What you don’t realize your website is saying
Anyone who has created a website knows that getting a full website up and going can be a labor of love. There are a lot of pieces that need to be compiled from multiple teams with different leaders who need to check-off on each page and piece of content. As creating a solid website take a lot of time and energy, it’s totally understandable to just want to get done as you draw nearer to the finish line. This can lead to less time in review and assessment of your website.
Whether your website is a week old or was created during the Clinton administration, it is imperative to make the extra efforts to review and assess to understand what your website is communicating to the world. Once you start down this path, you might be surprised at what you find!
1. "We don’t care enough to keep this updated."
Without a doubt, the single biggest issue you can have on your website is incomplete or old information.
Think about what this is saying to the viewer: We don’t care. We aren’t paying attention. We don’t follow through. Take your pick. None of those is a message you want to be communicating.
We see it all too often – dead links, incomplete pages, missing staff photos, calendars with nothing on them. And the worst “I don’t care” red flag you could have on your website, no SSL certificate.
You’ve heard the phrase, “websites are the front door to the church.” But too many churches have front doors falling off their hinges and spider webs around the doorknobs (the kind with the massive spiders that no one’s gonna mess with). That doesn’t exactly invite you in.
If you are going to have a website, you need to do it right. At bare minimum, keep it updated.
2. "If you think our website is boring, wait until you come to our services."
Now we aren’t encouraging you to do anything crazy. Just simply show your church’s personality through your website. Your goal should be to provide the information that people are looking for but do it with flavor. Remember, no one boils a steak. We want the flavor.
Here’s what we mean: When you are posting pictures of your people, don’t just use the crowd shots where everyone is sitting down and listening. Replace those with close up shots of your congregants laughing, worshipping with passion, intrigued by the message. Swap out the outdoor picture of your building (super boring) with action shots of your people high fiving the door greeters as they enter the building.
Swap out the three paragraphs about your pastor’s seminary degrees and bestselling books with personal details that help the viewer connect with his personality and unique perspective.
What grabs your attention and helps you connect more to the church?
Pastor Dave graduated Boring Theological Seminary with a Master’s Degree in Theology. He has been a senior pastor at our boring church since 1998.
Pastor Dave has seven sons and is a life-long Star Trek fan. He loves to tell stories of raising his boys and how God is using them to teach him about redemption. He only occasionally mentions Spock.
3. "We don’t know why we are here"
This is a mistake that even great websites can make. They don’t answer the question of, “Why do we exist?”
Your church website needs to include all pertinent information about how to find your brick and mortar campus, what time you meet, how to get in contact, etc. But written between the lines on every page should be the reason that you exist.
So, why do you exist? Is that clear to someone who visits your site?
You can’t assume they get it.
Thankfully, this is a very easy problem to assess. Call up a friend who has never attended a service, never heard your church’s mission or vision, and have them peruse your site and don’t tell them what to look for. Afterward, ask them to tell you why, according to your website, your church exists. You might be surprised with their answer or lack thereof.
4. "You’ve got to look a certain way to fit in"
I truly feel that the majority of churches got over the dress code issues we faced in the late 90s. While I would be shocked if your church would turn away or dissuade the attendance of anyone based on their lack of a tie or their love of flip-flops. But we can’t believe the lie that we aren’t unintentionally pushing people away because we are pushing a certain expectation.
Here’s a few real examples:
A church only has photographers in their worship services at Christmas, Easter, and their Homecoming services. They don’t realize that, while they are pretty casual 49 weeks out of the year, all of the pictures on their website are from weekend services where the congregation dresses up.
Any visitor on their site would think that this level of dress is expected and either not attend a service or show up in a suit and tie and be the only one not in a t-shirt.
Another church inadvertently uses more pictures of the 20-25 age group more than any other demographic. Any site visitor that’s 50+ will notice this and feel out of place.
A small-town church makes a big emphasis on their site that “We’re just like family. Everyone knows everyone.” How does this appear to someone new to the small town or who has social anxiety issues? The idea that everyone knows everyone can present an intimidation barrier to people who are on the outside.
Representing diversity well demands intention. Visitors to your website only get a small snapshot of what the wider church looks like. This is not just true for demographics but cultures and backgrounds, family dynamics, seasons of life, expressions in worship, and so much more.
Here’s a couple of quick tips to assess and correct:
Recruit a handful of impartial website visitors through social media and send them a follow-up survey to get their unfiltered feedback about your site.
Routinely look around your worship services and ask yourself, “Does our website capture all of this?”
Identify who is responsible for updating your site. Ensure they know what to update and how often it is expected.
Create a quality control checklist for monthly audits of your site to ensure each piece is up to date, complete, and fresh.
Create a rhythm that works for you and schedule out thematic updates (banners, featured images, etc).