The virtual door that is; the cyber-portal; the church Web site. The most recent issue of Congregations magazine from the Alban Institute has an article by Lynne M. Baab on church Web sites and how congregational sites both need to use and be wary of the marketing style of successful layout and design of other sites.
The article offers links to various church sites for comparison. I note that they range from the Evangelical Megachurch (Saddleback) to an Emergent Church community (Solomon’s Porch) to an Episcopal Church (St. Gregorgy – home parish of Take This Bread Author Sara Miles) to a Synaguogue to a UCC Church in Ohio. So the sample really the table.
- Saddleback Community Church, Lake Forest, California, which has separate Web sites for visitors and members—www.saddleback.com (visitor site) and www.saddlebackfamily.com (member site)
- First Congregational Church, Columbus Ohio—www.first-church.org
- Saint Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church, San Francisco—www.saintgregorys.org
- House of Mercy, St. Paul—www.houseofmercy.org
- Solomon’s Porch, Minneapolis—www.solomonsporch.com
- Mosaic, Austin—www.mosaicaustin.org
- Three Nails, Pittsburgh—www.threenails.org
- Kol HaNeshamah, Seattle—www.kol-haneshamah.org
- The Village Temple, New York—www.villagetemple.org
- The Reform Temple of Forest Hills, New York—www.rtfh.org
The articles ends with these “questions for reflection:”
- Who creates your church’s Web site? What are the advantages and disadvantages of the way you currently do it?
- Does the visual communication on your congregation’s Web site mesh with the verbal communication? Do both accurately represent the values of the congregation?
- Look at your congregation’s Web site through the eyes of a newcomer to see if all your immediate questions would be answered. Look at your site through the eyes of a member seeking sermon downloads or information about events.
- How “slick” and professional do you want your Web site to be? Do you want to modify secular advertising and marketing techniques in some way to reflect your values?
I think number 3 is a very important question. If you are church shopping and you have click and click through pages of a website to have all your important questions answered, you will click away from the page and go somewhere else. What time is the service? Is there child care? How do I get to the church/directions? What’s the parking situation? Are there people like me at the church? Are there smiling faces to welcome me or this church just a building? Can I listen to sermons or even watch them? What special ministries/activities are going on? What’s the week’s schedule? Monthly calendar? Where’s the latest newsletter? How do I contact the minister? The rest of the staff? What about religious education? Does this church care about being active in the world? Feeding the hungry? Fighting racism? Human rights? Environmentalism? Human Rights?
People don’t like to read a lot of text on home pages so all this info doesn’t need to be on home pages, but at least having links and making it clear on the home page right where to go get this information is key. At the same time, pictures are worth many words much of this can be communicated by images and words and phrases.