We live in a day and age when people no longer use the yellow pages when they’re looking for businesses or churches. They go to Google. They may be searching for “churches in (your hometown)” or “Baptist churches in (your hometown).” Whatever it is, people are searching and looking, and they’ll eventually come to find websites. We can try to overspiritualize this and talk about how this is unimportant, but websites are how guests judge your church. Think of it as the digital foyer for first impressions.
Many churches have zero website presence at all. There is no website to be found. Other churches make terrible website mistakes which give people a certain image of the church before they even step foot in the door. Again, a good website will not make an unhealthy church healthy. But, a good website can help people find a healthy church. Here are several mistakes churches make.
1. No website at all
This is one of the worst. If you don’t have a website, people definitely won’t find you.
2. Using clipart or pixelated images
Remember back in the day Microsoft Word had clipart all over the place. A lot of that wound up on church websites all over the place, and it does not look good. Don’t use bad clipart. Also, don’t use pixelated or stretched images. You can tell immediately because the image was scaled bigger than its resolution intended making it pixelated. Also, you’ll often see stretched images that just look bad.
3. Displaying way too much information
Often times, well-meaning people give tons and tons of information all over the place. Visitors have no idea what to look at or where to go creating an overly complicated website.
4. Treating the website as a shopping mall for members
It’s very easy to want to give members only information on your website. But, again, the biggest impact your website serves as a front door to your church. Make sure your website is user friendly and it addresses the common questions most visitors have when they arrive. What do you believe? Can I listen to sermons? What do you guys do throughout the week? What do I do with my kids? Where do you meet and what are the service times? These are common questions that are commonly left off of websites.
5. No logo or a poorly drawn one
I’ve often seen churches with no logos or poorly made ones. Oftentimes, you’ll see churches with similar names (ie. First Baptist Church). If there is nothing that differentiates your church, how will people know if they made it to the right church website?
6. Incredibly long or confusing domain name
If your church has four or five words in the title of the church, you don’t have to use all of the words in the domain name of your church. For example, let’s say there was a church called Blue River Mountain Presbyterian Church. You don’t need to make the domain name BlueRiverMountainPresbyterianChurch.org. That’s really, really long and hard to remember to put into the domain line of your web browser. Instead, try BlueRiverChurch.org or BRMPChurch.org. Also, you can now get domain names with .church instead of .com, .net, or .org. There are many ways to make your domain name shorter that makes sense and is more memorable.
7. Free website editors that post information in confusing way
I think back in the day LifeWay had a free website editor. A lot of churches used them but the websites all looked like they were made on a free website editor. Sites like Wix, blogger.com and wordpress.com are all similar. Also, on many of these free sites, you have to use their domain name in your church name which just looks unprofessional and that you don’t care. Instead, buy a decent WordPress theme (not to be confused with wordpress.com which is not self-hosted) and self-host your website. There are really affordable options that are fairly easy to implement and will probably be discussed on this blog in the future.
8. Incredibly small fonts
If fonts on your site are too small to read, people are going to be less likely to check out the rest of the info on your website.
9. Having music or media play immediately upon arrival
It may seem really cool to play music or video as soon as a visitor arrives onto your site, but it’s not. It makes a web browser load longer, and it is not courteous to the one searching for churches. Think about it. This person may be at their work desk or at a coffee shop, and you start blaring “Victory in Jesus” across the speakers of their computer. As cool as it may be on your computer, it might get someone else in trouble at work. Not a good idea.
10. Broken links
Many times, there will be links on the website to old picture galleries or resource websites that are no longer in existence. When people click on broken links, especially when there are several, it makes it look like you do not care about your church at all. And, not only do you have a dated website, but probably a dated church.
11. No pictures
Some website have only words and no images or pictures at all. Even black and white newspapers put in images to break up the monotony of black and white text. If you can put pictures of actual people in your church, even better. Remember, think like a visitor. You are helping them get an image of your church before they arrive to your church. Just make sure you have permission from those you’ve taken pictures of to include on your website.
12. Using bad stock photographs
Have you ever seen pictures on a church website that had people on it that most probably did not go to that church? You probably know what I’m talking about. This looks cheesy and marketed. It doesn’t look authentic. You don’t have to pretend to be the church you’re not on your website. Just be authentic. Be genuine. The more authentic you are, the less disappointed someone will be when they actually visit your church.
13. Outdated information
Our website automatically takes off old events as they pass. It’s a part of the WordPress theme we use, and it’s extremely helpful. When your recent event is from a 2008 Men’s Breakfast, people are going to really wonder what happened in the last seven years! Find a diligent webmaster or find a theme that will help you take off old events.