If you plan to use a staff member or volunteer for website development and/or maintenance, vet that person by asking the following questions:
• Do you have high-speed internet access? A fast connection is required for website maintenance.
• Does your volunteer/staff member have time to maintain the website? If you have a family-sized church with just one or two group meetings or classes during the week, website maintenance may take just a few minutes each week. The larger your church, and/or the fuller your calendar, the more time will be required for website maintenance. Busy churches’ websites may require several hours of maintenance time each week; add hours devoted to developing new pages and features, and website maintenance becomes a significant commitment.
• How familiar is your volunteer/staff member with the web? Is he or she very comfortable with web searches, website navigation, email, audio and video features on the web, and social networks? Does he or she know how to create links, upload files, resize images, and format text? If not, you may end up with a website that does not represent your church very well.
• How committed and reliable is your volunteer/staff member? Can you count on this person to be religious about updates so that your home page is never outdated? (Few things drive prospective visitors away so quickly as an outdated home page.)
• How interested is your volunteer/staff member in keeping up with changes on the internet? Change on the web progresses at warp speed. Many of the bells and whistles churches want today didn’t even exist a few years ago. (Think YouTube videos, Facebook Pages, search-this-website features, blogs, automatic email list signup, and more.) To keep your ministry’s website current and interesting, your webmaster will need to devote some time to learning about the next best thing and implementing it on your website.
• Does your volunteer/staff member demonstrate attention to detail? We all make mistakes, but we don’t want them published on the web for the whole world to see. Keeping in mind that a church’s website is its face to the world, any competent webmaster is detail-oriented and conscientious, willing to spell-check every addition and test every change.
• Does your volunteer/staff member have a ministry marketing or design background? Both are important. Your webmaster must know what belongs on the home page, and why, and how to use photographs, video, audio and art to communicate appropriately and effectively to your two primary audiences — people looking for a church home, and those already at home in your church.
• Does your ministry own the software needed to maintain the website? Even if your hosting company provides most of the software needed to build and maintain web pages, photo albums, interactive calendars and much more, you’ll still need to invest in additional software applications. If you want to post audio files, for example, you’ll need software that converts CD tracks to mp3 files. If you want to post your own video, you need software you can use to edit raw video and convert it to web format. You also need photo editing software and special drivers to convert Word files to PDF for the web.
• How well does your volunteer/staff member know your teachings and your church? Is he in touch with the ministry’s mission and vision and committed to supporting it in the way he lives? Your webmaster’s consciousness, as well as his or commitment to your ministry, will be reflected in your website.
Ask the same questions about any pro you hire, by the way. While that person may not attend your church, she should be very familiar with your denomination’s teachings and approaches to outreach, as well as professionally competent as a website developer.