I have been thinking about this for some time. Every congregation should have a website.
1) It is very inexpensive.
Depending on HOW you do it, a basic website can be had for free. If you use a blog format, there is even minimal (or no) advertisement to contend with. Even getting your own "domain name" (website address) is possible for less than $10 a year. Quite reasonable.
2) It is not difficult.
Most people who have some time on thier hands and use the internet somewhat frequently could probably "figure out" how to make a basic church website for free. Most pastors who have learned Greek and Hebrew will find that this task is nowhere near as challenging.
Consider getting a young person from the congregation involved, as they often know the technology better than the older folks. Train the church secretary to make updates. You could even use a team of people with different responsibilities vis-a-vis the website.
One caveat: While it is important to involve volunteers in these sorts of activities, the appropriate officers (and the pastor) should monitor and approve the website content. Remember, this is one way your congregation shows its face to the world! As I am our church's webmaster, I always notify our Board of Elders, for example, of changes and updates - just for accountability.
3) The time commitment:
For the investment (stewardship) of time and money required, the benefits of are well worth it. While a frequently-updated site may not be worth the time if your congregation won't use it enough, most websites don't require great time committments. Once set up, you can usually leave it alone for quite a while.
However, don't let your website sit there "out of date". If your last update was the November 2002 newsletter, and it's 2006 - not good. If regular updates are too hard, post more "timeless" and unchanging information there.
With a tech-saavy membership, more frequent updates will pay greater dividends.
A website a can be many different things. You should have clear reasons for having a website, in terms of what you want to accomplish. That said, church websites can offer many different functions:
-Basic information such as phone numbers, email address, worship times are a must.
-Information about what your church teaches and believes - doctrinal matters, vision and mission statements, answers to various questions (F.A.Q.'s - Frequently Asked Questions)
-Keeping the visitor or perspective member in mind:
Directions, Meet the Staff, Church History....
-LINKS to other useful and important websites always come in handy.
-Check out other church websites for many more ideas...
5) It gets more important every year.
The internet is the primary source of information for a growing number of people.
- Your own congregation members will more and more use the internet, and will be using your website for various reasons.
- As the older generation gives way to even younger people, this effect will be exponential.
6) NOT having a website is like...
...Not having your church listed in the phone book (where you also have many options for your listing)
...Not having a sign on your building or in the yard that tells people who you are (again, there are many kinds of signs, but what church doesn't have one?)
...Not answering the phone when someone calls your church, and not having an answering machine message with pertinent information.
7) Long Distance Connections
Having a website lets people from other locations (even overseas) learn about your church. For instance, if I am visiting San Diego for vacation, I may wish to "shop around" for a church to visit while there. How better to do this than on the web?
While a church website certainly has its limitations, and is not intended to replace the church itself, it is a powerful tool that every church should be using in the "information age". And while you should keep your expectations low (you won't have droves of new members just because you have a website), I simply can't think of a reason a church should NOT have a web presence.
You can check out our own church website here: http://www.GraceLutheranRacine.net