Okay, if the church website is truly the front door of the church, how do we make the front door the most accessible? Over the past few years, my team and I have looked at hundreds of church websites. We found several recurring and common mistakes, particularly from a guest point of view. Jonathan Howe wrote about the following church website challenges at ThomRainer.com.
Address and worship times difficult to locate. This mistake is the most common reason a guest decides not to come to your church after he or she looks at your website. They won’t come to your church services if they don’t know the time of your services. And they won’t come to your church services if they can’t find a physical address to put in their GPS. We continue to be confounded by the number of church websites that do not give these items a clear and prominent place on the homepage of the site. And we are even more confounded when they aren’t there at all.
Outdated information. True story: as I am writing this chapter, it is autumn. I went to a church website earlier this week only to discover the times of its special Easter service five months earlier! Seriously, I actually went to that church website because a friend texted me about it. His family had moved to a new city, and they were making decisions on where they would visit churches. This website was the third site they checked. It will not be one of the churches they will visit.
Lack of clarity about beliefs or doctrine. Not all guests will check this important item, but many will. Churches should not hesitate to share with clarity what they believe, particularly their core beliefs. Some of the most effective means to communicate doctrine begin with a simple link on the home page that says: “What We Believe.” Those who choose to view the doctrinal statement can click to a full page of the church’s basic beliefs. You may lose as many as half of your potential guests without this item.
Incomplete or total lack of information about children’s ministry or student ministry. Parents want to know what the church has for their children. They not only want to know about ministries and activities, they want to know their children will be safe and happy when they come to your church. If you really want to win over these parents, tell them explicitly on your website how you will make certain their kids will be safe and secure when they attend your church. And, as an added measure, allow them to check in their kids online before they visit.
Poor graphics and copyrighted images. If you are using photos from a standard Google search for images, stop it. There are many good places where your church can get quality images for a small cost or even free. We live in a visual world. When a guest visits your church’s website for the first time, those photos will shout a loud message about how much you care for those who are not yet there.
Hardly visible contact information. Have you ever been to a website where you have experienced difficulty finding out how to contact someone? Don’t let it happen at your church’s website. Guests may have questions before they visit. Why would you want to make your contact information so obscure that it’s almost invisible? Let people know how to get in touch with the right person at your church. And, by the way, make certain you have someone who’s responsible for responding to them promptly.
No photos of pastor, staff, and other leadership. Let your guests know that your leaders are real people. Show photos of the staff so guests can recognize the leaders when they visit your church (don’t use your wedding photo, or outdated photos that you prefer because you think you look better). Let them begin to get comfortable with the leaders through their photos even before they arrive.
Thom S. Rainer, Becoming a Welcoming Church (Nashville, TN: B&H Books, 2018).
If your church needs a website, I’d recommend you contact my son, Dustin Hunt http://webdesignwillow.com/