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 Joe Luedktke from CatholicTechTalk.com and LPI
December 1, 2013
This is a resource for readers of Transforming Parish Communications.
Insights from Joe Luedktke from CatholicTechTalk.com and LPI
What are the most important characteristics of a great parish website?
Actually, I don’t think that this is yet the right question to ask. I’m far more interested in good parishes websites than great ones. There are some good examples out there of great parish websites and they should indeed be models for other to follow. The core issue, however, is there are far too few good parish websites out there. In this day and age, too many churches still don’t have any website or have one with outdated content.
Too often you can find a church website that’s promoting an event that took place 6 months ago on their home page. Too often when building a website, the church focuses on making the site look beautiful instead of focusing on how to make it easy to maintain. And too often a passionate, committed volunteer with website background offers to build a website free for their church. It’s a great offer, but they don’t realize they’re really volunteering to maintain it forever which is something they’re probably not willing to do. I’ve seen too many churches have to abandon what appears to be a great website because they either don’t know how to maintain it or its too difficult to maintain.
My requirements for a good parish website is simple, but unfortunately, too many churches struggle to meet these basic needs. To have a good website, you need to deliver two basic needs for the parishioner or general visitor to your site. These should be easy to meet, but are often over looked in looked in the quest to build a great website:
• Updated Content – This requires a website that is simple, ridiculously simple to maintain. Your church secretary or priest needs to be able to update the site. No HTML, FTPing, or programming experience should be necessary. You should have more than one person updating your site and be doing so weekly. You need to select a website solution that facilitates this.
• Critical Content – 80% of all church website traffic is searching for one of these three items:
Mass Times – Your current mass schedule with upcoming holy days.
Event Calendar – This week, this month’s and next month’s events within your church.
Your Church Bulletin – The bulletin is still the staple of church communication. Even though the bulletin content should all be on the church website, its typically not and a large percentage of your website visitors want to just download your church bulletin.
If you have these items on your website, you indeed will have a good website that meets most of the needs of its visitors.
If you’re already doing this and want to have great website, here’s a simple checklist that can help you build a great church website. This checklist serves as a good framework for anyone looking to compete in CatholicTechTalk’s annual Parish Website Contest. It’s a good way to rate your current church website to determine what areas you may need to improve.
What differentiates great from good parish websites in 2014?
For 2014, I think it’s going to be engagement. If you would randomly look at ten parish websites around the country, what would they most have in common? One thing that would stand out, is chances are, most of them would have a picture of their building on the home page. Sure, there are some beautiful churches out there, but there’s more to our faith than our buildings? Where are the people? The cross? Other symbols of our faith?
For 2014, I’m hoping we see less architectural photos of church buildings and more examples both in imagery and content that show a vibrant faith community. Can parishioners sign up for an email newsletter on your website? Does your website demonstrate engagement? Whether its through photos or a Facebook or Twitter feed, how can your website illustrate that you have indeed a vibrant and active church community?
I’m going to say something that not everyone will agree with, but for the average Catholic, if there is such a thing, they go to church for really two reasons: their faith and their parish community. People like to belong and have a sense of belonging. In a way, your human concerns group is no more important that your monthly spaghetti dinner, fish fry or annual auction. All of them help build and reinforce the faith community you’re your church represents. People want to belong to a group of like-minded individuals and feel welcome by their priest, parish staff, and their entire parish community. That’s the community we need to build within the church and online.
Why do contests like the CTT parish website contest help 'raise the bar' of parish website effectiveness?
We started this really to raise awareness. One of the challenges each church has is they’re a little too isolated. There’s not a good mechanism or support community for parish web administrators to share and collaborate. Dioceses typically don’t offer guidance on websites either except for the generic recommendation that each parish should indeed have one.
We created our Parish Website of the Year contest to recognize those churches that have truly created exceptional websites, but more importantly to give others a model to follow and examples to review. Our evaluation criteria and winners should provide a good framework and examples to follow. Winning is always a nice feather in ones cap, but its really meant to be about sharing and spreading the good (technical) word!
Any plans to expand the contest (or create a new contest) to evaluate parish social media effectiveness?
Funny you should mention it. Social has always been a factor in our contest, but there’s now more and more churches doing some really great and interesting things on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and others. Sure social media remains the rage in technical circles, but social media is also a great indicator of parishioner engagement. The next generation of parishioners is growing up online and social media is where this younger generation is spending their time.
In 2014, CatholicTechTalk will indeed have two contest categories: websites and online engagement. We’re going to expand online engagement to include both social media and email communication. There are some churches implementing some pretty exciting email communication strategies out there that deserve to be recognized. Social Media has its camps. Do you Tweet? Post? Or Pin? Regardless of what you do, everyone uses email. It needs to be a component of any online communication strategy.
By the time this book is out, you should be able to find our latest contest along with the winners from year’s past at www.catholictechtalk.com.