Parish web site

This initiative is about creating a parish web site that serves parish health and growth, the primary task of formation, and supports the parish’s routine processes and communication.

Desirable characteristics of a parish site:

1. It is oriented to people outside the parish.

  • All home page links, except one, would be for people looking for a church—provide information on Spirituality (Prayer Book Spirituality—Eucharist, Office, Personal Devotions and other “maps;” ethos/culture of the Episcopal/Anglican tradition); what to expect on Sunday (Eucharist and coffee hour).  Note that service times and location should not be found through links—they should be right on the home page
  • Information about the inner workings of parish life might all be accessible through one link on the home page—e..g, “Parish Life” or “Parish Operations.”  


 2.  Communicates that the parish is a resource for people’s life more than another competitor for their time, money, and energy.

  • A section on ministries would begin with a statement about the primary ministry of the baptized being in daily life with friends and family, at work, and in civic life. This might be followed with stories of members serving in each of those arenas. This might include quotes noting the organic nature of Christian action. Might offer a link to an explanation of the Renewal—Apostolate Cycle. The internal ministries of the church would be in the “Parish Life” section

3. Is at least attractive, at best beautiful.

4. Communicates a “feel” for the culture of the parish and the Episcopal Church.

5. Is easy to navigate.

6. Is readable—uses large enough font and has contrasting font color and background.  

7. Contains basic information on the home page—times  of Sunday and weekday worship, parish address.

8. Is reasonably up-to-date—service times are accurate; special seasonal offerings are listed during the appropriate season, and then removed (for example, times of Holy Week services do not continue to appear in June); current staff and leadership are listed.

9. Is easy to update and revise from the parish office or the rector’s home

10. Avoids annoying practices.  For example, sounds, whether music or voices, that automatically present themselves, as opposed to sounds that the site visitor chooses to engage.  Or an opening page that needs to be navigated past to get to the home page, such as an initial graphics-intention page that has to have a link saying “Skip introduction.”


In the Short-Term (within the time frame of this initiative, 2 to 3 months):

1. Gather information from parish leaders, groups and members about what information they need on the site.

2. Find and explore several parish sites that match the above “desirable characteristics.”

3. Create drafts. 

3. Have drafts tested with people with gifts/sensitivities around the “desirable characteristics.”

4. Determine who is primarily responsible for updates, how updates will occur, and how frequently.

5. Arrange for domain name, select a hosting service, and deal with other logistical matters


In the mid term (3 -4 months)

Publish the new/revised site.


In the Longer Term:

  1. Follow-up on how the site is being used and managed—does it stay current?  Does it continue to meet the desirable characteristics listed above?
  2. Are there new uses for the website that may have emerged?  New content that could be posted, while remaining consistent with the “desirable characteristics”? 
  3. Would it be useful to connect to social networking sites/resources, such as Facebook or Twitter?  What would that look like?  Who would manage? 


Fill All Things: The Spiritual Dynamics of the Parish Church

In Your Holy Spirit: Shaping the Parish Through Spiritual Practice

Enter “website design mistakes” into your search engine and spend some time looking at the websites.  There are sites that list common errors.

Web design and hosting sites, such as, and  is specifically directed at churches. 

Additional thoughts on web sites

1. On the home page have

-times of worship
-address, phone number and e-mail address
-pictures and/or images that give you a "feel" for the parish. Maybe a brief statement that captures the spirit of the parish (probably not a mission statement or a vision statement - they rarely communicate well outside the parish)
-Keep the page focused on the core information that people seek first. Don't crowd the page with too many words. Avoid Flash home pages as the entry. Most people don't want to wait several minutes to get the information they are seeking.  

2. Make it easy for people to get in contact -- give an e-mail address that sounds as though a real person will receive the message (therefore not "info@ ...." or "rector@ ..." or "office@ ...")  Better to receive spam then to communicate hard-to-get.

3. Pictures that are large enough to give potential visitors an impression about: 

-What kind of people make up this parish? Shots of people in liturgy and at coffee hour are best.
-What does the priest look like?
-What does the liturgical space look like?

4. In words, images and tone needs to communicate the best of Episcopal/Anglican culture as well as that of the parish. Don't just talk about the value of beauty and grace in liturgy make the site beautiful and graceful. Don't just talk about how we value the spiritual life -- show people at the Eucharist and Office; have links to resources on spirituality; and have a section that explains the pattern of Anglican spirituality. Don't just talk about the importance of the ministry of the baptized and then highlight all the "in-parish" activities but tell stories and have some images of people at home, with friends, at work, and in civic life.

An example of communicating the "feel" of worship in words is at 

5. Don't apologize for who we are. Don't make jokes about Episcopalians and ....  Don't explain about standing, kneeling and sitting in liturgy. It feels defensive and takes people away from the essential information.
6. Don't allow the taste of a volunteer control how the site looks or what's on it.
7. Present worship information so the basic information is offered in a breif form. For example:


  8:00 Holy Eucharist                

          Approximately 40 minutes. A quiet, peaceful time of worship.

  9:00 Holy Eucharist

Oriented toward families with young children. In the parish hall. More informal.    Approximately  ___ minutes. With hymns.

  10:30 Holy Eucharist

              A full liturgy with procession, congregational signing, the choir. Approximately __ minutes.

               Followed by a social time.

During the Week 

Monday through Friday - 5:30 p.m.  Evening Prayer

Wednesday – 6:00 p.m. Holy Eucharist

Thursday – 7:00 a.m. Holy Eucharist


Web site assessment   PDF

Elements to assess

1. Home page oriented toward potential visitors, people seeking a parish

2. Home page provides easy assess to basic information – times of worship, parish contact information (address, phone, e-mail)

3. Beauty

4. Easy to use

5. Communicates openness – accessibility (e.g., e-mail address of clergy is obvious, no spam filters, and so on

6. Pictures that give people an image of the people and the place (liturgical space, priest, members)

7. Easy to update information - the rector or parish administrator can easily post information.

8. Communicates the ethos - in words, images and tone needs to communicate the best of Episcopal/Anglican culture as well as that of the parish.


Section on Spirituality

Create a section on spirituality. For example: (also see drop down links at top right) (also see other pages in links to the right)

 An invitation

You may copy and paste the text of the pages on the Order of the Ascension site onto your own site. It's an easy way to create a section on spirituality. Please include a note on the source and any copyright permission notes. Add your own pictures and the name of the parish in appropriate places. Please let us know that you've made use of the material.