Church Websites Suck

I know a lot of people have been wondering: what’s been going on with you and church, Paul?

Well, here’s the skinny: we had been attending Nortonville Chapel. The Lord had led us to the church about a year and a half ago. It didn’t really seem like a good fit at first, but it did seem to be where God had directed and wanted us to stay. God reveals His Will to us in prayer, circumstance and by his Word. All three seemed to be lining up at the time to indicate that this was, indeed, where he wanted us to attend.

…so we jumped in with both feet. We plugged in wherever there seemed to be a need that we felt the Lord was directing us to serve and it was a great experience.

The fit never really felt right, though and over time, we prayed for direction as to whether we should stay or go. In recent months, it felt as though the Lord was beginning to close doors and prepare our hearts to find another church. Once again, through prayer, circumstance and scripture, his Will was revealed that it was time to move on and go on the search.
The first church that we decided we’d visit is called New Life Community Church and is located about a mile away. Now, being the avid technology person that I am, when I begin a venture like church-shopping, the first place I start is not likely going to be the phone book. It’s usually much easier and faster for me to find information online… so my fingers danced and danced on the keyboard as I Googled the web (when did that become a verb?) for more information.

Twenty minutes into my search, I was still coming up empty-handed. In the course of my research, I discovered several other churches in the area, each website looking seemingly worse than the one before. I have to believe that at some point, the pastor or a board member says, “the Inner-nest is the wave of the future. My grandson tells me they’re making it for computers now! We need a website.” At that point, they assign the task of building a website to either a high-school student or some poor goon who wasn’t paying attention during the meeting.

From this we get truly awful results. We’ve all seen it: Church websites with nearly every other word spelled correctly, a picture of a cross and/or dove, complete with awful colors, pictures of people sitting at a picnic or on a canoe trip and an events calendar that’s out of season and two years old, along with a list of prayer requests for 9-11 victims. Usually the images are all shifted out of proportion, nothing lines up, the type-treatment is bright red, in as many fonts as Windows comes with, flashing and so large that you’re not certain as to whether you’ve found a church website or a monster truck rally advertisement… in either case, the words, “Sunday Sunday Sunday” both seem appropriate.

I did manage to find a church’s website that had clean lines, was up-to-date and looked like their beliefs lined up with my own. Trying to find out WHERE they were and WHAT TIME to show up was another matter and apparently a huge secret.

More than once, these words escaped my lips: “church websites suck.”

Now why is that?

1.) lack of funding

2.) lack of competency within the local church’s body

3.) lack of anyone taking the initiative to do something about it

Let’s look at this strictly from a business perspective. If you were running a business, the cardinal rule of business is, “if you’re not growing, you’re dying.” I think that can also be said of churches. If you were a small business and you wanted to encourage people to come through your door, there are a number of initiatives you would launch to advertise and increase customer awareness: Radio spots, TV commercials, fliers, billboards, etc. Eventually, word of mouth becomes the small business’s best friend, but they have to do a lot of work up front before that becomes a reality.

Again, the reasons we don’t see a lot of these same kinds of initiatives from the church is lack of funding and knowledgeable personnel. Generally, when a church writes out their budget at the beginning of the fiscal year, the advertising department gets a pretty slim cut… but a business would never do that.

The reason the web has had the explosive impact that it has is because it’s cheap and easy to create a presence and pump out relevant information to your target audience… you just need someone with know-how and ability to make it happen.

I decided I could do something about this dilemma. I called up a few friends I have who share my love for the Internet industry and www.churchwebsitessuck.com was born.

More or less, it works like this: we will give local churches in our area then benefit of our design and development skills free of charge, as long as they are willing to host their website with me for at least one year.

They’ll get the same treatment any paying client would get and the same quality of work, but they don’t pay a dime for it.

Problem solved. It’s like pushing the big red un-suck button.

We’re just doing our part.