I visited the website of a large church recently. It was work related but not in the usual way. I was looking for information on a special worship service they were having the next day. A reporter had asked me about it, and I wanted to find out more. It wasn’t there. So, I started looking around. I realized a lot of information was out of date. More than that, the whole site was dated. It looked like it was state of the art five years ago. Since then, apparently, not only had it not received an overall update or facelift, very little attention was being paid to it.
During my ministry, I have had the pleasure of hearing reports from some church consultants. Consultants can get a bad rap, but there is an essential role they play in the life of the church: they point out things we can’t see any more.
Often the most pressing need listed in a church consultation report is the need to paint. Seriously. Someone with an outside perspective comes in and takes a look at how your church looks to new visitors, and they notice fading, peeling paint. They point out that this sends a very clear, unspoken message to your guests. That message is that you don’t care about this place you gather in to worship God.
Very few churches decide not to paint. Admittedly, there are some who don’t want to spend the money or simply don’t have it. Most just don’t notice that there is a need for paint. It is not just churches. A few years back, I changed providers for my home owner’s insurance. The underwriter sent out an agent to inspect the house. A week later, I got a letter explaining that my insurance would be canceled if I didn’t make repairs. They sent photos of the back of my house showing that all of the paint had peeled off the trim leaving the bare wood. Seriously, I spent a lot of time back there. Did I ever notice that all the paint had peeled off? No, I didn’t. Paint doesn’t fall off in sheets. In flecks off slowly. So slowly that you don’t even notice it until someone pointed it out.
What, in the world, does paint have to do with websites? A church’s website is its new front door, it’s new street-front sign. In a lot of ways, it is the lobby and welcome center. People make a lot of decisions about your church before they ever drive into the parking lot.
Fresh paint offers a lot of information to a new visitor. When people are thinking about beginning a relationship with a church, they are thinking about more than just faith in God. They are also considering putting faith in a community that gathers in a place. They may be considering placing their children in the care of staff or volunteers. At least, they are contemplating trusting a pastor, staff, and faith community to join with them in the journey of faith. No one would ever say, “I didn’t join that church because their paint was peeling.” However, somewhere in their subconscious, that paint had an impact.
Unfortunately, most people will never look at the walls or trim in our church. They may get to our website. That events calendar featuring a special Easter service from last year, that photo gallery with the latest pictures from the 2014 youth summer trip, those pages that won’t render correctly on a mobile phone, the latest newsletter from four months ago; they all speak volumes.
No church ever decides to stop updating their website. They may decide not to go through the cost and/or effort of a full redesign or facelift but that is not normally the issue. The website paint just starts peeling and nobody really notices.
You need another set of eyes. The good news is, it doesn’t have to cost you any money. Here is what you can do:
Ask someone to look at your church’s website. Find someone who doesn’t go to your church and ask them to look and tell you what they see. And find one of those friends that is a little nit-picky. We all have a friend like that. They may be the one who lets you know you need to paint your trim.
While you are thinking about your website, why not take a few minutes to make sure your website is ready for new visitors. Download my free Church Website Self-Evaluation tool. It will guide you through evaluating your website’s style, content, navigation, search engine optimization and more.