone too many opportunities to contact the parish or to get involved. For newcomers, Mass times and contact information are essential and should be on the home page. Another important element, especially for newcomers, is to incorporate pictures of your church into your website. I’m surprised at how many church websites I visit which have no imagery of their church or grounds. I believe newcomers will be more open to visiting your parish if they know what is offered there visually and ministerially.
5. What feedback from your parish community have you received about your parish website?
The feedback I have received from the parish community about our website has been overwhelmingly positive. Parishioners and visitors have mentioned how warm and inviting the rich tones and textures of the site are and how easily navigable it is. A more notable example was from a visiting seminarian to our parish. In order to learn more about the parish before arriving, he visited our website. Other than being very informative, he cited specifically that he could really see the rich history of the parish in the design, as well as get a sense of the loving, dedicated community in St. Gabriel through gallery images. This was a truly inspiring and validating example of what others were seeing when exploring St. Gabriel’s website.
6. What did it mean to you and to the parish community that your website was recognized as a national award winner by Catholic Tech Talk?
Being recognized as a national parish website award-winner by Catholic Tech Talk has been a great opportunity for our parish to shine and stand out among the many other wonderful parishes in our diocese. As a small, growing rural church, it is easy to go unnoticed amid larger churches. This has catapulted our worship community to a new level. Our website is reflective of our entire community and driven by the works and ministries of the parish. By our website winning this award, our entire community wins.
7. You include several videos on your parish website. How important are good videos in the life of the parish and to drive traffic to the website? What have the awards for video messages meant to the parish?
Having video presentations produced in the parish on our website has created a dynamic that has really engaged our visitors. Videos have the ability to catch one’s attention and have given the parish a unique avenue for teaching and evangelization. By having new videos for parish campaigns, different liturgical seasons and messages from our pastor on St. Gabriel’s website, it has encouraged members of the congregation to become more involved in ministries and Mass celebrations. By utilizing free video hosting services, such as Vimeo, to embed these presentations on our website, we are able to increase our search engine optimization by creating backlinks lending more search credibility to our main website while strengthening our social media network. The international awards our videos have won for video excellence really reflect the beauty of the church and have allowed our parish to shine in a broader arena of which the members of our community are very proud.
8. What advice would you give to parishes that are planning a website upgrade in 2014?
Advice I would give to a church looking to upgrade or rebuild their website in 2014 is to have someone in the parish to be heavily involved in its creation and maintenance. It’s easy to let web-updating fall by the wayside in the midst of day-to-day parish administration. However, online communications are far too important nowadays. It is important to strive to create a web experience that is dynamic and always changing with fresh content such as parish events, photos galleries, videos and an interconnected web of social media. Having someone that is a part of your community, whether it be someone on staff or a parishioner with this vocation, will ensure your parish website is never on the “backburner.” There needs to always be a hunger to make it better. The digital world is a new and critical mission field that is always changing. Those of us whom are responsible for overseeing this facet of communication must make sure our web presence changes with it to remain effective in our ministry.