Monday, May 24, 2004

Church Websites

Parishes and congregations should have websites. (Since I'm Episcopalian, I'm going to use parish for the rest of this.) But it seems to me that a lot of the sites don't understand what they are doing.

A big issue about websites in general is that they are different from advertising, and this is especially true of parish websites. As a rule, people who come looking for a church website are already aware that the parish exists. Typically they are looking for information about the parish. Therefore the crucial information should be on the front: address, phone number, service schedule, affiliation, names of principal clergy. Nobody should have to click through for any of this.

If there are going to be pictures, one should be a good shot of the exterior, and another should be a good shot of the interior. And they should be easy for the outsider to find. I see too many websites where all the pictures are of crowds of people shot at church picnics where even parishioners would have a hard time figuring out who is who.

And the sales pitch: look, if you say that you are a "community of caring people", I'm going to figure out that somebody in a position of power at the parish is more interested in appearance than reality. Nobody can tell whether you are caring over the internet, and most of them aren't in a position to find out, either. I expect all parishes to be caring, and I'm disappointed when I find one that isn't. But that's not what a church's first job is. Its first job is to do the communal worship on Sunday morning, and if I visit a parish on a trip, what I expect out of it is good worship by reasonably friendly people. Well, and a jump start if I have a dead battery in the parking lot, but that's not a high standard to meet.

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