Whether churches acknowledge it or not, websites are now an integral part of a church’s outreach strategy making the first impression more important than ever. Before guests arrive, most churches ensure the parking lot is clean, the entryway is free from trash, there are people to welcome their guests, the children’s ministry is ready to check in the kids safely, coffee and condiments are good to go, etc. That’s all part of making an excellent first impression for those who join the church on campus. Churches need to think of their website as a virtual campus. Is it easy to navigate for guests? Does it show pictures of people? Is it responsive? Is it a good first impression?
Churches ready to build or upgrade their website have three primary options: employ staff, hire a vendor, or utilize volunteers. Designing, building, and maintaining a website isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation for any organization, even churches. Each option has pros and cons; determining the best choice for your church takes time, research, and the acknowledgment that, unlike other projects, an effective website needs ongoing maintenance and care. Every church is unique, and its needs vary based on numerous factors like size, location, vision, denomination, and budget. With that in mind, use the following information as a guide to begin the dialog with the leadership of your church to find the best path forward.
Pros: Hiring a staff person increases the likelihood of buy-in to the mission and culture of the church. As the employer, you have more control over the priorities and the allocation of the employee’s time.
Cons: There are costs associated with hiring an employee that goes beyond the salary, like training, vacation, sick time, taxes, insurance, and overtime. Of course, a big downside is hiring the wrong person and needing to terminate them, which, among other issues, delays the project.
Pros: When hiring a vendor or contractor, you get someone with a specific skill set to accomplish the task or project. Contractors typically require less supervision and cost less in the long run because you’re not paying for costs associated with an employee, like workers’ compensation, overtime, employment taxes, benefits, FMLA, etc.
Cons: The downside to using a vendor/contractor is the lack of loyalty and buy-in to the church’s mission and culture. It’s not their passion; it’s just a job. When using vendors/contractors, you do not get to set their priorities; they have other clients.
Build a Volunteer Team
Pros: Most for-profit organizations would not consider this option, but churches are different; they have people sold out for the mission, embrace the culture, and have the professional skills to accomplish projects at the same or higher level than employees or vendors. Building a team of volunteers and leveraging their diverse expertise and talent to produce a quality website is a win for everyone – at a minimal cost.
Cons: However, be forewarned that volunteers are often limited by how much time they can donate, which often leads to longer-than-expected project timelines. And occasionally, some well-meaning volunteers may oversell their skills and abilities, leading to uncomfortable conversations. There are few things more awkward than firing a volunteer. In the same way that someone on the church staff would supervise an employee or vendor, a staff member needs to lead the volunteer team.
When reviewing and prayerfully considering the pros and cons of the development, deployment, and maintenance options, keep in mind the amount of planning and work that lies ahead. Choose an option that supports the agreed-upon platform, web security, hosting, integrations, content, administration, upgrades, etc., beyond the current project. Remember, a good church website effectively accomplishes the mission by creating an inviting first impression, outreach to those searching, and providing information for those in your church.short url: