A Quick Question
What’s worse than a church without a web site?
The quick answer - A church with a bad web site!
The longer answer - If a congregation wants to attract visitors through its web presence, that site must be as well planned and carefully done as any other public presentation of the congregation. In fact, given the sophistication of the medium and the caliber of those who surf the web to find a new church home, a poorly done congregational web site may be more of a detriment for a church than no web site at all.
Often in their rush not to be left out of the Internet revolution, congregations quickly throw something on the web just to make sure that they have a presence. In a recent survey we did of 70 congregational webmasters, the average time from the idea of creating a site to when it went on the web was less that two months.
We are finding in our research that very little planning or forethought goes into a congregational web site. Most of the time these congregations relied on a semi-skilled member to create a web site for the congregation. This person may know HTML but they often are not adept in web design or think to ask the deeper image and identity questions which shape the mood and feel of a web site. A congregation’s web site should be planned as carefully and prayerfully as its statement of faith.
The site should accurately convey the character of your church in an appealing manner. Those people who intentionally use the web to find a church will likely be the same ones who are "at home" on the web. These people usually know a good web site when they see one. At least, they always know a bad web site when they see one!
If your congregation’s site has broken links, out-dated information, an illogical navigation scheme or a poor design it may not only be a bad site but it may be a severe detriment to your positive presence on the web. Those people "shopping" for a congregation through the web will hold a poor site against a congregation. Having a quality web presence is even more crucial for congregations attempting to reach persons under 30 years old.
We have spoken with any number of young adult seekers of new congregations who have told us that if a congregation doesn’t care enough to put up a presentable web site, they don’t even want to consider them as an worship option. Churches seldom get "guestbook" entries from web visitors that say, "we’re looking for a church and found your site. It stinks and there are broken links but we’ll come on Sunday and visit the service anyway." This doesn’t happen!
So before your congregation rushes to put something on the web, think twice about what kind of message you want to portray. Do you want your web site to say "Here we are...We didn’t spend enough time or money on this to do it right but we have a web presence."? Or do you want your site to say "This is who we are. We care. We work hard. We put up and put forward only our best face."?
Think about it... Increasingly, your web page may be the only glimpse people ever have of your congregation. At least spend as much time and money on your site as you would on your congregation’s landscaping. Plant something on the World Wide Web that will attract, not detract from your church’s mission.
If you would like to know more about congregational web design, visit our Internet Guides section of this site which contains both more of our thoughts and also links to other excellent sites on church web design. Or you might like to visit our recent reviews of actual church web sites.
You might also want to read the report of how congregations use the web. Check out our research of webmasters or the latest research by the Pew Internet Project
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