At 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].