You Can’t Ignore This 2017 Church Website Trend

It's our job at Pro Church Tools to equip churches -- which means staying atop of change and highlighting innovations. This 2017 trend is no exception.

March 29th, 2017

It was September 2016 and I was on a flight to Atlanta. I was headed to a conference where I would be delivering a keynote. Speaking events weren’t something I was accustomed to then, so I was determined to use the time on the plane to prepare and rehearse my talk.

The creative side of my brain had a different idea, though.

Almost immediately after takeoff, an idea popped unbidden into my head. For the duration of the flight (YYZ-ATL), my upcoming speech neglected, I sketched out the bones of this idea.

The next day in the Buckhead neighborhood of uptown Atlanta, I met three friends at a co-working space. By the end of that day, the fledgling idea had a name, a domain, and input from various pastors on how to make it workable and useful.

The conference wouldn’t even start until the following day.

The Problem

Every week my team and I work with 125+ churches creating their video announcements. This puts me in the unique situation of not only hosting announcements at my own church, but also hosting for dozens of others.

A little bit of quick math125 churches x 5 announcements each week x 52 weeks = 32,500 announcements

Yes, we hosted 32,500 announcements in just one year! And we’ve been doing this for close to 5 years. Suffice it to say, I’ve presented tens of thousands of church announcements on camera.

To give you an inside look, here’s how most church announcements go.

A church will promote their event and then present their congregation with a call to action. A call to action explains here’s what to do next. During my tenure presenting tens of thousands of announcements, I’ve found that churches generally use 5 different destinations to send their congregations to take next steps.

Some churches will use all 5. Some will use just 2, 3, or 4. But I have yet to partner with a church that uses only one destination. Why? Because each of the 5 traditional next step destinations is inherently flawed, so churches find themselves forced to use more than one.

Let’s briefly look at each destination.

1. The Website

Churches send their congregations to a page on their website. Wanna sign your kids up for the overnight trip? Head to mychurch.com/summercamplivingwater

The Flaw: Nowadays, most church websites are built for potential new visitors (which is, by the way, how it should be). Land on a church’s website and you’ll see service times, locations, what to expect, etc. But next steps are usually buried in the back pages somewhere with complex, easily forgettable URLs with forward-slashes.

2. The Lobby

Since churches recognize that obscure website pages are tough to find, they generally push people to their lobby as well. Wanna learn more about the upcoming Men’s Retreat? Head to the desk in the lobby.

The Flaw: The Lobby works exceptionally well on Sundays when everyone is gathered. This destination is useless during the other six days of the week though.

3. The Bulletin

Bulletins are still alive and well in many of our churches. They are frequently used in church announcements as next steps. Wanna learn more about the prayer gathering this Wednesday? Check your bulletin.

The Flaw: Bulletins require heavy printing costs and physical assembly each week. And sadly, most bulletins still end up in the garbage.

4. The Mobile App

It always surprises me how many churches use apps as the main next step for their congregations. Wanna give online? Just download our app.

The Flaw: Church apps are expensive to build and carry a hefty recurring cost each month (usually $75-$150/month). Half of U.S. smartphone users download zero new apps per month. And even if you can convince someone to download your app, it’s usually a vanity metric, because 80% of people who download an app never become active users (Source).

5. Email Addresses & Phone Numbers

The fifth destination for next steps I see churches use is an email address or phone number. Want to learn more about our Wednesday Night program? Call the church office or email Pastor Sheila.

The Flaw: Manual methods like phone numbers and email addresses don’t scale. They require vast amounts of volunteer/staff hours and can only function on a 1-to-1 basis. Moreover, much like having to remember long URLs, long phone numbers and email addresses are a tough ask for your people.

The 2017 Church Website Trend You Can’t Afford To Ignore

If you can’t easily promote what’s going on in your church, you’re going to have a difficult time compelling people to take next steps. And perhaps the most important element of any promotion is the next step.

One church I’ve always admired is Church On The Move. They do tremendous work with their church’s announcements.

Coincidentally, I ran into the Communications Director of Church on the Move while speaking at the conference in Atlanta I recounted earlier. The conference hosted a rooftop after-party for attendees, and a mutual friend introduced me to Stephen Posey, the Communications Director of Church on the Move.

I remember asking him, “What next step do you push your congregation to? Is it your main website? The lobby? An app? Email addresses? Phone numbers? Maybe even a bulletin?”

Stephen responded, “COTM.info.”

Stephen went on to explain that, rather than use their main website or another destination as their church’s main call-to-action, they built a website specifically to solve this problem.

COTM.info is essentially a web app parked on an easy-to-remember domain. It serves as the primary call to action for every promotion at Church on the Move.

Wanna join a small group? COTM.info. Need to get the message notes? COTM.info. Check out what events are happening this week? COTM.info.

You get the idea.

The Central Hub

For the last 18 months, I’ve been teaching a concept called The Central Hub: The idea of creating a single landing spot for every next step in your church. It’s essentially what Church on the Move is doing with their online hub.

Why is a Central Hub so important? It streamlines communications by eliminating confusion and distractions from your church’s promotions. And after working with hundreds of churches presenting their announcements, I can tell you that simplicity and clarity is something most churches struggle with.

