... providing a service and reaching out
Before we start we want to say this might not be a good idea for your church. It works great for some and badly for others. The first thing you need to note is your church website should be about your church and if you dilute it with loads of other information it can get confusing for visitors. There are some churches that also provide lots of services to their communities such as language courses, coffee shop, book shop, library, sports facilities, conference meetings, and even certain levels of health care, etc. These are great things to promote on the website as they are part of how you serve the community around you.
However if you feel that providing a community information is really what you want to do then you can do this on two levels:
- Provide a page of useful information and links
- Provide a whole site of useful information part of which is your church information
A community page or two
For most churches creating a community page is easily within their grasp. It won't draw in the larger numbers of a community site, but it won't take the level of resources required to set up and manage a community site. A community page could contain useful information about local events, shops, restaurants, parks, leisure centres, gyms etc. You may want to provide small reviews of some of the facilities. Where possible provide links to the websites for all the services you mention (make the links open in a new window -- sites made with Church123 do this by default for external links). It is also useful to provide phone numbers and addresses. When visitors use search engines to find information on these services in their towns they may well come to your site. Hopefully they'll be pleased you are providing this information for the community -- and, whilst there, some visitors will browse through your site finding out how great your church is! But be aware that it can work the other way people could come to your church looking for info about you and then end up leaving your site to see something else in the community!
Full community site
With a community site you take the concept of community pages much further. Not only do you try and find a wide collection of relevant topics to include but you need to try and engage people on them. You can use the site to set up interest and support groups and help build online friendships, e.g. car maintenance, pets, asthma, special needs parenting, etc. These sorts of sites require two way communications and you may wish to find out about running services such as chat rooms, forums and email lists. Certainly only consider running a full community portal if you are willing to invest in it, with it becoming part of your long-term outreach and evangelism strategy -- the potential rewards are great but the initial costs can be high too.
A word to the wise: It is far better to create a smaller church website (say 7-10 pages) of good content then to try and make a community site that falls flat. If you have information about community items then local people will find it. If when they get to your site everything is out of date then it will reflect badly on your church. Before deciding to go for a community site make sure your whole church is backing (and praying) for this strategy.