* UPDATE – 09-Dec-02 * The site critiqued in this post has made some dramatic improvements. While the techniques discussed here are still valid, the example offered is no longer relevant. Please make a note to read the post entitled “Harvest Time Tabernacle Revisited” after reading this post.
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Kensington, Maryland, not only infamous for banning Santa Claus, but a near-tragic train derailment today (09-Dec-02 … and also now the sniper thing). In fact, I live just a few miles away from where it all happened. Close enough that my house was once considered part of Kensington. Gerrymandering aside, my family is still protected by a heavy engine and ladder company which fortunately is located less than a mile from the crash-site. Moreover, the incident occurred near an industrial part, which mean volunteers with ladders, ropes and heavy equipment on the scene in an instant.
Not that anyone wanted this, but if you’re going to tip over, mid-Montgomery County is the place to do it. With a population of over 850,000, it is able to support several well equipped rescue companies, many of which were on the scene within minutes. I also have the honor of knowing some of the brave and capable men and women working for both the Fire and Police Departments. The unfortunate victims were in good hands.
Interestingly enough, you would think sucha huge area could host a mega-church or two. And while there are a couple two and/or three thousand person churches here, you would think such an overgrown metropolis so near Washington D.C. would have enough of a population to support one on every corner. Instead, we have a lot of little churches with congregations in the quarter to half-thousand range (that’s 250 to 500 for you victims of an outcome-based education system). Much of it has to do with the transient nature of the residents.
So what’s your point Dean ?-! – Glad you Asked !~)
Recently my attention was directed to a church web site located in Fort Smith Arkansas, who’s population is a mere 1/10th to Montgomery County’s (that’s about 85k for those of you who haven’t enjoyed the intellectual benefits of home schooling). Which means any church in that town with a 2k+ population has got to have something compelling to write home about. If that is the case, then it should be reflected in compelling content of the church’s website. Take for example the Harvest Time Tabernacle in Fort Smith Arkansas.
This church hosts a congregation of about 3,000 which means you can probably expect 2,000 there every Sunday. That’s a big church folks – at least for this big city guy used to churches 1/10th the size. Which means you might expect BIG CONTENT on their web site. On the contrary. While I do give them credit for offering detail about their Sunday School Curriculum there isn’t much else there online. I’ll bet you dollars to donuts, this lack of text does not accurately reflect the flurry of activities that probably go on at such a large church in such a small town.
Yes, there are some technical issues here, the biggest two being a pair of pictures on the front page that come in at around a bandwidth gagging 40kb. That and white text on the sandpaper background can get lost in a hurry. But I digress, because the singular issue I’d heal on this site first is content.
Churches of all sizes make this mistake. They don’t quite understand that the internet is no longer just a place for a pretty online brochure. As I’ve said before you need to determine your target audiences and shoot for them, all the while conveying your church’s personality and purpose in a two dimensional format. As the population continues to become more internet savvy, they are going to depend on their surfing to help them determine if a particular church is their cup of tea.