Heal Your Church WebSite

Teaching, rebuking, correcting & training in righteous web design.

The failure of coolness

I’m currently going through the painful process of reworking the entire web site for Redland Baptist. The design was good two and a half years ago when I implemented it, however not only is it a bit dated visually, it also suffers some ‘now important’ usability issues. Of graver concern is that it has become somewhat inflexible as it was coded using a version of DreamWeaver 3.0. Hence, I’m currently toying with a content management system entitled WebGUI. More glory details on that later.

Today I want to address maintenance issues and how many of them can be avoided with good planning. For example, while RBC is indeed in need of a facelift, fundamentally the move is merely taking data from one bucket and moving it to another. This is because the navigation and the organization of the data were created to serve the content, which in turn was generated to serve our target audiences. Hence, most, if not all of my work isn’t in the arduous task of defining ‘what’ data, but rather tidying-up pesky <FONT> tags and other deprecated idioms. Hopefully this time will be the last time as I plan to go totally data-driven.

Can you say the same about your church’s web site, and if so, to what degree? I ask this because of several hits I’m getting from Google that make me yell NNOOOOOOOO! at my computer screen. Here are a few:

The Love of Cool is the root of all church website evil

I teach 11th grade Sunday school. One of my hard and fast rules is that I refuse to try to act COOL. For example, I usually inform a new class that if they hear me using some of ‘their slang’ then they can be sure that I’m either making pardoy of them or myself; usually the former. Partially because there’s nothing more lame than a pudgy 43 year old white boy trying to compete with MTV. But mostly because COOL isn’t something obtained but rather a byproduct of being creative, witty, intelligent and unique. Which is why I feel MTV is so uncool.

In other words, you cannot serve two masters. If your goal is to have a “COOL” church web site, then don’t be surprised if your site is ineffective to attract new members and unable to serve the needs of your congregation. I mean after all, how many people do you know seek out a church primarily on the basis of “COOL?”

Moving on – If all you say is ‘I wish you well; keep warm and well fed‘ then what good is your church web site?

I hope I’m wrong, but I’m probably not in assuming that these searches are made by individuals of whom the extend of their planning is ‘I know, we’ll scan our church bulletin.’

Church bulletins are a start, but only a start in conveying the personality and purpose of your church. If you want to serve your target audiences, then you’re going to have to quit with the milk and ‘show them the beef.’

And if that’s not enough to convince you. Consider this. You may be thinking that you’re saving yourself some time with the ‘quick fix’ of posting your bulletin. But mark my words, your sin will find you out, and the wages for that sin is a long, slow, painful perdition of weekly drudgry if you haven’t planned on using some sort of data-driven system to help maintain your temporal content.

In other words, it’s a GREAT idea to update your compelling content frequently. But you had better plan for it, and programmatically actuate it or else your site is going to get away from you. Remember what they say, ‘a lifecycle is a terrible thing to waste.’

Last point: All that glitters is not gold

Oh look, someone looking for Jesus Junk. Looks like I found my next candidate for a critical review !-)


  1. dean –

    this doesn’t really fit here, but have you considered healing http://www.olympicpc.com? they need some serious redesign and a serious rebuke (truth spoken in love, natch) for spamming people for Christian links.

    just my $.02 …

  2. From the younger generation-

    I feel that the problem is not the design, but the area of which you can’t achieve a “cool” design. You forget, we are now a visual generation. Not only are the hearing and feeling senses being triggered, but now the visual senses. Content is the meat of any site, but visual content is important too. To be truthful im detered from a tasteless design. Most christians trying to attract unchurched people, forget, that these people are “unchurched”, and that they won’t have the “christian” philosophy or attitude towards things we have, and that thier attitudes will be “worldly”. The unchurched are the same as we are, attracted by touch, by our ears, and by our eyes. So just by content, you can’t expect to attract people, but think worldly, think like they do, what will attract them. I think it’s harder for the older generations to grasp the concept of thinking outside of thier box.

  3. Maybe you think MTV is uncool but they have managed to capture a generation — which is something none of us in the church world has been able to do. If only we could be as effective as they are but for the Kingdom of God.