There are many wonderful examples of engaging and useful parish websites across the United States. Oh the other hand there are also many sites that are poorly organized, and rarely updated. If we are not using our websites as an integral part of our parish communication plan, we are poor stewards of this resource. In addition we are missing a key component for education and communication.
In researching his book “ Best Practices in Parish Stewardship”, Chuck Zech determined that a newsletter is the most effective way to communicate with parishioners, and web sites were the second most effective.
Why then do we leave the web site to fend for itself?
Key challenges include staff time, and technical knowledge. Parish leadership must also recognize the web site as one of the key tools for the parish and apply the appropriate priority and planning for the web site.
St. Anne parish in Columbus, GA is one of the exceptions. They converted their web site to a system they are able to maintain and update. And they have created a site that incorporates both important standard information PLUS a section devoted to stewardship topics and how to get engaged at the parish. They have been good stewards of the website itself while also using it to enhance their overall stewardship efforts with parishioners.
The Archdiocese of Boston Secretariat for Media team researched all the parish web sites to assess the quality and effectiveness of web sites across the Archdiocese. Based on their research there and other work to evaluate web sites they developed recommendations for what makes a great parish website and subsequent designs and guidelines for web site templates.
At ICSC today, an attendee who is part of his parish stewardship board put it accurately: “Our web site is OK. We saved some money on it but we have a very difficult time updating it and it could be better. If we focused more on making it better and a little less on saving money, think how many lives we might touch…”
What do you think?