If you are a church looking to move to a multi-site approach, your website will need to change. Also, if you are a multi-site church, do not rely on using single-site church websites as the inspiration for your design and architecture. Multi-site churches are different and need to present a mix of unity and diversity to effectively reach their intended audiences. Finding that balance is easier than you think when you consider the marketing approaches taken by companies with multiple product lines.
Multi-site churches have a key benefit over single-site churches in that they can have multiple sub-cultures guided by unified leadership. What I mean by sub-cultures is that different areas in your city have different cultures. It may be determined by economics, ethnic background, age, or any other differentiating factor. However you want to maintain the unified vision that your church has. A central set of goals will steer the church in one purposeful direction and will lead to greater success. Let us look at some examples of how to attain this balance on your website.
Maintain one unified brand and identifier. This should be through a combination of both logos and color. Yet there is some wiggle room if you want to have minor deviations for your various sites. You might keep the same logo but alter or invert the color palette. Or you might use the same logo and colors, but add a small indicator to show which site or ministry is represented. Regardless, do not stray too far from what the primary branding is. If you would like an example, visit your local grocery store and look at the various brands and sub-brands of soft drinks.
Often there are ministries that are found at one site but not another; but do not group them based on where they are located. Display all of your offerings, grouped by what they represent, outreach, teaching, counseling, missions, etc. Then when viewing the details of that ministry, show the locations where it is offered. However, prominently display the contact information for the site(s) not listed and encourage your visitors to contact someone. There may be an opportunity to start that ministry at a new location and tap into an unknown market.
Keep your contact information centralized and group by functional areas. If you are looking for a particular person or function, you may not know which site their office is located at, or who their primary audience is. Plus there are often functions that are located at only one site, and you do not want to force users to hunt on different location to figure it out.
One of the benefits of having a multi-site church is the ability to reach out to different cultures. As mentioned, the location of a site will often determine the culture and audience that is involved. Although you will talk about what your church offers as a whole, do not forget to showcase all of your locations and the differences between them. Have a locations landing page that provides a photograph and a short blurb that describes the unique qualities of that site. Then on the details page for that site, further explain the benefits of that location, with links to the ministries and programs hosted there.
Remember that your multi-site church needs one rudder to steer it, and one website to market it. Keep a unified approach with some aspects of the site, but remember that where appropriate, to highlight the differences. You will soon find out what will work for each market channel and be able to effectively communicate to each on your site.
Examine your multi-site church and see where you can apply some of these principles. If you are a single-site church and are considering a new location, remember these tips as you prepare the pending updates to your website. Be sure to align your decisions with your business goals, re-visit your target markets and personas, and most importantly, pray for wisdom and guidance as you cast your net for a bigger and more diverse congregation!
Photo courtesy of Sanja Gjenero