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rate the church website

FailAt Christmas time people here move around, visiting family and friends. There are overseas visitors in the country. Some of these people, local and from overseas, want to go to church (I know, I know, surprise!)

It’s a good time to check some church websites. A friend of mine tells me 85% of people coming to a church for the first time check out the church’s website first (I have no idea of his source, but I like it to reinforce my point).

I’m going to look for the websites of half a dozen churches. I’m going to look for the answers to five questions. They need to pass all of the first four to “pass”. The fifth is a bonus.

1) Does the website show where they meet?
2) Does the website show what time they meet?
3) Does the website show what sort of service it is?
4) Does the website show Christmas services (it is less than a fortnight to Christmas – these should be up by now)?
5) Bonus question: Does the website give the readings of the forthcoming service(s) so that people can prayerfully prepare for the service?

Here are my results:

Church A) 1. Yes (no map); 2. Yes; 3. No; 4. No FAIL! 5. No
Church B) 1. Yes (including map); 2. Yes; 3. Yes; 4. No FAIL! 5. No
Church C) I could find no website, only a mention on the diocesan website over which the church has no control. Hence, obviously, 4. No FAIL! 5. No
Church D) 1. Yes (no map); 2. Yes; 3. Yes; 4. Yes PASS! 5. No
Church E) 1. Yes (street name but no street number or map); 2. Yes (but that took some hunting – it was found by clicking the “about us” button); 3. No; 4. No FAIL! 5. No
Church F) I could find no website, nor a mention on the diocesan website. FAIL!

There is absolutely not a single excuse for not having a good, easy to follow, contemporary-design website up. It is possible to make an excellent website FREE and to host it FREE; one that can be kept up to date by a number of people.

I found sites that were nearly impossible to navigate; sites that looked like they last had a design update in the 1970s. I even found sites that on their site published the (currently trendy) parish Mission Action Plan about how they are going to attract new people – on a site that clearly would not be attractive (or useful) to new people!

So, how does your church website measure up? And after you’ve looked at your own one, think of any place, search for the church with your favourite search engine – check that site. How did they do? [It doesn’t need to be a public outing – you don’t need to name the church].

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14 thoughts on “rate the church website”

  1. My Church is: http://www.minehead-baptist.com (I’m a web designer and designed/run the website).

    1. Yes (map on homepage with link to larger map – also downloadable – and directions)
    2. Yes (on home page with links to the weeks “what’s on” sheet and Church Calendar)
    3. Yes (on the home page there’s a slider saying what this week’s and next week’s service are)
    4. Yes (on the slider and its Christmas page http://www.minehead-baptist.com/christmas – the Christmas page went live in October, they were on the slider from December and it even snows on the site!)
    5. No. However, it’s a Baptist Church so we have no set readings…

    The site uses WordPress and I’ve also designed and created several other Church sites, including this one for a large Anglican Church in the UK: http://www.stmarymagdalenetaunton.org.uk/

    1. Thanks, James. Both the sites you give in your links clearly pass. Thanks for posting them as good examples. [I wonder if the “This week” could be a web page (as well as a PDF if that’s useful). Easily done.] I have rebuilt this site twice. It now runs on WordPress. I have yet to redo some pages (it is finding/making the time that is the issue – there are also some design features I would like to alter; plus, of course, there are things I need to learn). Blessings.

  2. Thanks for exposing what is out there Bosco.

    I think however that it is a mistake to say a website can be ‘free’ and ‘free to host’. While this may be true, I have rarely found such a website to be very effective, because you have to be committed to making it work and accessible and be a point of contact for people.

    I think it has to be a focused part of a communication package with commitment to updating and relevancy etc etc. Too many are just made and put up in the cloud and hope for the best.

    It is as important as the building – perhaps we should get websites approved, like we get building work approved!

    1. Thanks, Rosemary.

      We are going to disagree about my saying that a website can be free.

      If a church can afford a professional site, cool. Many many churches are constrained by finances. This then becomes an excuse for not running or updating a website. I do not accept such an excuse whatsoever. The instructions I give (in the link) provide an accessible website that a number of people can be given access to so that all aspects are kept totally up to date. Updating it, following my suggestion, is simple and quick. I repeat: it IS possible to make an excellent website FREE and to host it FREE; one that can be kept up to date by a number of people.

      I have regularly advocated that one invite teenagers and young people to set this up if the leadership of the church is composed of technophobes. Provide them with pizza and drinks. They feel significant. The church gets a contemporary website that can be easily updated. Win – win.

      Advent blessings.

  3. I get what you are saying – but the issue remains, it is not a priority for most. and keeping it updated is not a priority. And the passion to keep it going is very important.

