I spend a lot of time visiting church websites. I mean a lot of time. I wrote a piece recently on “Barriers to visiting a church.” I wrote that post through the eyes of an introvert. I listed a lot of things that a church can put on their website to make the first visit a little less frightening and a lot more comfortable for a potential visitor.
Today I want to focus on something that I see as essential on a church website that is important whether someone is an introvert, an extrovert, a life-long Christian, or someone seeking God for the first time. Before someone visits your church for the first time, they may want to know what you believe.
I get a lot of puzzled looks when I talk about this. As church people, it doesn’t occur to us that potential visitors may have no idea what our church believes. However, with denominational identity fading in our country, many people have no way of knowing what they are getting themselves into when they visit a church. Add to that the many different flavors of United Methodist Churches and we realize that we need to offer potential visitors a glimpse into our beliefs.
I am not talking about a thorough, systematic presentation of the theology of the Protestant church or a thorough review of Wesley’s positions of doctrine. I am talking about a brief section of the core beliefs as they are lived out at a particular church. For some pastors, this is hard. It can feel heretical to edit our belief system into a short paragraph. However, not everything needs to be covered. It just needs to be enough to make the visitor feel comfortable moving from a cyber visit to an in-person visit.
So, what does this look like? Let’s look at some examples. (Please note: I am showing these as examples of good approaches to the task and good presentations on websites. If you take issue with any of their theological statements, you can visit the church’s website for more information.)
Christ Fellowship United Methodist Church – www.cfumcsa.org/about-us/beliefs-mission-values/
This is a great presentation. It is short but thorough. The headings make it scannable. Yes, we would like people to read thoroughly but we can’t control how people read. They may skim. The link at the bottom gives them an opportunity to go deeper by visiting The United Methodist Church website.
Gruene United Methodist Church – www.grueneumc.org/who-we-are/our-beliefs/
Gruene uses a more narrative form to set up how beliefs are lived out at the church. From there, they spell out specifics using the Articles of Faith of The United Methodist Church.
The Journey United Methodist Church – thejourneyumc.org/journey-basics/our-beliefs/
Oak Hill United Methodist Church – www.oakhillumc.org/faqs.htm#llearn
Oak Hill has a short statement that is found on their Frequently Asked Questions Page. It references the denomination’s website, mentions the Apostles’ Creed and invites people to learn more by taking a class or visiting with a pastor.
These are just a few of many great examples out there. Does your church website have a section on beliefs? If so, I would love to see it. Leave your web address in the comments below.