10 Church Website Myths

 
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We all know the church website cliches. From the outdated look to the endless paragraphs of content, church websites have gotten a bad reputation.

Why? It boils down to the fact that most churches are often not equipped to create a strategic, effective, and modern looking website.

And why would they be? As I often they, “they just don’t teach you that in seminary.”

As a result, I find myself having the same conversation over and over again concerning what churches should and should not have on their website. So I thought I’d take a minute and point out the top 10 church website myths; those things that, in my opinion, we think we need but can really be secondary or even eliminated altogether.

Sliders Work

Churches love homepage sliders for the same reason they love lots of Sunday announcements. The myth here is that if you put in a slider announcement then people will know everything that’s going on at your church. But this just isn’t the case.

The truth is people tend to ignore sliders. Your website should be helping people take action. Sliders overwhelm visitors and make it more likely that they won’t see the action you want them to take and in fact, no nothing of substance during their visit to your website.

You Need a Church Specific Platform

There’s a lot of church centric website platforms out there and they’re not necessarily bad. Some of them are quite good actually (Cloversites for instance). But you really have to weigh the pros and cons of that platform and make sure you understand what you’re losing by not using a more robust platform and how much money you might be wasting by paying 2 or 3 times the amount than you would with something like Squarespace.

Any good platform will accommodate your church specific applications, embeds, and archives. You just need to be thoughtful about how your use their features.

You Need to list all of your Beliefs

I do sometimes get hammered on this one, but I strongly believe (ha ha) we don’t need long statements of belief on our websites. It’s totally fine to write out some core beliefs (two or three sentences tops) in order to give people the quick bullet points.

If it’s really important to get them in there, simply put them in a good looking PDF and allow people to “learn more” by downloading the full statement so it doesn’t distract from your other content.

Your Domain Needs to be Creative

For those churches with more mainstream church names (Christ Community, Calvary, New Hope, etc), finding a unique domain name is hard. This has led some churches to get really creative or create really long domains.

But your domain name needs to be short and memorable. So work hard to find one that works for you in your local context.

You Need Staff Biographies

The staff or leadership page is actually one of the most visited pages on a church website, but that’s not because people want to know everything about each person on your team. Biographies can be well done, but more often they’re to wordy.

The most important thing on a staff page is to have high quality, unified photography with a clear pathway to connect with the staff or individual staff members. If you must do a biography, make sure you staff page is configured as a blog where people can “read more” on a separate page.

People Want to Know Your Story

One of the biggest problems I see on church website is a self-centric focus. We love to talk about our values, our mission, our approach to ministry, and of course our story.

I think these things can have a place on a church website but we need to remember to keep the focus on the person we’re trying to reach. To do that we need to talk less about ourselves and more about them.

When we have an entire page dedicated to “our story,” we are saying two things to our visitors: 1) we think our story is important to them (which probably isn’t true) and 2) we’re living in the past. I want to be a part of where a church is going, not where it’s been.

Again, there may be a small place for the church’s story on the website, but it’s not central and it doesn’t need an entire page.

Archive Sermons indefinitely

Another one of the most visited pages on a church website is the sermons/messages/talks page. Most churches prioritize keeping this page up to date (which is good), but what churches also do is spend a ton of time archiving sermons from many years ago that absolutely no one listens to.

With audio and video sermons, it’s important to keep your content relevant.


You Should be Live Streaming

I’m just going to say it: most churches should NOT be live streaming their worship service.

Some churches have the production chops (both from the front and in the studio) to pull this off with excellence. Most churches don’t...and that’s okay.

I understand the argument that churches have shut-ins who appreciate viewing the service while it’s happening. That’s good shepherding and so it’s important.

But often the mindset is if we create a live stream we’ll attract more people. But people expect excellence online, and if you’re not providing excellence, it’s actually hurting you.

Your service may be a wonderful experience for people who are there in person, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to translate that way via live stream.


Show off Your Building

I know that a church facility can be impressive, but I ask churches to think twice about highlighting their building front and center on their website. I would hope you are trying to get visitors excited about engaging with a community, not visiting a building.

Also, many churches get great footage or photography of their amazing facility, with no people on campus or cars in the parking lot. I’m not sure they realize what message this is sending!

Your Members Need a Login

This is one I still see on a lot of church sites and my reason for not having a member login is simple; your website is for primarily new people and “members only” pages feel exclusive.

Church websites should be full of invitation and welcome. Any kind of portal on your site that bars visitors for engaging should be placed somewhere else.


In Summary

There’s a lot things we tend to build into our church websites that are outdated, ineffective, or just sends the wrong message. One of the ways you can decide what belongs and what doesn’t is by asking yourself, “is this something that will help people take a step to visit a worship service?” If not, make sure it’s placement is either secondary or non-existent.

Another thing you can do to help your website’s effectiveness is to do a full communications audit. This will give you all the analytics, analysis, and strategy you’ll need to make critical decisions about your website.

Interested in a Full Communications Audit? Learn more here!


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Josh Wierenga

Founder and Lead Catalyst for Clearpath.Church. Josh is ordained in the Reformed Church in America and is passionate about helping small churches find their voice. Josh lives with his family in San Luis Obispo on the Central Coast of California.