By Jonathan Howe
Your church’s website acts as the front door of your church. It’s likely the first place a guest will look for information about your church. I’ve written in the past about what is essential for effective church websites, but today I turn my attention to what churches often lack on their website.
Here are eight mistakes churches make with their websites:
- Not having the service times and address near the top of the home page. These are the two most important components of your church’s website. People need to know when to show up and where to go if they want to visit your church. This information should be some of the most obvious information on your home page and some of the most repeated information throughout the site.
- Not having pictures of the church staff or leadership. This may be more of a personal preference than the other items in this list. But when I show up somewhere new, I like to know who I’m looking for and what to expect. A simple staff directory with contact information and pictures goes a long way in helping visitors feel more comfortable—especially if they have kids. Which leads me to…
- Failing to give parents information about the children’s ministry or student ministry. Parents, especially those with small children, want to have as much information as possible about who will be caring for their children. The more information you give parents on your website, the more they will trust your church and the volunteers caring for their kids.
- Having outdated information on the site. If your July 4th information is still prominently displayed on your church’s website, you need to fix that immediately. If your Christmas Eve service details are still on the homepage, you need a new webmaster. Potential guests want to know what’s coming up at your church, not what you did a few months ago.
- Using poor graphics or copyrighted images. If your church is still using clip art or pictures from a standard Google image search, stop it. Sites like pexels.com and istockphoto.com provide high-quality images for either no cost or a low cost that will be both attractive and legal.
- Being unclear about beliefs or doctrine. If someone is new to church, they may not understand all the differences in doctrine from church to church. However, a new resident to the community who was deeply involved in a church in their previous town might be quite adamant about visiting churches with similar doctrine and beliefs. Be clear about your church’s doctrine on your website. Doing such displays honesty regarding beliefs and benefits those interested in visiting your church.
- Making online giving difficult. In our podcast with Rich Birch, he mentioned the difficulty he had when making online donations and offerings to some churches. When you setup your online giving to be both simple and fast, you lower the barriers to those interested in giving online.
- Hiding your contact information. It may not actually be hidden, but it may be difficult to find. You obviously cannot put all the information about your church online, so it’s quite likely that people will have questions. Make it easy for guests (or members) to contact your church.
When used correctly, a church website can be an indispensable tool for churches. When information on your website is missing or difficult to find, your church suffers.
Are you making any of these mistakes on your church’s website? What would you add to this list?
Jonathan Howe serves as Director of Strategic Initiatives at LifeWay Christian Resources, the host and producer of Rainer on Leadership and SBC This Week, and the managing editor of LifeWayPastors.com. Jonathan writes weekly at ThomRainer.com on topics ranging from social media to websites and church communications. Connect with Jonathan on Twitter at @Jonathan_Howe.
Regarding stock images, lightstock.com has great church-focused images for a fee. We use these at times. There is a cost, but sometimes, they have just what is needed. As for free, legal stock images, we use visualhunt.com (which looks to have some of the same links as pexels) for many. Just be sure to credit the photographers when asked to do so.
Using legal stock images are also things that pastors who blog should use as well, so not just on church webpages. I use these on my blog when needed (davidtarkington.com) and so far, have found just about every type of image I sought.
David, you nailed it. All sites should be using rights-free images or purchasing photos.
There is NO excuse for not having a website, and keeping it updated.
6. This can be a little tricky. Obviously you want to be honest, but there is a real spectrum of how strongly a belief might be held, and how impactful it might be in the teaching and mindset of the church.
If I see something in the beliefs section of your website, I am going to assume it is a hill that you are willing to die on, and if I disagree (or even think it’s far less important) I’m going to pass you by.
That being said, don’t give me a cookie cutter creed if I’m going to be treated like a second class citizen if I don’t subscribe to a bunch of minor pet doctrines.
Yes, be honest… also dig down deep to find out what honest is. You might even find that your honest beliefs could use some work.
Good points, Dallas.
A great post for my situation. I am a pastor candidate for a church with no website nor a facebook page. These are two of my top priorities if I am called to pastor there. Thank you for the insight so that if the time comes I know what to do and what not to do for the church’s website.
I would encourage you to do your homework. Talk to the former pastor from years back who didn’t stay long and it was supposedly his fault. Ask the DOM the tough questions. I was so desperate for a pastorate that I overlooked a lot of things, and it ended ugly. If you have to tell past connections with the church to cut the line of bull, do it. Your family is at stake.
Church websites and social media are no longer optional. Let your potential church know how they are missing out because of their lack of presence online.
Don’t try to be your own webmaster, and don’t give the job to the first person who pops up. There are an awful lot of very bad church websites and social media pages because someone – too often the Pastor – got distracted or too busy elsewhere to keep them up.
