Friday, August 12, 2005

Obviously We're Looking For DIfferent Things

OK, so I have some competition in the how to do church websites department, with Tony Morgan's 10 Easy Ways to Keep Me from Visiting Your Church Because I Visited Your Website" (which I got to from titusonenine. And I notice his advice varies from mine in several significant aspects.

As I remarked earlier, people looking at parish websites do so with a variety of different intents. So, here I might be, heading off to Grainger, IN, and what would I (personally) do? Well, nothing that finds "Grainger Community Church"-- in fact, the very name indicates to me that (besides not being Episcopal) it's not going to do worship as I know it.

Which leads us to some of the points he drags out. A lot of them are common sense web design things, and while I hadn't thought about the "pink and doves" thing, he does have a point with that one. But then we come upon this:

Put a picture of your building on the main page. After all, ministry is all about the buildings. Ah, but buildings are about ministry, and the form of the building says volumes about what's going to happen inside. Everything about GCC's website-- but especially the few pictures of the building-- says "there will be no liturgy inside."

Which brings me to a point. There are three kinds of church visitors: people like me and (I must presume) Mr. Morgan, who are in town already knowing what kind of church they're looking for; people paying their respects (wedding, funeral, etc.) who most of all just need to be able to find the place; and raw seekers who maybe have no idea what they want. I'm not sure exactly what websites are supposed to do for the latter, partly because I haven't been one in any part of my adult life, but partly because it has always seemed to me that different people have sought along different roads.

Looking at websites like that of GCC or (another he mentions in a different post) Crossroads Community Church gives me a message, all right: there's no place for me, because I'm too old to go to rock concerts. And even when I was young enough, I would have used the internet (not available at the time) to exclude "community churches". And why not? Because

-- and this is the kicker --

by then I already knew enough to read all the theological decisions hidden in what people said about church. Ignoring the surface details of whether auditorium music will survive better than congregational hymnody (though I'll bet on the latter), there is theology hidden in the difference between what GCC says it does about church and what St. Paul's Random Episcopal says it does about church. And the funny thing is that protestant websites tend to be about hiding that difference to the degree that only the ecclesiological cognoscenti can discern what a parish is about. I happen to know that "community church" normally means "standard American evangelical theology", but what about the unchurched seeker?

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