Church Website Rant

I’d like to go to church this morning, and I’d like to know when your church service is. It is 9:18 AM and time is of the essence. Is the service at 10AM? 10:30 AM? 11:00? We’re well into the 21st century. This information should be easy to access.

I just went to your church website and here’s what I found:

A front page with lovely images of your church but no helpful information  — just lots of links I can click on. So I start to click. I click on:

A “Welcome” from the pastor page that says nothing about what’s going on today. Also, I happen to know that the pastor hasn’t been there for months. I wanted to see the new pastor preach. She isn’t mentioned anywhere on the site although she started several months ago.

An “About Us” page that is all about the historic New England church building. No information about when your service is.

A “Directions” page with directions to your church — but no time for worship information.

A “Contact Us” page that has lists of committees and an e-mail address for an administrator who I’m sure isn’t checking e-mail at 9:18 AM on Sunday.

A “Worship” page that describes the tradition of worship at the church. Still no information about Sunday worship THIS MORNING.

I have followed five dead links on your church’s website and nowhere have you informed me when your congregation gathers for worship. I conclude that you don’t want me to join you, so I give up.

I’ll read the NY Times and go to brunch instead.

And we wonder why the mainline Protestant church is dying? We wonder why our charming New England churches aren’t growing? How much research do we require seekers to do before they can access basic information regarding the time of our worship service?

No excuse. Your church website is your Welcome Mat to the world. Unless you intend to build your congregation solely from people who are within walking distance of your exterior signage, you cannot afford this oversight.



8 Replies to “Church Website Rant”

  1. Bingo!
    Websites are for inviting people to come to a service. People decide when and where to go to church on Friday or Saturday and they decide on the basis of what is happening this week. Honestly, if your church website has NOTHING on it but details about this week’s service: who, what, when, where, and what to wear, Dayenu! It would be enough.

  2. yes – guess what? the church pages in the newspaper are not most peoples’ first thought anymore

  3. Along with the worship schedule and other Sunday service information, it’s also important to have a web site that looks good on the computer screen and on the smartphone – tablet mobile screen. This includes an obvious link to an online map service like Google Maps for smartphone GPS navigation. The visitor who is looking for a church service may be using a smartphone in the car as a tool to find it.

  4. So long as UU congregations continue to believe that professional religious structures can be provided by an ethos of hyper-stewardship among retired professionals, our websites will suffer. Folks who can program are young and they get paid. Administrators do as much as they can, but they are overworked, and all stray tasks reach their in-baskets anyway.

    Perhaps what we need to do is run a special campaign to fund, hire, and employ, in each of our districts, a dedicated web professional. These people would be full-time, so they can update all congregational websites through computer contact from the administrators, clergy, DRE, and UUA.

    My guess is that within two years, the program would be paying for itself.

  5. I’ll second Elz’s suggestion. I’ve been saying this for years. For a lot of little congregations, maintaining a professional web presence is difficult. As my own little congregation’s web administrator, I know both the limitations of what I’m able to provide and the time that goes into what I do provide. Doing web presence at a cluster, district, or even regional level makes a lot of sense to me.

  6. Elz, we figure that keeping our church website up to date would be about a quarter to half-time position. So, great idea, but I’m thinking more on a cluster basis. No way could one person keep the websites of our district’s 37 congregations even bare-bones updated.

    Let us take this as a caution for the embrace of all new technologies. People talked about the web being like the yellow pages but free. It ain’t free. It takes time to make it work well and time takes money. Our website won a district award when it was new. At the tender age of 7, it is WAY out of date, though we do pass the “when is your service and how do I get there?” test.

    A weekly update is nice, but but I would settle for general info about the service. Right now no one has updated my church’s “This Sunday” info since last Sunday. I don’t care if people know the topic for 1/5. The page can say the same thing every week: forum at 9, services at 9:30 and 11, RE or child care at 9:30, child care at 11, can’t wait to welcome you.

  7. what about embedding a twitter widget on the front page under a “Latest news” headline? And then announce times and topics on twitter, which is a 1-2 minute or less action for whoever is responsible and can even be done from a phone, no tech skills required?

    This approach would also allow your more tech savvy flock members to follow you on twitter and get your updates without needing to remember to visit your website.

    Just a drive-by thought from a tech person who has helped a few small businesses deal with a similar “we don’t have enough money to hire a web person” problem. [Interesting idea! I know that very few of our parishioners are on Twitter but it’s a great idea if the church can do a drive to get more people on. I am a fan of Twitter for church organizing since last year’s blizzard when we used it to share emergency info during long power outages. – PB]

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