The pandemic is not only still with us, it is currently surging in areas of the country which, until recently, were not seriously impacted. And while churches in many states are just now resuming in-person, indoors worship, the future of our congregational ministries can still seem precarious and uncertain.
While we never want to minimize the importance of believers’ being able to experience Christian worship and fellowship in each other’s physical presence, we do need, now more than ever, to pay attention to the online presence of our ministries.
I recently came across an article by Chuck Lawless, from the Billy Graham School of World Missions, on the “Signs of a Bad Church Website.” This is a summary of his article in my own words.
1. The church does not even have a website! This is just not an option anymore—especially with online ministries becoming essential due to the pandemic. Remember: This health crisis could last a while. Yet I am still finding LCMC and NALC churches which have no website!
2. The website is inadequate. These are websites I bring up on my laptop and think, “Why did they even bother?” A totally inadequate and poorly designed website gives a poor initial impression to any potential visitor who is “checking you out” online.
3. Your website has no contact information. It should include the pastor’s name, church email address, and phone number.
4. The website has no information about your worship services.
5. The information on your website is not updated and even includes event dates that have already taken place! This is the most common issue I have found while checking on hundreds of Lutheran church websites. Lenten worship service information is not helpful when it is still on your site in July!
6. Spelling or grammatical errors are common. Find a volunteer who will proofread, beforehand, any information the pastor or administrator/secretary is about to post on your website.
7. No driving directions are provided. Not everyone uses Google Maps. Brief, written directions to your location will be helpful.
8. No recorded or streamed sermons are available. As long as there is public anxiety about gathering indoors for worship, this is extremely important.
9. Childcare information is not provided. If you provide childcare during worship, mention that fact. Nesting stage, potential first-time visitors want to know.
10. A brief summary of your congregation’s core beliefs. Be sure to avoid terms that might be meaningless or confusing to the unchurched. LCMC and NALC congregations have the option of using a summary of the core beliefs from their national church websites. But don’t hesitate to add your own, more personal “mission statement” as an introduction to any list of your national church’s core beliefs.
Lutheran CORE’s editor, Kim Smith, designed and maintains Lutheran CORE’s website. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.