Three Ways To Fix Your Church Web Site’s ‘Unchristian’ Image
By Felix Morris
The book UnChristian has shaken the Christian world with some startling revelations about the way people outside the faith perceive believers. New research commissioned by Fermi Project and conducted by The Barna Group into the perceptions of 16 to 29-year-olds reveals that Christians may not be who they think they are in the minds of younger Americans. Rather than being known for their love, most young people surveyed identified Christians as “judgmental” and “hypocritical.”
And since the Internet is the marketplace for this generation, the church’s image online is more important than ever before. Internet Evangelism Day is April 27 this year. The Internet Evangelism Coalition (IEC) developed this day to insure that at least once a year churches would focus on their Web sites as an essential part of their community outreach.
An increasing number of church visitors report that they visited the church’s Web site before coming to the actual worship service or the church building. The potential for community impact through a church Web site hinges on the type of content provided there and the ease of navigation.
Watch your language
The IEC provides a plethora of tips and tools for church Web site development. Topping their list of 70 tips is a call to design a church site for people are not-yet-believers or church members. Using Christian jargon or church language that people outside the church wouldn’t understand immediately sends the message that your place is not for them. That’s exactly the opposite of the welcoming message your church should be sending to Web surfers who are potential church visitors.
Broadcasting is broad
In addition to text, pictures, video and audio are also important components of a church Web site. Video and audio of worship services, sermons, welcome messages, etc., are great ways to show people what your congregation is all about. Whether your church podcasts messages or uploads video to YouTube.com, this sort of Internet broadcasting usually nets people who weren’t looking for a church at all, but caught the topic of a particular message in a search and were then drawn to a church Web site to learn more.
Image is everything
Once surfers arrive on your site, giving them a visual of your church before they attend can help to reassure them about their fears or concerns. For example, if they see pictures of people who look like they do, they will feel more comfortable attending your church. Pictures of families will draw families to your church. Pictures of people of varying races and ethnicities will bring diversity to your congregation. Pictures of people dressed casually will bring casual dressers. Of course if these people arrive looking like the people in the pictures you posted online only to find the reality of your church is very different, they may feel betrayed. They certainly won’t feel welcome. Your church Web site should accurately portray your congregation.
However, even a true representation may present an image problem for your church. If the research in the book, UnChristian is accurate, it isn’t only church Web sites that may have an image problem, but Christianity itself. The only way for churches to change that is one encounter at a time—or in the case of their Web site, one click at a time.
This article “Three Ways To Fix Your Church Web Site’s ‘Un-Christian’ Image” written by Felix Morris is excerpted from www.churchcentral.com web site from April 2008.