A question that comes up regularly amongst youth ministers is: Should the youth ministry program at our parish have its own website?
The rationale for a separate site usually includes one, two or all of the following:
- Our parish website sucks. The design is outdated, the functionality is limited, it’s confusing to navigate, no one ever updates it, or maybe it’s just plain ugly.
- No one visits the parish website. Probably because of the points mentioned above.
- I don’t have access to update the parish site. There’s some sort of gatekeeper or committee with a firm grip on the parish website, and they’re not interested in letting some radical youth minister update the site.
- You want to make it more hip. Or youth-friendly. Or current. Or trendy. Or rad. Or whatever the kids are saying these days.
- You want to add some cool new technology/feature that doesn’t work with the parish site. Video streaming, live-blogging, online registration, or some other new-fangled thing.
- You prefer a different platform. We’ve all got our preferences, and chances are your parish is not using the platform you with they were.
So in your mind you think: “Man, if I could just launch my own website for my ministry, it would be awesome! It would have a great design. Cool features. And the teens would visit it multiple times a day!”
Before we get to why that’s a bad idea, let’s be honest about two things:
- Yes, your parish website probably sucks. Most do.
- The youth ministry site you’ll probably create won’t be that much better. Most aren’t.
Harsh? Yeah, but it’s the truth for MOST parishes.
In an ideal world, you should be working to fix your parish’s website. But even if you can’t (as in they won’t let you), starting your own website for youth ministry is not the right path.
Four big reasons you should not start a separate youth ministry website:
- Audience. Most teenagers are not visiting your website regularly (whether it’s a parish page or a youth page). That’s just not the way they consume information or interact. The audience your website should be trying to reach is ADULTS (both parents of teens and volunteer or potential volunteers). Since that’s the same audience as your parish site, it just doesn’t make sense to split the traffic.
- Time. Even if you have a youth website, you still need to keep the information current on the main parish website (and I don’t just mean linking to the youth site). That means you’re doubling your work load. I’m guessing you probably don’t have time for that.
- Social Media. Teenagers consume information via social media and text message. Trying to communicate with them in the way WE want instead of how they already communicate is an exercise in futility (and not very evangelistically-minded).
- Brand. When you split the site, you end up creating two brands (one for youth, one for the parish). Instead, you should be building up your parish’s brand by being an active and vibrant part of the church’s website (even if it is ugly and out of date).
So how do you go about fixing your parish’s website: send the people in charge to BetterParishWebsites.com to watch the free webinar I created all about how to do just that – make better parish websites.
You should probably check it out too.
And then get to work beefing up your social media presence – that’s where the teens are anyway.
Oh, and don’t forget about TEXT MESSAGING. SMS is where it’s at and where you’ll get the biggest bang for your buck.
Check out my suggestion for the best youth ministry group texting option.