You’ve never done this. You’ve never moved to a new town or visited a new area and formed some instant opinions about a church based on the quality of their website. In fact as soon as you read the title of this post you started to pray for the people that struggle with this. If that’s the case, please add me and my friend Trevor to the list because we both have.
I didn’t mean too, it just sort of happened. I’m always looking at websites with a fairly critical eye so when it came time to visit a new church, I found myself analyzing their site. Or “pre-judging,” if you will, deciding I knew exactly what type of church they were based on their site. In order to pay penance for that ridiculousness I thought I might write a list of 5 things churches need to remember when creating a website and what you need to remember when you get all judgy:
1. Don’t make finding your location like navigating a labyrinth.
Your address and directions to your building shouldn’t be seven layers deep on your site. Put that on the homepage. (Judgyness = “I looked for their address for 2.2 seconds and couldn’t find it. I’ll take hours to find things I want to buy on Craigslist, but this is different.” Solution = Google the location if you can’t find one on their site.)
2. Service times matter more than a crazy intro page.
Don’t hide the “boring stuff” like when church starts under an exhausting amount of creative elements. Keep points one and two really simple. (Judgyness = “I guess they don’t want me to come because they didn’t tell me when the service is. And no, I can’t call them and ask. Ugh the phone, connecting with real people. What am I a caveman?” Solution = Pick up the phone Tron, it’s going to be OK.)
3. Don’t use that font that looks like the letters are on fire.
That one seems pretty self explanatory. (Judgyness = Actually, I think this one might be justified. It’s a terrifying font.)
4. Don’t let every group at your church create their own presence.
One of the craziest things you can do is ask every ministry you have to design and create their own web experience within your website. Creative freedom is awesome but consistency is such a beautiful gift to give someone who is trying to learn about your church. If a visitor sees a 17 level mini site for the single adults ministry and a one page site for the high school ministry, they might wrongly assume the high school ministry is floundering and small instead of the truth which is that they’re too busy to keep their portion of the site updated. Have one central point of contact for the development of the entire site. (Judgyness = “I saw one rotating lighthouse on the Senior Adults Ministry Page. It’s safe to assume I know exactly how this church is.” Solution = Always forgive the rotating lighthouse.)
5. Don’t get overwhelmed thinking you have to have it all right now.
There are a billion options right now that you might think your church needs to have. Do you have a sermon podcast? Are you posting the videos of your sermon? What’s your twitter strategy? How about your facebook presence? Are you using linked in? How often do you update your blog? It’s overwhelming. Don’t get caught up in the lie that you have to be doing everything right this second. Do the things you have the budget for, do the things you have the heart for, do the things your community needs. One size fits all does not work well for church websites and social media plans. (Judgyness = “This church isn’t on Twitter? I bet they only read the King James Version of the Bible and make you wear baby blue suits to the service.” Solution = Oh stop, anyone can acquire a Twitter account, having one doesn’t automatically make them a great church.)
Again, maybe you’ve never pre-judged a church based on the quality of their website and today was just an exercise in ways to pray for me and Trevor.
But if you ever have, if you’ve ever pre-judged a church or work at a church that struggles with their website, I implore you to remember one thing:
The church in Acts didn’t have a website and they seemed to do all right.