Michael Boyink once again provides me with some good topical information. This time, it is a rather post entitled “Church Web Sites – What We Don’t Know” in which he enumerates discussion on three basic questions regarding your church or charity web site:
- How Christians (and people interested in Christianity) Use the Web?
- What a Church Web Site Should Be?
- How To Measure the Success of a Church site?
I like these questions. They specifically remind me of an important question posed to me in my interview with Niphal Online:
Would you say that there is an understanding of the importance of the Internet in people’s lives? That this translates into a massive mission field? Do church leaders recognise this?
No, yes and no. One only need read the Pew Internet Project’s December 29, 2002 report in which asserts that most people expect to find the information they seek via online sources before any other. This means for those who are seeking to fill that “God shaped vacuum in every heart” identified by Blaise Pascal 150 years ago are turning to the net.
Unfortunately, the Church doesn’t understand that and not only misses on leading seekers to Christ, but losing believers to heresy, agnosticism and/or apostasy. Like every area of our lives, we are commanded not just to make converts, but disciples. Which means you can have all the slick Flash animation you want on the site, but if you’re all style and no substance than you may attract a seeker who’s prone to shiny things, but you’re not going to keep them.
This is reflective not only in the number of church web sites that haven’t been updated since the turn of the century, but also the lack of resource and time most churches fail to invest their web presence.
In other words, Mr. Boyink is dead on when he asserts that just like everything and everywhere else on the web “People are going to the web, and your church site, with a specific task to do, or question to answer — let’s forget about having to entertain easily-bored surfers.”
He later buttresses this point with an excellent example of why we waste our time and the time of those visiting our church web site by trying to turn it into an uber-portals chock-full of syndicated news feeds, and one of my pet peeves, the local weather when he writes:
What this unique content doesn’t include is the local news, sports, and weather. Given that to an individual web user the entire Internet is the same distance away, and takes the same effort to get to, there is just no good reason to give up your church’s valuable home page space to this type of content. Based on our knowledge of “direct driving” on the net, people wanting weather will go to weather.com – even if your feed is from weather.com. Weather from a weather site will be perceived as being more up to date, and more trustworthy than that same weather presented in the context of a church site. The average user is confused by the function of the home page button, for goodness sake – what do they know about dynamic syndicated content?
Basically what Boyink gets around to saying is that hits mean nothing, its about creating community and changing lives. I agree. On this site, we have examined several church web sites that have required healing because those creating it did not take time to ask the simple questions “who is my target audience?” and “how do I best serve them?”
Yo, Mike! That is so on target, I could kiss you on the lips for that one — though I’m sure you probably just prefer a well deserved “AMEN!”