This is the new church website blueprint. And it’s the 2017 web trend that you cannot afford to ignore.

Instead of just one website (ie. mychurch.com) serving two unique audiences (potential new visitors + your existing congregation), I highly encourage you to follow the Church on the Move model and create two unique sites for your two unique audiences.

Imagine this …

  • Everyone in your church knowing exactly where to find information at all times
  • Eliminating conversations where people come up to you and say, “I didn’t even know that was happening!”
  • Always having a unified, identical next step for every single promotion in your church

Nucleus.Church

When I was sitting with my friends in the common room of Roam, a co-working space in Atlanta, we were debating three different names for my nascent Central Hub idea. Justin Dean of That Church Conference still thinks we should have called it Pivot. The other name we were considering was Swivel.

Eventually, the majority voted for Nucleus. I immediately purchased the domain Nucleus.Church.

Nucleus – Mobile View

Nucleus is the all-in-one Central Hub for your church. The only call-to-action destination that your church needs. The single landing spot where people in your church can take their next step.

It’s a 100% customizable web app built mobile-first, accessible through a single URL.

This means that after every promotion you can simply say, “Wanna learn more? Head to mychurch.info.” Just replace “mychurch.info” with your preferred domain name.

You can capture information, build forms, and customize your Nucleus. however you see fit. You eliminate the distractions and confusion from your church’s communications.

Imagine … your connect card, message notes, calendar, ministry signups, event registrations, giving, prayer requests — all taking place at one single location.

Nucleus – Card View
  • Nucleus is not a bulletin so it won’t be thrown out
  • It’s not a mobile app with barriers to downloading
  • It’s not your lobby which is unavailable most weekdays
  • It’s not an email or phone number that can’t scale infinitely without manual work on your part
  • And it’s not your main website so you don’t need to try to use that platform to serve two unique audiences

Your Nucleus is accessible 24/7/365 through any device. And you can also set it up on tablets in your church’s lobby to offer a physical Central Hub on Sundays.

Your Next Step

It took a long time for me to figure this out. For years I’d seen what churches were doing with their promotions. I’d seen their confusion and distractions firsthand. The question that kept repeating itself in my mind was, “So how can we fix it?”

I was 30,000 feet in the air somewhere over Pennsylvania when the answer came to me.

Nucleus – Desktop View

I remember that a bunch of the conference speakers and their families were headed for a night out on the town the evening before the conference began. We all met at the hotel and called an Uber. We were a big group, so we had to get an Uber XL to fit us all.

We crammed into a minty-fresh Cadillac Escalade. I found myself in the very back seat, and we spent the next thirty minutes in Atlanta traffic. But during this time, while everyone else was joking and laughing, I was on my phone talking to pastors about Nucleus and asking for input.

(Okay, it wasn’t the best show of manners on my part. But if you’ve ever become obsessed with a creative project perhaps you can relate…)

Sneak-peak into the Nucleus editor

Nucleus.Church officially launches on Tuesday, April 25th, 2017 at 11:00 AM Eastern. You can join the launch list (and receive a lifetime discount) by heading to Nucleus.Church

And whether or not you sign up for Nucleus when we officially launch and build your church’s Central Hub using our software, please, build a Central Hub for your church.

This is the new website blueprint. This is the 2017 website trend that you cannot afford to ignore.

Create a Central Hub online, accessible through a single URL; set up tablets in your lobby with the Central Hub locked on (this step is optional); and use only this Central Hub as your single call to action for every next step in your church.

You’ll eliminate congregation confusion. You’ll remove distractions from your church’s communications. And you’ll see more next steps being taken by your church as a result.

  • Rob Lee

    This sounds like a no-brainer. How has it taken so long for someone to come up with this idea? On Nucleus I’m curious if admins would be able to segment certain announcements to only be visible by members of the congregation, like prayer requests and such.

    • Hey Rob, not sure how your Nucleus would know when a user is an existing member or not…one thing you COULD do though, is within the prayer request form, add radio buttons or check boxes that require you to select that you’re a member of the church before the form is submitted.

  • TK

    I love the idea of a central point for all responses. We have done away with the paper bulletin, and still rely heavily upon the lobby, text registration and the website. And we are a smaller church, 150 ppl. So resources are tight. It looks like the .info site for COTM has a lot duplication to their regular website. Do you see that duplication ongoing? I’m not sure how sustainable that it would be for us.

    • I don’t think duplication needs to be necessary at all. Simply link to your Central Hub in the main navigation of your main website and you’re good to go!

  • Jeremy Phillips

    This is what we have done with http://www.journeykc.com/the411 We send everyone there for everything. Downside is that you have to build it. Your solution looks like it would take the work out of that.

    • Jeremy, love that you’ve put something like this together. Nucleus WILL remove the hassle of having to build it yourself. It’s also built mobile first, so it functions like an app rather a website – so the UX is a bit cleaner. Perhaps most importantly though, Nucleus will integrate with popular ChMS (coming soon) platforms to make the backend processes super easy for you and your team.

