Doing something new usually isn't easy, especially for a large organization. United Methodist conferences are being confronted with local churches leaving the denomination through a disaffiliation process. Many times, some church members want to remain United Methodist. It's the job of the conference to keep them connected. The Mississippi Conference of The United Methodist Church wanted to build a new website to make connecting to one of its Lighthouse Congregations accessible and easy.
"We realized that those who have no knowledge of the Methodist Tradition or The United Methodist Church may get put off from all of the Church-ese or acronyms that can be found on our [Mississippi Conference] website," says Jason Zebert, Mississippi Conference faith community formation project coordinator, who headed up the project. "It was easier to build out a separate website with a different look and functionality than to try to build out a few pages that might get lost in the mix with all of the other information."
www.msumcconnect.org resulted and is the hub for Lighthouse Congregations, churches that are equipped to welcome anyone whose church has closed or disaffiliated or are simply looking for a place to belong. Thus, the website needed to be easy to use, organized, and accessible with a clean and modern aesthetic. Zebert says must-have features in the design included an easy way to search for churches and filter the results by type of faith community experience.
This ability to search is the website's key function. In addition to filtering by faith community experience, we built in capability to search by zip code and indicate a search radius. From the search results page, users can easily see the church on Google Maps by using the Map It link. Clicking into the church's entry displays contact information, worship service times, Sunday school times, directions, and a map.
"The look, information, and searchability of specific characteristics of churches are some of the features that we are most excited about," Zebert says. "We think that it looks great, functions well and will be a great tool."