Seven (Plus One) Deadly Sins of a Church Website

May 25, 2013

Allow me to begin with a couple of negative comments.

Most church leaders don’t grasp the value of a website to get guests to their churches to hear the gospel.

Most church websites are terrible.

I just finished looking at over 100 websites from a variety of churches of a variety of sizes. I am not an expert in either design or technology, so my primary purpose was to look at the sites from the perspective of a person considering visiting the church. Forgive my judgmental words, but I was not impressed with most of the sites.

I do not have confirmation of these statistics, so I am hesitant to put them in writing. Nevertheless, the unconfirmed numbers indicate that between 75% and 90% of potential guests to your church will first look at the church’s website before making a final decision to attend.

Did you get that? As many as nine out of ten prospective guests will get their first impression of your church based on what they see when they go to the church website. That’s huge! It may be the most overlooked outreach tool we have. The church that minimizes the value of its website is the church that is missing many opportunities to reach people.

Certainly the website should have features for the members, but it’s the guests who are often overlooked. Allow me to share the greatest omissions on the websites; what I humorously call the seven deadly sins.

  1. The website is dated in both design and content. You are communicating an uncaring attitude and a sloppy approach to ministry.
  2. The website was built cheaply and looks like it. From a ministry perspective, the church is missing many opportunities. From a stewardship perspective, one guest who becomes a member will pay for the cost of a good site. Though some web designers and builders are too expensive, it makes absolutely no sense to try to get by with a cheap-looking site.
  3. The service times are either hard to find or non-existent. This information is probably the first information a guest tries to find. If the times are not clear and apparent, you probably have already lost the guest.
  4. The physical address of the church is either hard to find or non-existent. Most of your guests will likely put the address in their GPS system. They won’t be seeking your church in the Yellow Pages. You are probably missing out on the majority of your guests if you don’t have a clearly marked physical address.
  5. Not enough information on childcare. You’ve lost your young families with this omission.
  6. Minimal information on your staff. Guests want to know as much as possible about the staff of the church. The best sites I’ve seen include personal statements from the staff along with their photos.
  7. No place to listen to recent sermons. A number of your prospective guests will listen to an entire sermon before deciding to visit. They may assume that you are not very proud of the preaching ministry of the church if you don’t have podcasts easily available.

(Plus One). In recent years, more prospective guests have wanted to know the basic beliefs of the church. If you don’t have a statement of faith on the website, you will miss out on some of your more discerning guests.

For the last twenty-five years, the worship service has been declared to be the front door of the church. If we are to keep the metaphor consistent, the website is now the foyer. Guests may never make it through the front door if you have a lousy website.

I sense that many church leaders are underestimating the value of a great website. It should be a mandatory investment of all churches at a reasonable price. And the price is too great to pay if your church does not have a website.

How good is your church’s website? What are many sites lacking? What would you change on many of these sites, including your own?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

88 Comments

  • Hi Dr. Rainer, Your comments on different church websites are very informative and very helpful to small churches like ours. Our website is not functioning the way we want it. Instead of the church promoting the programs of the ministry, we are bombarded instead of all the promotions for our website provider. We do not get any technical support because I requested my pastor to work with them because he is knowledgeable on the technical support system but I’m not. The website provider insisted that I am thedomain’s administrative contact, and therefore, would not allow our pastor to work with them. Our website is not running the way it should and we just continue paying our monthly fee. Dr. Rainer, I request you to please go to our website and see what we can do to improve it. Could you please recommend a good church website designer who can also help us design our church logo, and for a reasonable monthly service fee for a small church like ours.
    Thank you.

    • Hi! I am also part of a small church, and for our website, we use an adapted WordPress blog (www.wordpress.com). Their websites look very professional, can be customized to meet your needs, don’t require any technical support/maintenance, and won’t break your budget! A basic website is available for free, but I would recommend a couple of their upgrades (“No Ads” and “Domain Registration”) at a very reasonable rate. For example, our church website only costs $78/year and it has worked well for us. We don’t have the website quite where we want it to be yet, but if you would like to see what we are using as a possible example, our web address is http://www.opendoorhudson.org.

      Also, if you record your sermons (which I highly recommend doing) and would like them available on the internet (which I also recommend for many reasons), I would encourage you to consider SermonAudio (www.sermonaudio.com). Their site and ministry is very user friendly and accessed often by people around the world, and it only costs $30/month to host your sermons!

      I’m not an expert on this stuff and have been learning as I go, but I hope my comments are an encouragement to you and your church that there are definitely beneficial and budget-friendly options available (I’m sure there are also other options as well).

    • Hi Hermie. I work with churches designing and maintaining websites. I would love to help you and your church. Shoot me an email [email protected] and we can talk about how I can help.

      Daniel
      http://danielwalsh.co

  • My favorite pet-peeve is when a church website has a link to several social media sites and the last tweet was two or three years ago.