      • Jeremy Phillips

        Yes looks very promising. The challenge was to figure out how to make it simple, but include everything we needed. Having a WordPress Theme with a builder helped make that easier. But what you are doing should take most all of that hassle out of it.

    • Jeff Palk

      Hey Jeremy, not to be “that guy” but I think your first button is missing a “you.” Besides that, I like your concept. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/0fc4586931ab04a2d0220a58de8a95bd2aee3a6244c8f2ae487f61728614a6a3.png

      • Jeremy Phillips

        Thanks. Not sure how I missed that. I appreciate it.

      • Jeremy Phillips

        I think I was in between deciding on Have Kids and Youth and Do you have and had changed it a couple of times and it ended up being a combo. Thank again.

  • gary_greene

    You mentioned a potential lifetime discount, but you did not mention what the price would be.

    • Gary,

      The price for Nucleus is going to be regularly $65/month. But when we launch Nucleus you can lock-in a discounted rate of $49/month. This price is locked in for life. And you’ll receive every future addition and upgrade to Nucleus for free!

  • Jeff Palk

    Brady, as with most everything you guys do, this sounds amazing. I can’t wait to see it in action.

    • Appreciate that, Jeff. Thanks for the kind words.

  • Brad Zimmerman

    Before smart phones in the age of Flash Websites our church(Watermark) did this idea. We had iammarked.com as our front door site(It was a sweet animated billboard on the beach all done in flash haha) then I built a custom flash CMS(before clover sites) for wearemarked.com. This site had an event listings, calendar, prayer wall, team schedules, podcast player, and blog. We eventually dropped both sites (because flash was dead) and rebranded our web URL’s to SentOnMIssion.com (less mark of the beast sounding lol).

    It’s interesting to see how this idea makes so much more sense now then it did back when we first tried it. Mobile changed everything and made this make so much more sense. I know many would say get an app, but let’s be honest, most church apps don’t have much, if any more functionality then a web app can give you. I always loved this idea of not confusing and advertising / newcomer site with an internal one, it just makes all information much clearer. It will be interesting to see this type of communication strategy take hold over the next year and help churches clean up their process.

    • Brad, that’s so cool to hear how you guys did that back in the day. And it’s true that mobile is the sole reason this makes so much sense now.

      Been teaching this concept for 18+ months in a course inside Pro Church Academy – saw churches struggle to build their own – thought to myself, let’s just build it ourselves!

  • Love this idea, Brady – killer execution of a practical concept. Can’t wait to see more!

  • Dan Cooper

    Wow, Brady this is so cool. I love your creativity and passion here. I’ve been cracking my brain on this for ages, on how and where do we put this information, that’s so crucial to what we do, yet so challenging to get the information out there. Just a quick Q for you, the pricing point you’ve got, is that USD? CD? or can we make it NZD for everyone… (best idea ever) 😉

    • Dan, pricing is in USD. 80% of our audience and customers are in America so just makes sense for transaction sake. Charging in Canadian led to too many flagged payments (especially on scale) and this is tough with recurring products. Moreover, most if not all of our vendors charge in USD as well, so it helps with that.

      • Dan Cooper

        No worries, I think you should recommend to everyone they change to NZD, it’d make the world a better place…. but that could be a subjective comment, just to stoke the fire a little 😉

  • Jonathan Shaw

    Brady, will you be building the site or will we have access to implement/build what we want? Will we have to purchase the domain on our end or is it all inclusive? Any way to see it in action or demo before purchase? Really interested just wanting to see cost difference in doing it myself or using this.

    • Hey Jonathan, Nucleus is a fully-customized web builder – so you get your own subdomain and then can build anything you want! I would recommend purchasing your own domain (ie. mychurch.life) and then redirecting that to your Nucleus so that it’s easily accessible. And one of the first things we’ll be implementing after the launch of Nucleus is custom domains.

      The website has a live demo that you’ll be able to play around with when it goes live. In the mean time, check out this video that I put together: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fIxjeQHzwWI

  • Melissa Noakes

    Hi Brady, the text in your demo is very difficult to read due to the combination of light color, font and my aging eyes (even with eyeware;)). For the sake of those of us over 40, will the text color and font be customizable?

    • Melissa, I don’t disagree with you that the text is a little tough to read. And it’s on our list of updates we wanna make 🙂

  • MACC Marin

    Hi Brady – Love the trend! How does this differ from using a members page on a website? What are the benefits of having this versus a members page that is formatted similarly? Thanks!

    • Hey there! We just did a FREE video workshop on this topic. It explains the Central Hub idea in great detail 🙂

      Check it out here: prochurchtools.com/NEW

  • Joey Vaughn

    How will different giving platforms be integrated and how soon? We use EasyTithe, for example.

  • Bart

    How would Nucleus work with a multi-location church? I want one hub to rule them all, but dont want to create more work and redundancy for our admins.

    • Bart, I’ve been recommending multiple Nuclei to churches with multiple campuses.

      • Bart Brueck

        whats happened with the site? was ready to sign up and get going?

        • Roxanne Wiedemann

          Hey Bart – if you get in touch with our team through the chat button on https://www.nucleus.church – they’ll help you out. 🙂

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