Allow me to begin with a couple of negative comments.
Most church leaders don't grasp the value of a website to get guests to their churches to hear the gospel.
Most church websites are terrible.
I just finished looking at over 100 websites from a variety of churches of a variety of sizes. I am not an expert in either design or technology, so my primary purpose was to look at the sites from the perspective of a person considering visiting the church. Forgive my judgmental words, but I was not impressed with most of the sites.
I do not have confirmation of these statistics, so I am hesitant to put them in writing. Nevertheless, the unconfirmed numbers indicate that between 75% and 90% of potential guests to your church will first look at the church's website before making a final decision to attend.
Did you get that? As many as nine out of ten prospective guests will get their first impression of your church based on what they see when they go to the church website. That's huge! It may be the most overlooked outreach tool we have. The church that minimizes the value of its website is the church that is missing many opportunities to reach people.
Certainly the website should have features for the members, but it's the guests who are often overlooked. Allow me to share the greatest omissions on the websites; what I humorously call the seven deadly sins.
1. The website is dated in both design and content. You are communicating an uncaring attitude and a sloppy approach to ministry.
2. The website was built cheaply and looks like it. From a ministry perspective, the church is missing many opportunities. From a stewardship perspective, one guest who becomes a member will pay for the cost of a good site. Though some web designers and builders are too expensive, it makes absolutely no sense to try to get by with a cheap-looking site.
3. The service times are either hard to find or non-existent. This information is probably the first information a guest tries to find. If the times are not clear and apparent, you probably have already lost the guest.
4. The physical address of the church is either hard to find or non-existent. Most of your guests will likely put the address in their GPS system. They won't be seeking your church in the Yellow Pages. You are probably missing out on the majority of your guests if you don't have a clearly marked physical address.
5. Not enough information on childcare. You've lost your young families with this omission.
6. Minimal information on your staff. Guests want to know as much as possible about the staff of the church. The best sites I've seen include personal statements from the staff along with their photos.
7. No place to listen to recent sermons. A number of your prospective guests will listen to an entire sermon before deciding to visit. They may assume that you are not very proud of the preaching ministry of the church if you don't have podcasts easily available.
(Plus One). In recent years, more prospective guests have wanted to know the basic beliefs of the church. If you don't have a statement of faith on the website, you will miss out on some of your more discerning guests.
For the last twenty-five years, the worship service has been declared to be the front door of the church. If we are to keep the metaphor consistent, the website is now the foyer. Guests may never make it through the front door if you have a lousy website.
I sense that many church leaders are underestimating the value of a great website. It should be a mandatory investment of all churches at a reasonable price. And the price is too great to pay if your church does not have a website.
How good is your church's website? What are many sites lacking? What would you change on many of these sites, including your own?