    As in your website, it works because you are and always have been passionate about what you are on about, and passionate about sharing it with others, AND convinced that the web is the best (even only?) way of sharing that info.

    keep up the good work bosco!

    1. Thanks, Rosemary. Yes, you are correct. I’m passionate about the value of the web. I’m not sure if it is the best. Certainly not the only. But I struggle with impatience with those who don’t realise that the web is so significant in the third millennium. I guess there were people in the sixteenth century who didn’t think the printing press was significant… At the moment an average of about 1,500 people visit here daily, looking at about 2,500 pages. That’s a community of over 10,000 a week. In communities that attract 50-100 or so people, yes, I struggle to understand that there isn’t some passion to at least try a different way. If they always do what they’ve always done, they shouldn’t be surprised to always get what they’ve always had 🙂


  4. I agree. I’ve recently moved from one city to another, where I know no one. It’s interesting to me how many church websites are either out of date or are designed specifically for members.

    Two of us work on electronic media for my former parish. I do the Facebook page, which is primarily devotional. My friend does the website: http://www.resurrectionrichmondhill.com/

    1) Yes, easy to find where (with a map).
    2) Yes, times are easy to find.
    3) I’ll let others be the judges. We have links to bulletins, so I think that it’s pretty easy to get a good idea what kind of service a person would find.
    4) No. We haven’t listed Christmas services yet, which we should have done.
    5) Yes, there is a link to the lectionary page (though I’m thinking we could make the name of that link clearer to visitors).

    The site is a work in progress all the time. It is so inexpensive that it’s almost free. The person who maintains it works full-time and works as a free-lancer.

    I say that to say that yes, for very little or no money, and surprisingly little time, a webpage can be maintained.

    Our parish has about 40 people on Sundays; our Facebook page has 78 “likes”. We spend about 30 minutes a day on the Facebook page.

    1. Thanks, Dale, both for confirming the issue with your own concrete story of moving city, and for showing how a good site can be maintained easily (I have a very full-time ministry, and so run this site in spare moments). Your site also confirms my point of the value of WordPress. Facebook is another are that you are highlighting. The Facebook page with this site has 4,397 “likes”. For a while I tried to get people to comment here, rather than there. Now I’ve come to understand that the facebook page has its own integrity, and no doubt that will develop. And then there’s twitter… Blessings.

  5. I was pleasantly surprised to be able to answer “yes” to all the questions! Not sure about # 5, because I gave up trying to download the December newsletter, which typically shows the readings. I didn’t dig around the site a whole lot. But other than that, the site has been under construction for way too long, and is maybe the 4th or 5th that we’ve started. So I don’t know if this one is linked to the diocesan site or Anglicans Online like our older one probably still is. And I rarely bother to look at it unless I need to look at the server schedule or the newsletter hadn’t arrived before the beginning of the month.

    These are important questions. 3 years ago, my son came to visit for Christmas. And just for fun, he called the church for Christmas service times. They hadn’t updated their recording, so it had all the regular service times but nothing about Christmas (which was worse than nothing at all, because it seemed like an actual omission). And the site we had at the time didn’t have any mention of Christmas because no one ever updated it once it was set up. He told me that if it hadn’t been that we planned to meet there at a particular time, he would have assumed that they weren’t doing Christmas that year and might have chosen a different church.

    (This year, we’re having two Christmas Eve services, but nothing on Christmas morning. Sign of the times, I guess.)

  6. The map is something I haven’t done yet for each of our 4 centres. In little country centres everyone knows where the church is……..sometimes there isn’t much else, but it shouldn’t be too complicated to do. A map would be a nice touch. This is a good reminder. My next web goal.

  7. Gary L Lake Dillensnyder

    Fr. Bosco…good point! Well made and finely defended. Thanks for your research and criteria for church websites. In something of explanation, nonetheless, I would add the following: while keeping tech savvy and up on how to develop and maintain websites…and even serving in congregations where members claimed to have the same ability/skill–(1) the church website was often controlled and totally so by someone who just did not have the skill or the ability to have that task (2) i was not allowed to have even any input into what information was to be found on the website, yet alone its design (3) many church websites are what they are because that is what the empowered folk wish them to be (i.e., other than welcoming with the facade of being “contemporary and open to new things because they have a website”). The fails are sometimes not within the power of those in a congregation who work hard and long for the church, hoping and do whatever they can to make it a welcoming community of hospitality. Too bad that is sometimes a minority voice, or a un-empowered voice. Thanks again.

    1. Thanks, Gary, for making these really important points. I have, of course, seen all this at work, and there are no easy answers. What you bring up are bigger issues that arise, I suspect you’ll agree, outside of websites as well 🙁 Just as we deal with issues around music, the parish fair, children and church, etc. so how we deal with websites will sit alongside such issues as you describe. Thanks again. Blessings.

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