Create a multisite church website that matches your community’s unique direction and goals.
Multisite church websites need to work for everyone involved. The challenge is meeting the needs of each congregation without sacrificing the continuity and branding of the church website as a whole.
Thankfully, this is possible! In this article, you’ll discover your solution by comparing some major components of each kind of church and multisite. These answers will help you to create the strongest website for your community.
MULTISITE CHURCH WEBSITE CRITERIA
The goal of a successful church multisite website is to:
- Minimize complaints from individual congregations
- Produce a large number of ‘map’ visits
- Lead to an increase in first time visitors for every campus
When planning your church website, it is important to understand what kind of church you are working with.
Mission Lab conducted a six month research project to uncover what works best for multisite church websites. We surveyed and interviewed over 30 churches and audited hundreds of additional multisite church websites to discover their unique needs in order to pinpoint best practices and solutions that other churches, like yours, could implement with confidence.
Through this process we identified 4 basic criteria that will help define what kind of multisite church you have and help you unlock new ways to use your website as a tool to increase first-time visitors, increase giving, and increase program registration and participation.
Bonus: Even if your church is not a multisite church, you’ll find tons of helpful information below!
More Visitors, Generosity, and Registrations Within 5 Minutes
Before we unpack the results of our study (and the results of the study have produced POWERFUL insights to help churches make meaningful change) we have boiled down our entire study into a five-minute exercise that will produce strong recommendations for your church.
By responding to a few simple questions you already know the answers to, our multisite success tool will generate an assessment of your church and provide you with suggested changes you or your staff can implement.
This is all done within five minutes with this Multisite Success Tool.
4 Questions to Answer for Your Successful Multisite Church Website
There are six different models for multisite church websites (which we’ve detailed here). Rather than giving you a long list to try and interpret, we've broken things down into 4 components, which we’ve turned into questions, with contrasting approaches to make it easier to understand what works best for your church.
Which of these components describes your multisite model?
1. Is Your Church In-Person or Broadcast Teaching?
This contrast considers how teaching works at each campus. Do your campuses typically have a live and in-person preacher at every location, or do you broadcast the sermon at one campus to other campuses?
For multisite churches offering in-person preaching at each campus, consider offering sermons from each campus on your website even if it is just the audio.
Featuring sermons from each campus is even more essential if each campus pastor is preaching a unique sermon (rather than using a shared outline).
Churches with in-person teaching at each campus should also invest in campus pages that can properly communicate how each campus is different.
One of the things a first-time website visitor is likely to do before committing to visiting in-person is sample the sermons. If you are only sharing sermons on your website from your main location or church online, then you are missing an important need for first-time visitors.
Churches that broadcast a sermon from a main campus to other campuses can often take a simpler approach online.
That said, don’t assume that just because you have a broadcast teaching model that this necessarily removes the need for more than a single campus page. The teaching model is only one of the four criteria that impact the website model.
More on multisite: Is Your Next Multisite Campus Online?
2. Are Your Multisites Culturally Different vs Culturally Identical?
Next we look at how similar or different the cultures of each campus are to each other. Cultural differences can manifest in two distinct ways:
- The way a campus looks and feels. Campuses may have the same vision and mission, but one or more of them are planted in distinctly different subcultures and communities resulting in different style and personality.
- The way a campus implements the mission and vision. The organizational culture may differ from campus to campus if campuses are given autonomy to execute the overall vision, mission, and ethos in unique ways.
The closer the communities served and the approaches taken by each campus are to each other, the more simple your website can be.
Depending on how you answer the other 3 questions, churches made up of nearly identical campus cultures may be able to get away with a single page for each campus. That said, we would still recommend a page with sub-pages so you can house campus specific information for location, times, ministries, and events.
Culturally different campus
The more diverse your campuses are in terms of the community they serve or the approach they take, the more important it is that your website communicates the unique flavor of each campus. This means giving each campus more than a single webpage.
If your campuses fall into the second category, it is even more important to give each campus its own space online. If they have different branding, separate websites may make sense, otherwise site-within-a-site or context switching are options to consider.Church multisite pro tip for websites: use subpages, site-within-a-site, or context switching. All of these approaches allow for a unique vibe while remaining under the main church website. Click To Tweet
3. Are Your Church’s Operations Centralized or Decentralized?
Does a centralized team serve as gatekeepers that must be engaged for any change to the website, or do you give your campuses autonomy to manage at least portions of their website content such as events, groups, or even campus pages?
If a multisite church leads and operates from a small central team, there is often a tendency to minimize campus specific content. This may logistically feel necessary, but it does mean that unless you have nearly identical campuses, you’re at risk of creating expectation gaps when a site visitor sees one thing on the website and another when they show up to a campus.
Here’s a common example: A parent visits a church-wide kids page and sees pictures mostly from the main campus’ kids ministry with live worship and lots of kids, and then shows up at a smaller campus and finds 10 kids from ages 5 to 12 in the same room. The smaller campus kids ministry isn’t the problem. The expectations gap is. You can avoid this with a small selection of sub-pages.
Multisite churches that give campuses greater autonomy over programming, communications, and operations may find that it works best to give each campus their own section of communication within the website.
At a minimum, this typically means giving each campus control over their own events, announcements, and groups. Some may also allow them to tweak the text on their campus pages.
4. Does Your Multisite Model Have a Lean or Robust Teams & Budget?
Lean teams & budget
Operating with lean teams and budgets is the reality of many churches.
One of the beauties of multisite church models is its operational efficiency and ability to scale. But the reality is communications teams often find themselves having to do more with less.
If you are like most churches and resources are tight, the right website strategy isn't always the one that best matches your church model. Instead ask, “What is the best website approach for your multisite model that is still manageable from a resource standpoint (budget & team bandwidth)?” It is better to do a good thing well than the “best” thing poorly.
Robust teams & budget
If your church has big budgets and a robust team, that's awesome! However, be careful and don't get too comfortable. Constraints have a way of sparking innovation while lack of boundaries can lead to bloat and distractions.
Consider building in healthy constraints to give your team focus with an eye toward the mission and how the website supports it. Remember that your site visitor has limited time and attention, so make sure that you are intentional that each page element supports the purpose of that page, and each page supports the purpose of the site.
What is the best model for your church website?
Churches who are serious about using their website presence to increase first-time guests as well as using their website to increase program registrations and automated giving are constantly seeking ways to make that happen.
Mission Lab spent nearly half a year conducting a study on effective church multisite strategies and we have produced our findings in a single succinct report which is available to download for free.
This report will reveal the common issues that most multisite churches face when building their websites and how to solve them. For the church committed to reaching their community beyond the front door of the building, they will find all sorts of ideas and suggestions for extending that front door into pre-discipleship territory.
Once you have downloaded the report, be sure to launch the Multisite Success Tool to get specific feedback and immediate suggestions for how to leverage your website into helping you reach the most important goals for your church and the Kingdom in your community.