Willowdale CRC is The Juicys Communications Church of the Year (Smaller) Runner Up

(The Juicys are a way to recognize and reward those churches who’ve worked to improve their church communications during the last year. It includes giving them a grant to jump start their next project. This week we'll be announcing the 2012 winners.)

Website redesigns are on the top of lots of churches wish lists. Willowdale Christian Reformed Church, a 140 member congregation in Toronto, Canada, was no different. And like many small churches their size, the one-page site they had didn’t meet their needs.

“We wanted to make improvements and expansions because it is the main way of communicating with people inquiring about our church,” says Ministry Coordinator Susanne Zandberg.

But unlike some churches that become paralyzed by the thought of diving into something that can be technologically out of their comfort area, Willowdale went to work.

The church put together a team including three staff members and two other church members. Zandburg says the mix of people meant there was constructive input from various sides. But what made the redesign process work well was the early expectation that this project wasn’t going to get slowed down by inactive committees even it if meant having short meetings to discuss smaller items.

“Often updates and changes do not take a lot of time. But sometimes that brevity of time investment led to inaction,” says Zandburg. “We worked through that by establishing open communication to hold each other accountable to our commitments regardless of how little time they could require to accomplish.”

That best practice impressed one of our judges who said, “Too often websites die by committee, especially in small churches. I’m glad Willowdale avoided that. When entering a new communications project, it’s always important to set expectations and identify possible stumbling blocks. This church is proof that is a needed step.”

Hoping for something that was easier to update and simpler for visitors to use, Willowdale turned to a WordPress template.

That decision made an impression on another of our judges who wrote, “This project sticks out to me because of their use of WordPress – a free backend web solution that works great, saves money and will be easily updated in the future. Very smart.”

The new site gives Willowdale a more modern look. There are big pictures across the top where they can show their church and areas where they can more clearly organize information. But they still hope to do more. They plan on using their $1000 grant to add features like a sermon archive and videos.

“Our youth group is working on a video to walk people from the parking lot through the building and into the sanctuary to show what people might experience on a Sunday morning,” says Zandburg. “Videos will portray things we cannot capture in words.”

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