Locking the (online) door

In the Episcopal Church, we are proud of our red doors on our church buildings. Never mind that they simply look imposing to many first-time guests, we just love our red doors. Maybe it’s time to start loving our online front doors. You see, we all know that we have to unlock those real red doors in order for people to come into the church. But it seems that a lot of us lock up our online presence — or more to the point, don’t really even have an online entry.

The Church Times blog reports that Sara Batts has been researching the online presence of church congregations. It seems that over 50% of congregations in England have no website, based on preliminary research. Can you imagine? She didn’t research the US, and I would guess that percentage to be lower, but maybe not by much. Just today I was chatting with a friend who is considering a cure in a surprisingly large congregation — with no website whatsoever.

Batts makes the case for why a church needs a website, and she makes it well:

If it didn’t have a website it might as well not exist – how do they expect newcomers to the town to find out that they’re there, what they do, why I might want to join them? I don’t think churches can expect people to turn up on their doorsteps to ask for information.

I can tell you that a pretty huge percentage of our first-time guests at Christ Church have visited our website before they come through our lovely red doors. That’s how they decided to visit us in the first place. A few years ago, at another parish, I was standing outside greeting worshipers on a Sunday morning. A very elderly woman (in her 80s?) walked up to the entrance, and I knew I hadn’t seen her before. Putting out my hand, I said, “Good morning and welcome! I’m Scott.” She replied, not missing a beat, “I know who you are — I saw your picture on your website!” She had checked us out online before she came for her first visit. Having a website isn’t part of a strategy to attract the mythical younger family. A website is essential to attract people, period.

If you are reading this blog, it’s likely that you are pretty web savvy. I hope your church has a website, and a good one at that. If it doesn’t, start bugging your priest and vestry. Tell them I sent you. The mission of the church depends on you having a website, because the mission of the church depends on you sharing the Good News. To share the Good News in 2010, you simply must have an excellent website.

Photo by flickr user rightee.

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1 Response

  1. Jon White says:

    I couldn’t agree more. When I was Sr Warden I really tried to push the idea that the web was going to be most people’s first experience of the parish. We had a website, but it was difficult to find people to keep it up as well as a reluctance amongst some to include photos (our newsletter hid behind a password wall). Some presence is necessary, but what is the cost of a bad website, one that looks like we’re exhausted and not a dynamic community of the Spirit?