When our church consulting teams hire "spies" to visit churches, we usually give them only the name and address of the church. We want them to see if the church has a website and if the website is actually attractive and helpful.
Here are several problems our "spies" have found with websites:
1. The church doesn't have a website. It's almost hard to believe today that a congregation has no internet presence, but it does happen. A church without a website seems almost nonexistent in a world where potential guests first turn to the internet to learn about them.
2. The website looks cheap or out of date. Ask some young people to critique your church's site. If they tell you it's not attractive, it's probably not. You likely already know if the site was cheap.
3. The site has no contact information. Maybe it's just an oversight, or perhaps the church has no one to answer phones or respond to emails. Either way, the church has closed the door on a primary means of communication.
4. The site provides no information about the services. Again, it's almost unbelievable that a church would have a website with no service information. On the other hand, a church that thinks about only its own members probably sees no need to include service times (and our experience is that the church with no service information on its site also doesn't respond to requests for information).
5. The information is out of date. It's always nice to know the details about the church's community-wide Thanksgiving dinner—except when it's January of the next year! Sometimes the dated information is deeper in the site than the home page, but any dated material is almost useless material.
6. Spelling or grammar errors are common. I realize that website writing does not always require complete sentences and so on, but the errors we're talking about here are basic writing errors such as misspelled words. Somebody in the church should catch these problems before the public does.
7. Links don't work. Sometimes links to pages about other events go nowhere. Sign-ups for upcoming events aren't functioning properly. Home page links to staff information go to blank pages. Again, potential guests should not be the first to recognize these problems.
8. No driving directions are provided. Providing a clearly identified street address for the church is a start. With the numerous options available for linking to maps and driving directions, though, not providing those links is a serious omission.
9. Stock pictures don't reflect the church. The pictures may reflect the vision of the church, but website visitors will not know that. If the pictures are all young families and the congregation is only senior adults, the visiting family with preschoolers will probably be surprised.
10. No recorded or streamed sermons are available. Like it or not, potential guests may choose to listen to a sermon before deciding whether to attend. Not making sermons available may well make the decision for those guests.
11. Child-care information is not provided. Young families will likely look elsewhere if this information is not available.
12. The site does not include an easily located, clearly described plan of salvation. You never know who may visit your site. If a non-believer checks out the site, will he/she have the opportunity to read and respond to the gospel?
What other marks of bad websites have you seen?
Chuck Lawless is dean of doctoral studies and vice president of spiritual formation and ministry centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he also serves as professor of evangelism and missions. In addition, he is team leader for theological education strategists for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
For the original article, visit churchanswers.com.
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