More than 1,500 of the United Church of Christ's 5,000 congregations do not have websites. Those that have one may not be attracting as much traffic as they could. Now the UCC's national ministries are offering help.
A new service called UCC Everywhere is offering local churches free web design, funded by the offerings they already make to Our Church's Wider Mission (OCWM) and by the denomination's Shaping Our Future Campaign. "After the initial development phase, UCC Everywhere sites are hosted by the national setting for a reasonable monthly cost during this pilot phase of the project," said UCC Web and Digital Strategist Chris Gabriel in announcing the service June 24 at the denomination’s General Synod in Milwaukee.
Each month, 370,000 people use the phrase "churches near me" in internet searches, Gabriel said.
"If your church website is not optimized to appear at the top of search engine results, you are lost to the majority of faith seekers in your geographic region who are actively searching the internet for a church, some of them right now," said Cynthia Bailie, director of the UCC's Office of Philanthropy, Technology, Identity and Communication, who, along with Gabriel is starting up UCC Everywhere.
"More than two-thirds of people looking for products or services turn to the internet first," Bailie said. "Seventy-five percent do not look past the first page of search results. If your church website is not built to appear in search results, it will struggle to be discovered by even one of those 370,000 people."
"Unlike commercial web development services, UCC Everywhere sites are built by experts at the United Church of Christ and they are built specifically for the United Church of Christ," Gabriel said. Delegates viewed a high-energy video that showed the possibilities of UCC-specific local church websites.