A lot of what we do as Christians may look good to us but can be a real-put off for non-Christians. Here is a look at five features that we include in our websites whose impact can range from unnecessary to offensive to your visitors.
There are a lot of ways a site can be distracting: busy backgrounds, auto-playing music, etc. Church sites are a unique niche, and as such, they have a unique set of possibly distracting features. While there are a limitless number of useless features for any website, the list that follows is specific to churches.
Also, none of these features are inherently bad. Potentially, each one could be used correctly, if given a great deal of care and purpose in its composition. However, as a general rule, these tend to be detractors (or distractors) rather than attractors for visitors.
5. Verse of the Day
Christians hold that the Bible is the Word of God, a book whose words give life, but is it necessary to display random scriptures on your home page?
Scripture has its place when used with purpose (i.e., in blog posts or to describe the mission of a ministry). It’s the purposeless use of the Bible that can be a problem.
I suspect that including Scripture simply because it’s Scripture comes across as self-righteous, as though we’re showing off how Christian or “holy” we are by showing how much we love the Word of God.
Keep in mind that non-Christian visitors are usually non-Christians because they don’t believe the Bible. Confronting visitors with Scripture before they have a chance to understand it (and see it in action through your members’ lives) can be a turn-off.
Ask yourself, “Why are we including this on our site?” Is it to attract Visitors? Will this content truly enrich the lives of Members? If the answer is No, then cut it out.
4. Picture of Building/Pastor on your Home Page
Even non-Christians know that a church isn’t a building, it’s people. If your site greets them with an imposing image of your edifice, what does that tell them about the importance of your building?
Likewise, visitors don’t want to follow your pastor. In fact, if he’s worth his salt, he won’t want them to follow him, either. He’ll want to point people to Jesus.
Instead of featuring your minister on your home page, feature the people in your church whose lives are being changed by Jesus.
3. Denominational References
People want to see that you belong to Jesus first, because you do, right?
Of course, I understand the reason behind denominations, but non-Christians do not. To a visitor, nothing says, “We belong to The Man” like large denominational logos and references on the front page. You shouldn’t try to hide your affiliation, but greeting your visitors with what, to them, looks like an institution or brand can be a real turn-off. Furthermore, denominations carry stereotypes, and visitors may pigeonhole your church before you even get a chance to shake their hand.
2. Detailed Statement of Faith
On the web, the purpose of a Statement of Faith (SOF) is to show visitors that they belong with you. It should say, “This is what we stand for. Notice that we are serious about Jesus and the Bible and families, and that we don’t sacrifice children.”
Be confident about what you stand for, but don’t go into unnecessary detail. There’s a point where wordiness starts sounding like arrogance.
As a general rule, theologically technical SOF’s tend to exclude more people than they include. (See Video Below) And while we must make a firm stand for Truth, we can do it in a loving, welcoming way.
To help more inquisitive visitors, have a SOF with just a few major points that basically say, “We’re Christians,” then link to a PDF of your church’s formal beliefs.
1. Plan of Salvation
I love the Gospel, and it’s because of that love that I urge you to take that “Meet Jesus” link off of your website.
Brief presentations of the Gospel (called tracts) were originally designed as tools to help Christians explain Jesus to others. Somewhere along the way, they became a replacement for personal evangelism. Including one of these on your website is sloppy and irresponsible.
The Gospel is deep, mysterious and wonderful. Every human being knows that if there is a Spiritual realm, that it isn’t something that can be distilled down to four spiritual laws or presented in a 500-word blog post. Our attempts to do so insult both the message and the recipient.
Salvation is free, but it is not cheap. Don’t devalue the Gospel by carelessly handling that which cost Jesus everything.
A safe rule to remember is that clutter reduces the clarity of your message. If each feature of your church website doesn’t have a clear, powerful purpose for each one of your three audiences, then you need to cut it out.
After hitting on such a wide range of topics, I’m sure I’ve shot some sacred cows. Do you think this is a good list? What would you add to it? Share your ideas with us in the comments, or on twitter! (@churchthemesnet)