Many people consider owning a car a necessity in the modern world; especially if you live in the United States. You cannot commute to work, run errands, or go to church without one. Yet many people in large metropolitan areas do not own a car. They use public transportation to get to everything they need. Much like owning a car, having a website for you church may seem like a no-brainer decision. Yet for many organizations, free blogs and social media may give you everything you need.
Web sites, like cars, have a large initial payment, plus ongoing maintenance costs. For many small churches, this is daunting investment of time and money. But if you are only going to use it to post your address, service hours, news stream, and a few photos; something like free social media outlets (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) may do the trick just fine. These are easy to set up, easily maintained, and are free.
As your church grows, using just social media may not suffice since one important piece of your marketing campaign will be missing... branding. Your own domain name, a nicely designed logo, and a descriptive tag line are all best displayed on their own and not alongside someone else's logo. Also, you will need more space for additional content about your church; including your worship team and choir, committees, ministries, posting weekly bulletins, etc. All of this content is much better served on your own site.
I mentioned that websites are a big investment; but how much is big? The yearly operation of a website consists of two things, the domain name and the hosting service. Both of these can often be purchased from the same place in a bundled package for under $100 a year. That may not seem so bad, but the investment comes with the development and maintenance of the site. It can easily take 6 months before you get something up and running that the majority agrees on. Plus there is a commitment of a few hours every week in updating it with new content. Content such as news, upcoming events, weekly bulletins, and sermon summaries have a shelf life and will expire over time. Thus constant attention and time is required.
Evaluate if you are ready to make the leap into the web, considering how big of a presence your church really requires. If and when you are ready for a regular website; be sure to not only budget out the money to run it, but also the personnel and time to create and maintain it. Last but certainly not least, pray for the discipline to keep the site well maintained and on track!
Photo courtesy of John Evans