Heal Your Church WebSite


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

Counting on the Internet

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. – James 2:14-17

One of the reasons you don’t see me critiquing a site every day is because I’m afraid after a while, it would just become an excursive in gawking at religious road-kill. And considering the great cloud of witlessness that comprises a portion of the Church online, there are enough poorly designed church web sites chock-full-o-Jesus-Junk to keep me in the critiques business, and you entertained, until our Lord returns.

Instead, I think it makes more sense to sprinkle in a critique between an email between a programming thought between a cool tool between a related story and so on. Hopefully, the blog stays fresh and interesting – and of greater importance, hopefully you walk away learning something new, or at least thinking differently about your church web site. Unless of course you think like me, then you’re okay (it’s a joke, laugh !-)

But seriously folks, I need to talk to you about a recent Pew Internet & American Life (PIAL) report that says nothing directly about the Church, but between the lines says it all.

Yeah, that was about as clear as mud. Okay, specifically, let’s talk about the PIAL’s report of December 29, 2002 entitled “Counting on the Internet” which bylines with “Most expect to find key information online, most find the information they seek, many now turn to the Internet first.”

Now the report specifically cites news outlets and medical sites, but I think within the first paragraph of the report summary there is a sentence we as church and charity web servants need to consider with great thought and prayer. I’ll highlight the phrase I’m talking about in bold, as it needs to be read in context:

With over 60% of Americans now having Internet access and 40% of Americans having been online for more than three years, the Internet has become a mainstream information tool. Its popularity and dependability have raised all Americans’ expectations about the information and services available online. When they are thinking about health care information, services from government agencies, news, and commerce, about two-thirds of all Americans say that they expect to be able to find such information on the Web. Internet users are more likely than non-users to have high expectations of what will be available online, and yet even 40% of people who are not Internet users say they expect the Web to have information and services in these essential online arenas.

Think about it, one could just as easily re-write the sentence that follows the point in bold with “When they are thinking about spiritual issues, personal relationships, churches, and charities, about two-thirds of all Americans say that they expect to be able to find such information on the Web.

Possible? Probably, but the numbers aren’t as high. Plausible? Definitely, but do they find what they’re looking for?

Look, we live in a lost and dying world. The Internet gives people, who are otherwise embarrassed by their lowly spiritual estate, a safe/comfortable place to find answers in the privacy of their virtual confessional/prayer booth otherwise known as their computer. If your church is nothing more than a pretty brochure or flier, then you’re basically turning this person out into an Internet that is as full of bad stuff as good.

Think about it – is your content compelling, up-to-date and informative? If not, why not? After all, “which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?#

5 Comments

  1. Thanks, Dean, for reminding us of why we’re doing this in the first place. I have a tendency to get all hyped about the technology and forget about the purpose behind it. Your post today reminded me that in the end, what’s important is that we communicate God’s glory clearly on the Web so that those who are lost can see Him for Who He really is.

    Thanks so much for this reminder!

  2. Funny…I just unsubscribed to the RSS feed of Vince Flanders site for similar reasons. There are so many bad sites on the net that pointing them out is like shooting fish in a barrel.

  3. The Bible verse at the end is a good summation of what “compelling content” is all about!

  4. This is the second time today that these thoughts have been in my head. While I agree with your point – that a large percentage of Americans expect to be able to find the information online so we should be there – I remember that there is still a large majority of people who are not online, both in America and overseas. The internet has to remain just a piece of the puzzle.

    As your reference verses makes me think, which is more important? Getting that individual into our church or making sure they have food in their stomach?

  5. Hey, Dean, do you take requests? I’m going to be tackling an overhaul of my site (http://fcfchurch.org/) in the near future. Aside from the glaring issues of out-of-date news and huge sections still under construction (bad webmaster! bad webmaster!), I’d love some feedback on design, usability, etc.