"And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"
Stepping Outside the Main Church Website
Most churches have websites. Such sites offer basic information like service times, as well as overview information about ministry and mission. But when it comes to Christian formation, and faith resources for households, most church websites are too big and cumbersome to provide that content.
What's the solution? For some churches (such as the three listed below), the answer was to create a separate website dedicated entirely to Christian formation, and targeted toward households and families of that church. Note: these websites are not simply part of the main church website. The sites have their own names, their own unique web address (URL), and their own goals. The sites below seek to:
Reach out to households and families in the church, whether they attend all the time or only sporadically.
Provide inspiration and resources for practicing Christian faith at home, and throughout the week.
Feature and promote the work and ministry of Christian Formation at the church.
3 Sample Formation Websites that Work
So let's take a look at three websites, and the church leaders who built them. Perhaps these will inspire you and your church to create something similar in 2016. With platforms like weebly or wordpress, it's easier than you might think!
Tri Saints Worship
This site, created by Pastor Breen Sipes, has a crisp clean look, with a clear focus of helping households "take worship home." Pastor Sipes, of Tri Saints Lutheran Parish, has a knack for working with the web - she's created several sites, including Feed my Faith.
The strength of Tri Saints Worship is the updated content, focusing on the weekly readings and the seasons of the year. This week, for example, you'll find fun and educational videos about Epiphany. But above that, Pastor Sipes has provided links to devotions or reflections, curated by age level. It's just the right amount of content - not too much, not too little.
Finally, the "I missed worship" button is a brilliant feature. It links to a nicely laid out page that includes the previous Sunday's readings, a key scripture verse, a recording of the sermon, and other goodies. Of course, Tri Saints encourages parishioners to attend every week, but when folks are unable to be present, this site is a tremendous way to keep them connected.
FISH: Families Integrating Sundays at Home
St. Andrew's is an Episcopal church which famously shut down their Sunday school in 2013. In its place, the Family Minister, Day Smith Pritchartt, focused on intergenerational events on Sundays, family church on Sunday, and this website. Day manages the site, which offers fun and practical ways for households and families to stay in touch with the church, and to practice faith at home.
The FISH site is well curated, and includes links to activities that households can do at home. Sure, families could find these resources on their own, but the strength of the FISH site is that families know Day Smith Pritchartt as their guide, and they trust her recommendations. There is a personal touch.
Finally, the FISH site is also a platform for highlighting the fun formation projects that occur at St. Andrew's. In this way, the site lifts up formation ministry in a way that a main church website might not be able to.
Faith & Fun @ Home
Dr. Elizabeth Windsor has been working in Christian formation for years, and also been learning about the web for years. She created Faith & Fun @ Home to give parents and households at St. Matthew's United Methodist church the tools they need to practice and teach the Christian faith at home.
You'll notice that the site contains lots of education, such as a page on the liturgical year. There are also videos of Sunday school lessons by Dr. Elizabeth. The site features plenty of extras, even recommended faith apps for kids and adults.
A favorite part of Faith & Fun @ Home is "Car Chats." It's a short set of questions for families to use as faith discussion prompts while driving in the car. As church leaders, we know the importance of encouraging households to have faith conversations outside of church – but it is equally important to equip them do so. Car Chats – and this entire website – is all about that equipping.