In many ways, the reasons a church website is a bad one are the same reasons any website is a bad one. Maybe the navigation isn’t clear. Maybe, due to its light-colored text over dark background, it’s difficult to read. Maybe it has a giant, animated photo of Rosie O’Donnell in the header.
Whatever the reason, most of us can spot a bad website when we see one. If you can’t navigate it, if you can’t read it, if it hurts your eyes; it’s a bad website.
Of course, a website can be a bad one even if it isn’t as blatantly obvious as in the examples above. And this is especially true with church websites. Users have different expectations when they visit a church website than they do when visiting most others.
Think of it like this: A user visiting a church website is similar to a person looking at profiles on a dating website (e.g. eHarmony, Match, etc.). The person wants to know what they look like, what they do, what shared interests they might have, and so on. They are figuring out whether they have any interest in getting to know this individual better.
When someone new is visiting your church website, they are essentially doing the same thing. They are sizing you up.
Pastor Paul J. Dziadul of Lake Wildwood Baptist Church in Macon, Georgia, calls it “pre-visiting” a church. The person is trying to find out what they can about the church and, based on what they find, will decide whether or not to visit your church. If they don’t like what they find, you may never see this individual or their family walk through your doors.
In short, if your church website is a bad one, Satan is laughing. Maniacally.
Listing all the ways a church website can be a bad one (or, at the very least, one that makes a mediocre impression) will take several blog posts. To get the ball rolling, here are seven things a bad church website have in common with a bad dating profile:
1. Old, out-of-date information. You wouldn’t post a photo or a bio about yourself that was current during the (first) Bush administration on a dating profile would you? (I know some probably do, but I can’t imagine the tactic being very successful.) Your church information shouldn’t be out of date either. If you have an event calendar, it needs to be updated. If you post announcements on your church website, the latest one shouldn’t be weeks or months old.
2. Kids? Yes, no? If your dating profile says “no kids”, but every photo on your profile shows you holding small children, you’re likely to confuse a prospective caller. And if your church website doesn’t outline what they offer in regards to children (nursery, Sunday School classes, Junior Church, etc.), a family with children will likely be confused as well. Most likely, they will assume you have nothing to offer, and they will find another church that does.
3. You sit on a throne of lies. You know what a bad dating profile has on it? Things that are clearly dishonest. If your photo displays a man with the biceps of a 11-year-old boy, but your bio says you can bench press 300 pounds, anyone reading it is going to assume everything you say is potentially dishonest. If your church website is being dishonest, this is worse. Not only are you turning the visitor away from your church, but you’re potentially turning them away from all churches. How can a church website be dishonest? Well, saying you are friendly and welcoming to newcomers, but then have no one greet newcomers is one way. Saying you have a great youth ministry, but all you do is let teens play basketball at the church every other Friday for two hours is another way. The main point here is to remember everything you say on your website creates expectations for visitors. You better be able to meet those expectations.
4. What do you believe? With the exception of the truly vain, most on dating websites (I assume) are looking for someone with which much they have in common. Do you want children? Are you conservative? Do you like sports? The same is true with visitors to a church website. They want to know if what they believe matches with what the church believes. Offering a “visitor” section on your website and/or a clearly marked “What we believe” article or page will make it infinitely easier for a website visitor to find out if their beliefs match your own.
5. No information. The only thing worse than old information is no information. Know what happens to owners of dating profiles who put zero information or photos on said profiles? If you answered, “they get lots of date requests,” you would be mistaken. By the same token, a church website with little-to-no information on it doesn’t get a lot of visitors who write “Website” on the “How did you hear about us?” question in the bulletin.
6. You live how far away from me? Most people on dating websites are only interested in finding individuals who live relatively close to them. “This person sounds great and all, but she lives in Antarctica” is likely something muttered at least once in history. Where your church is located and how someone gets there needs to be crystal clear on your website. Is it located in a gated community? Is it in a tricky area of town? You better have detailed instructions. Otherwise, your church might as well be in Antarctica.
7. Can’t get in touch with you. I have it on good authority some dating websites have it so you can have a profile for free, but you can’t communicate with anyone unless you have a paying account. Those with paying accounts can message anyone. So, what these “free” people do is sit around and wait for someone with a paying account to message them. (I’m sure many a great love story has started this way.) On many bad church websites, getting in touch is just as bad. The good news is correcting this issue is simple. One, your contact page should be easy to find. Two, it should have multiple methods of contact. In short, don’t make it difficult for someone interested in your church to ask questions or get in touch.
Never thought you would read a blog post comparing church websites with dating profiles? Well, I never thought I would write a blog post comparing church websites with dating profiles.Sign up for free email updates: