The Parish Website is becoming more and more common. Most parishioners think the parish needs one, and most Pastors want one. I’m a firm believer that every parish should have a website. It’s my firm belief that the parish website’s purpose is to serve as a community hub and 24/7 extension of your parish office. Truth be told, those of us advocating for them haven’t always done a good job of explaining why. Beyond that we haven’t always provided a basic model of what a parish website should look like and have. Well, that is until now.
Joe Luedtke just recently wrote Things On A Church’s Home Page which reviews content and user experience (i.e. navigation and layout) that your parishioners want and how to determine that. Joe makes a great point in the article, “Look at your website and try and put yourself in a parishioner’s and even a non-parishioner’s shoes.” In all honesty that’s often what does not happen. This is where the planning comes in to play and input from others as well as grabbing ideas from great examples.
Then just recently, Pilot New Media gave staff from parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston a presentation called “Creating Excellent Parish Websites”. This is a stellar presentation that brings a lot of things together and gives a great starting point for any parish out there whether you are just getting a website or thinking of redesigning your existing one. In the presentation they do a great job identifying 19 basic things every parish website should have based upon national research and surveys. (Plus you’ll find a host of great advice and direction to tools in a variety of articles when visiting the page to watch the presentation.)
So I wanted to find some examples. I started looking through a few Dioceses’ websites and combing through parish directories, pulled from some in my own area that I think are great examples, and solicited some suggestion from others. Here’s a list of some really notable parish websites to draw ideas from (Click on the parish name to visit their website).
- St. Alphonus (Chicago, IL) – This website grabs you immediately with the big header displaying this magnificent Church. What I really like about this site is that is just speaks community and stewardship right from the home page. The site is very easy to navigate and finding any information about the parish is easy and it’s all there.
- St. Sophia’s (The Colony, TX) - This website has a beautiful design that is really captivating and welcoming with great navigation. One of my favorite sections of this website is the “Parish Life” (pictured below) section. Parish events are shared with short overviews and great photos. They really go above and beyond with sharing all the great things about life at their parish.
- Holy Family (Jacksonville, FL) - This is one from my own Diocese and is just a great example of beautiful design, great navigation, and providing a lot of great information to the parish. I love the rotating banner on the home page and the events widget over the the right which is fed from their parish calendar. This parish also has a great process for keeping up on changes that are needed. I know they recently welcomed a new Pastor (Fr. Tim Cusick) and a new Deacon (Mr. Doug Nullet) and the website was updated immediately.
- The Cathedral Bascillica of St. Augustine (St. Augustine, FL) - This parish is such a significant part of Catholic history in our country with over 450 years of Catholic faith in St. Augustine, FL. The website does a great job speaking to the rich background and history of the parish and area. Check out the great ‘Welcome’ video right on the front page. On a personal note, this is one of my favorite Florida destinations too. Once you enter the Cathedral through the large old wooden doors you immediately are drawn inside to all the beauty surrounding you. They also have a great gift shop in the back of the Church with the friendliest staff.
- Nativity Catholic Church (Brandon, FL) - This website does a great job of using widgets on their home page that bring out a real inviting front page. The split navigation and drop down menus make it easy to find information on the site including the podcasts! This is definitely a great example of great uses of podcasts for parishes. Not only do they provide Mass streaming podcasts, but the homilies are are available separately too. Plus (no pun intended) take note of the Google+ icon at the top linking to their new Google+ Parish page.
- Pax Christi Catholic Community (Eden Prairie, MN) - You can easily lose hours visiting this website. I know I did. Not because it’s difficult to find anything, but because you just want to see it all! Underneath the gorgeous and exciting design lies all this fantastic production work of rich media content that is really well produced. Oh, and make sure to check out their Pax Christi Youth website as well by clicking that great looking social graphic at the top right.
- Blessed Sacrament Parish (Walpole, MA) - From the great looking images that rotate through the top banner to the great navigation and information rich design, you really get a sense of parish life and the great community. Especially with all the great photos of events in the Photo Gallery. I also really like the use of downloadable documents blended in. If there is a sign-up form needed, there’s a link right there on the information page for that program to download and fill out.
Great job to all of those that put so much great work into these websites. They are beautiful, informative, fun, and definitely rich with The Holy Spirit. There are many more out there too. Let us know about your parish website you’d like to recommend in the comments section below. Or maybe you want some advice on your existing site. Again, just let us know in the comments section below.