Like Santa, if you’re running a parish website you need to be checking your list at this time of year. Here’s how to prepare your church site for Advent.
- Pick a permanent page for all of your Advent content. Use the same page year after year so the search engines—which really means first-time visitors—can find you. That’s your best chance for reaching those who are thinking of returning home for Christmas.
- Use a short and memorable name for that page, such as example.com/advent. This is not the time to show off your information architecture with directories like /seasons/recurring/advent/ or /ministries/liturgy/advent. Could someone say this address out loud to a friend and have it remembered? Can the address fit on one line in the bulletin?
- Add your Christmas Mass schedule as soon as possible. Again, you might have only one shot at first timers. All of your other Advent events should be here too, of course.
- Incorporate an Advent theme for the entire parish. My church adopts a single theme for all children’s religious education programs that carries over to the parish as a whole. If the theme already is in place for the kids, get some more mileage but expanding it across your community. Here’s our 2006 theme along with “Sent Forth in Hope” from 2005 and 2004 and 2003.
- Add a poll about your parish’s Advent events. A one-question, multiple checkbox survey is a fun way for parishioners to see what events are most popular while also reminding them about all of the opportunities that are available. Include the basics: are you using an Advent wreath, attending additional Masses, doing extra good deeds, going to the parish Christmas party, etc., plus add those events that are unique to your parish–especially the minor ones that need more publicity. Here are advent survey examples from 2006 and 2005 using the open source phpESP script to administer surveys.
- Include Advent reflections. Lots of good choices are available, including American Catholic’s Advent page, Catholic.org’s Advent resources (see left-hand navigation), an online Advent calendar, my own parish’s Advent reflections, and St.Anthony’s Rocky Point (warning: music plays automatically, which is generally a no-no without asking first).
- Link to daily Scripture readings. The US Bishops’ daily readings site is a good start and try out other daily/weekly readings and reflections sites.
- Take some time for yourself to prepare for Jesus. It’s easy to focus on getting the website ready for the parish and forgetting about your own journey. Use one of those reflections yourself!