  • Hello Dr Rainer! Your article, ‘The Seven Deadly Sins of a Church Website’ popped up on a Yahoo search for The Seven Deadly Sins. I am sure it was God at the helm as the church website has been forefront in my concerns for several months now. Do I change the look, do I tone it down, jazz it up? After reading your article I now have a focused vision of what I need most….continuity between the pages. Our website varies from 51 – 80 pages, depending on what the children are doing that I can upload to the site. Children…and their parents…love to see themselves on the internet and everyone loves to see happy and smiling faces. I do realise that is a massive size for a church website, especially considering there are no sermons either in podcast or script form. I assumed the website 8 years ago when it was just a few pages and quite generically bland. If we had considered coming to the church on the basis of the website alone, I think my husband and I would gave relaxed in the sun and read the Bible to each other, praising God for the miracle of singing birds and baby lambs bleating across the field. My aim was to create a website where there was something where every member could read, enjoy and learn. One webpage I recently removed was World News Headlines of particular interest to Christians. From sightings of Jesus in an empty lasagne pan, to the plight of Christians suffering for religious freedom in China, it was all grist for my mill of knowledge. Aside from focusing my website for the members, I presented everything in a way that also appeals to the potential attendee, but equally important, to the website visitors from other lands. I was noticing on the administration page that the site was gathering attention from countries all over the world in numbers which now surpass viewer numbers for the host nation! We have developed a massive following in India, Afghanistan !!!, Indonesia, Africa, Thailand, Brazil,…. You get the point and the list is lengthy. Therefor, I also see the website as a powerful tool to minister to people all over the world who are searching for the word of God. I tithe the website to the church, including the domain name, the annual fees, the graphics, research, daily updates and photos. I get no support, response or feedback from the church, except when there is an error. While I took the site over as stewardship to the church, I have come to believe the worldwide outreach is my reward. We are promised our riches in Heaven, but presenting God to strangers all over the world can never be undervalued. Thank you for reading and especially for your brilliant article and most helpful blog. We are just a small village in Scotland, but through the church’s internet website, our arms embrace the world. Judy Newton-Harzer, http://www.newmacharchurch.net

  • Thom,

    Thank you for this informative article. The tip on incorporating personal messages from the staff is something I would like to incorporate in our website and I hope you have time to provide more recommendations for church web designers/administrators.

    Recently I have taken on the task of redesigning our church website (bellamyumc.org) since this is an area I have a little experience with. I have restructed the site using the Joomla CMS and believe I have the site to a decent state. However, I would like some constructive criticism on what we can do to make this website better and more appealing to visitors. I appreciate anyones critique on this. Thank you for your time.

    Very Respectfully,
    David

  • Not sure if anyone is still following this post but if anyone has feed back on my churches web site I would be so grateful!

    http://www.southcountybaptist.com

  • Hello, Could someone please give feedback on our church website – http://www.nhchurch.com.au – Aaron Smith what do you think?

    • Hello fellow Aaron, The site is very clean and easy to navigate. A few small things…
      1. The banners on the front need to slow down a bit. You need to give folks the time to settle in and view the banners. They are moving a bit quick for me.
      2. On the homepage you have the calendar twice at the bottom of the page.
      3. Make sure that any links off your site, especially facebook, twitter, etc. open in another tab. You don’t want to send people away from your site you want them to go there and come back. It is much easier to get back if you just have to close another window or tab and get back to where you were.
      4. The main page I want to visit is empty. When clicking “About Us” you go back to the homepage. That page is a priority.
      5. Your top level navigation that has drop down at the top of the page does nothing (ie Church and Ministries) If someone were to click on the top level send them to your most important (or first) of the sections below.
      6. Bottom navigation needs to be less. The bottom navigation is more to get you to the main sections, not to send you to any page. So, you want the basics down there to mirror the navigation at the top. Currently it is just a jumble of pages listed outside of their sections which makes it a bit difficult to use as a navigation section.
      7. Giving page – You might not want to list your bank account number for all to see. I would put an explanation of your church’s beliefs on giving and let people know they have an option for direct deposit and push them to contact you for more information. Unfortunately there are malicious people out there who may attempt to do bad things with that information.

      Conclusion, the site is well done. It holds to standards of font uniformity and viewability. It just needs some minor tweaks. Hopefully this is helpful.

      Blessings,
      Aaron Smith

    • Also forgot that on a couple pages (ie Giving, Beliefs, Vision, Contact Us and others) you will want to disable the comment section at the bottom. Should be a simple option for that page. Not sure you want to allow people to register and comment on your pages. CMS (Content Management Systems) usually have that on by default.

  • Hi there our cherished one! I have to express that benefits and drawbacks awesome, nice authored are available with just about all essential infos. I must find a lot more threads in this way .

  • As an RVer who is on the road, I use the web to find a nearby church. Sometimes you really have to surf around to find the location and service times which I find frustrating. I also get frustrated when I’m sent to a website that exists in name only.