Often we create websites for our churches that are little more than newsletters for the church members. They are rarely designed with reaching the unchurched in mind. Below is a blog by Tony Whitaker about this issue. We have to get beyond talking to ourselves to reaching non-Christians.
Church websites that reach non-Christians
Help for church webmasters
Church websites are an essential part of local churches’ public profiles to their communities. Indeed, in some parts of the world, church websites draw more people into face-to-face church activities than any other method. Church sites outnumber all other types of Christian sites by a ratio of 5 to 1. Church sites could therefore be powerful outreach tools. However, research reveals a discouraging picture:
- most church sites are written purely for their members, using ‘religious insider’ content style and religious language.
- many do not create a sense of welcome to outsiders or include any material that they would perceive as relevant to them.
- either they do not provide any hint about the life-changing Gospel; or else they present it in heavy-handed terms which may be ‘too much, too soon’, a counter-productive ‘Bible-bashing’.
Yet there are many ways you can create or redesign and upgrade your church site to be truly welcoming to non-Christians. Ideally you would want to include these strategies when you plan your site. But you can also apply them to an existing church site and transform it into one that reaches out into the community.
Strategies for effective church sites include:
- a natural informal sense of welcome, even humor, throughout the site.
- lack of insider ‘churchy’ language and jargon.
- photos showing not only the church building exterior, but also interior shots including people; these will help prospective visitors feel the church is familiar even before they first visit the physical building.
- church members photos and profiles, some prominently displayed on the home-page. These may not be full testimonies in the normal sense. Instead, they may be introductions to some real church members with background to their lives: hobbies, jobs, pets and other personal details.
- Bible explanations for pre-Christians.
- Online leading to face-to-face support for recovery from life problems (divorce, alcohol/substance abuse, bereavement etc.)
- Age-specific content (children, teens, seniors)
- clear directions with online map to find the church, where to park, public transportation links.
- a sense of identification with the local community, in terms of secular news, photos, links; this can also draw in website visitors.
A summary of these strategies – and indeed a purpose statement for a church site: ‘to entice the lost’. See our 70+ Tips and self-assessment questionnaire which explain this approach in more detail. They are also reflected in our communication parable A Tale of Two Golf Clubs.