Counting the Costs

Bob's Fake ChurchI think some words of Jesus might be helpful in thinking about the direction we take when designing a church website. Read these words from Luke’s Gospel, chapter 14:

28For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? 29Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, 30saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I think church websites are critically important. However, I think I have come across a problem that causes a lot of them to fail: allowing our ambitions overrule our reality. Often, when we start thinking about a new platform, there is a lot of excitement. Even without a lot of money, we can get a website to do some amazing things. When we start brainstorming website design, we live in a world of possibilities.

  • Our website could have a calendar of events.
  • It could have a directory for members.
  • We can have videos of all the sermons.
  • What if we listed resources for further reading with each sermon?
  • We could sell books and DVDs
  • Every pastor should have a blog.
  • Every ministry should have its own page!

These are all fantastic ideas. But, once you build the site, who is going to keep all this content current? It is easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of content that needs to be created and updated. If we overreach, we end up with a website that is constantly out of date. We also end up spending more time, effort and money than we need to get started. Sometimes, once we see the scope of the project we have embarked on, we have trouble taking the first step.

What if, before we started, we sat down to estimate the costs. A lot of churches are tight on time, money and volunteers. If this is not the case for you, have at it. Create a website that tells people everything they ever needed to know and brews coffee. For the rest of us, let’s take a more realistic view. How much time, money, and effort do we have to invest in getting the website online? How much time do we think we can spend every week keeping it updated? Wherever you find yourself, I hope you will make it a priority to find more time, effort and money on your church’s virtual front door. But, in the meantime, let’s do something realistic.

If your church has no website, a terrible website, or a website that has fallen into disrepair due to lack of maintenance, what if you start with a page that shows just these things?

  • Name of Church
  • Location
  • Times of Worship
  • Basic Information for New Visitors: a basic statement of beliefs, what to expect in worship, childcare information, where to park, etc.
  • How to Get a Hold of You.
  • Some Pictures of Your Church: I don’t just mean your building. How about your people?

To show how simple that can be, I made a fake church website. I used a super easy and inexpensive platform, Weebly. Check it out here at: http://bobsumc.weebly.com/

I bet there are some typos and it needs some better images. However, this took me less than 30 minutes – start to finish, including interruptions. And I had to make everything up.

You might envision something better, bigger and fancier for your church. By all means, go for it. But, until you are ready, count the costs, decide what you can do now and get to building your new website!

I bet I left something out. Are there some other essentials a church MUST have on a basic website? Let me know in the comments.

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