As the original post states, your website is in many ways your church’s front door; if you needed a new front door, or the old one needed updating, would you hire a builder, or do it yourself?
Professional and experienced help always is best.
I would also add that your church website needs to be mobile-friendly or “responsive” for smartphones and tablets. The majority of people will look for your church website on thier mobile device. Traditional websites that are not responsive are cumbersome to navigate on a smartphone and someone may get frustrated and leave the site.
I have to agree with that. There are a lot of touchscreens theses days, but people still have this love affair with menus that only show up when you hover over them. That makes using a touchscreen a frustrating experience.
Exactly. I noted the mobile friendliness needs in the Facebook Live video I did about this post today.
I would add that churches fail to realize that people who visit their website probably aren’t going to come through “the front door.” It’s great to have a nice looking home page, but there are a lot of people who are going visit the site because they clicked on a link to pictures of a mission trip, or an article on marriage, or whatever it is they are looking for. If those pages don’t encourage the user to find out more about the church, it is a missed opportunity.
I would “Amen” the first point. The church where we are now members did not list worship times, so I had to send a private message on the church’s Facebook page. I’m glad I did because this church is one of the healthiest I’ve encountered.
Great story. Unfortunately many wouldn’t go that extra step. Glad you did.
One of the important things (for me) is the “Order of Worship”…The Moody Church in Chicago is fastidious about posting this on Thursday afternoons. (I was part of that congregation for almost 13 years). Many times I would have unbelieving visitors in my home, and would often invite them to Sunday morning worship with me. I always looked at the “Order of Worship” to make sure I was familiar with what would be occurring in the service. I love the Moody Church website…it is marvelously well done (moodychurch.org).
Pictures of people (real people who could be in your church – if stock photos) should be everywhere. Having a picture of your building is great so that visitors or first timer guests know what they’re looking for especially if they’re new to the town or visiting. Nothing worse that no pictures of people involved in the ministry.
Two websites that I frequently use (not on our church website but for multimedia) are Free Bible Images (http://freebibleimages.org) and Pixabay (http://pixabay.com). The Bible images include artwork and photographs of Bible stories, the other site offers royalty free images of all types of things.
Pixabay is my backup. The quality is a bit of a mixed bag over there, but they have a wider selection.
I visited a church website recently and spent a whole bunch of clicks trying to find out what city they are in.
It happens. It shouldn’t. But it does.
The service times and address of your church are not the two most important components of your church’s website. The Gospel is. At my last church, we put an explanation of the Gospel on the front page. Imagine meeting someone in glory who never came to your church, but came to the Christ because your front page was used by God as one of the things that brought them to Him. Getting people to come to my church is secondary to helping them come to Christ.
I was waiting on this one, and surprised it took two days for someone to write it. Of course, the gospel is important. Of course, it should be a priority in the church. But I personally have never known someone to put their faith in Christ by a written plan of salvation on a website. I have known many people who discovered a church with a good website, people who ultimately came to the church where they heard the gospel and saw it lived out among the members. I think Thom and Jonathan need to put “the gospel is important” before all of their blogs and podcasts lest someone chastise them for misplaced priorities.
Thank you, Franklin. I wasn’t trying to put myself off as some super spiritual detective who spies on people looking for misplaced priorities. And I truly am sorry if I did that. I thought I was merely replying to what was said was the most important component of a website. I wouldn’t have brought it up otherwise. And maybe I overlooked the context of the first point: “Not having the service times and address near the top of the home page. These are the two most important components of your church’s website.” If the most important point of my church’s website is to get people to come to my church then maybe we can say that the most important component is our address and service times. I just don’t think that should ever be the most important priority in any context. And I would be very surprised if someone was converted through reading one Gospel presentation on one website. But I think it could be “one of the things that brought them to Him”. A link in the chain, if you will. Perhaps the thing that leads someone to check the address and service times and then go to my church.
A serious problem that I’ve seen on a lot of church- and other christian websites is allowing unmoderated comments. Sadly, there are people around who enjoy posting deliberately offensive (and indeed blasphemous) comments whenever they get a chance.
I’m not sure that allowing people to comment is a good idea (I think that an email contact is better) but if you do, ensure that the comments are moderated and that the rules for acceptable posts are set out clearly. If you accept a comment that disagrees with the church’s teaching, make sure that (1) this is made clear, and (2) you add a polite reply explaining the church’s position.
Yeah. I would only have comments on a blog area of the site and then I would moderate them.
Would welcome critique of our church website I have put together. I am no html expert and learn as I go. Pretty sure I have hit most of these points. I am currently building out our nursery, children and adult ministries pages.
Thanks in advance!
# 9. The layout looks like it was done by someone who knows nothing about graphic design much less web page development. (Most likely because they don’t!)