Website Wisdom

I bet, like me, through one thing and another you have found yourself at a church website which makes you say out loud, “Oh, no… no”. Or at least cringe. Pale pastel background, comic sans font, text across the whole width of page, pictures that are so huge they take ages to load, early 90s clip-art graphics – a combination of any of these will do.

I am convinced that many churches have a website because someone else said they should. Their heart is not in it. But like it or not, increasingly the first point of contact for people looking for a church is through an online search engine. We need to face the fact that, great though the church may be in many respects, people most likely won’t come if all they know about us us a crummy website.

I say this as a pastor of a start-up church for which >90% of its physical visitors to a Sunday service first encountered our website. We could have set up a web presence for virtually nothing (and I have done in the past) but we decided this time to spend a few hundred pounds on it. That is not a great amount by any means – we could have spent thousands –  and our website is not the greatest – there is plenty of room for development and improvement, but it has been worth it. There is more to be done and it is a developing field, so it is worth someone in one’s church keeping on top of it.

Anyway, to the point: Drew Goodmanson has recently done some research on church websites and there are some useful pointers in his Christianity Today article. You can get a pdf of it from here: Website Wisdom – Goodmanson.

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Website Wisdom

10 thoughts on “Website Wisdom

  1. Good grief! Yes, it can be overdone!

    I was puzzled by the term “modeling” that seems so prominent. Do they mean mode-ling as in earth-ling, young-ling (Star Wars).

    Sounds a bit, well, extra-terrestrial – a modeling. It would fit in with their zoomy, zappy spaceship style building. 😉

  2. David Shedden says:

    This is a very interesting little post, Stephen. Do you want people to visit you based on viewing your website? Is that part of your strategy? What I’m asking is this… what purpose in having a website at all? I think the really radical thing for a church to do would be to not have a website at all! Better no website than a poor one, or, perhaps even worse, one which gives a false impression of the life of the church.

  3. As a 20-something Evangelical Christian – let me say that I wouldn’t even try out a church if it didn’t have a website.

    The reason is simple. In Cambridge (where I live) there are quite a few different churches, but even if we imagine that there are only a few – if I’m going to look at churches I want to use my time efficiently – I expect to be able to find out about what the church is like (in terms of doctrine etc) online. I expect to be able to find out when their services are, and what they preach on online.

    If a church doesn’t provide that kind of information it tells me that they’re not very serious either about those things – or about communicating with the world outside of their own four walls.

    Imagine a church that had no noticeboard outside, didn’t have a phone number, or didn’t have a postal address (delete as appropriate). That’s what, today, a church that doesn’t have a website is like.

  4. Rob,
    I think you are absolutely right. By having a website we are simply recognising that people want access to information in that way.

    However, David raises a good point. The church needs to represent itself accuratley. Sometimes the church can present itself on the web in a way that is not true in real life, just to get people through the door. We actually hit this early on. When we were very small (and we are still small, but not quite so) we had someone come who said to me afterwards that our website gave the impression that we were a big church. She was surprised when she walked through the door! We had to make a few changes.

  5. James Miller says:

    Hi Stephen

    Em, I think that should be “accurately” in your last comment. Couldn’t resist, sorry!

    Well, the irony made me smile anyhow.

    James.

  6. Edson Ferreira says:

    I my opinion, the most important reason for a church to have a website, is to make available bible studies and sermons, so that way, people who visit the website can actually be edified by them, regardless if they end up coming to the church or not.

    Summarizing, a church website must be an instrument to glorify JESUS and spread the Gospel, without which, the website is of poor use…
    A good example is Grace Community Church, San Antonio, Texas, which provide real good biblical material for the edification of the saints and for the reach for new converts.

    Website: http://www.gccsatx.com/

  7. Edson makes an excellent point.

    We need to think a bit broader than our locality – particularly for Christians in countries or locations where it is difficult or impossible to get good Bible teaching (either because there is no church, or there are no good preachers nearby). Putting sermons on websites is a helpful thing to do for such people.

  8. Hi Edson,
    Wow! A “1689” church that has a website like that? Amazing. It’s a nice site.

    While I am glad that people can be edified through websites, in the end I believe in the church as the physical/spatial (as opposed to virtual) assembly of God’s people. It is a foretaste of heaven – or at least it should be. This is the corporate element of our relationship to Jesus. After all Jesus’ bride is the church.

    So in the end I want people to physically appear at the church. What I liked about Drew Goodmanson’s article was the spelling out of desired levels of participation resulting from visiting the site:
    – Low value :sign up to an RSS feed,
    – Medium value: sign up for an email,
    – High value: physical attendance at a meeting

    Of course, you could add “listen to/download a sermon” as a medium/high value outcome. I think this is a great way to look at the function of a site. It is not just an online “brochure” but a means of stimulating engagement.

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