What is the first thing you think of when I say Heaven’s Gate? If you’re like me, the phrase “suicide cult” leaps to mind, as Heaven’s Gate was the brand-name for a cult who literally killed themselves in an effort to obtain eternal life. Which is rather sad when you think about it, as the Bible clearly proclaims Christ the final sacrifice, dying once and for all for our imperfections, rising from the dead, and now serving as our advocate when it comes time for the final judgment. Alas, to some, such thinking is too “old age” … so instead they dressed themselves in black, slipped into their Nike’s and drank a fatal brew … perhaps even reciting another infamous ‘sui-cider’s’ fatal incantation of … “Let’s get gone.”
With this horrible image in mind, why-o-why would ANY ministry in it’s right mind name itself “Heaven’s Gates?” Yet sure enough, through the miracle of the Internet, a site bearing a pluralized version of this name dedicated to sharing Christian poetry and prayer requests exists. Yes, I realize the “s” on the end of this para-church ministry site’s name probably makes all the difference in the world to its owner, but not to search engines, and certainly not to visitors hearing or reading the name for the first time.
Of course it also doesn’t help that there is nary a clue as to what this site is about until after you click on the unlabeled mouseover animation of the not-so-intuitive, takes forever to load, cheap imitation of Thomas Kinkade splash page. A link which in turn takes you to yet another not-so-intuitive, takes forever to load, cheap imitation of Thomas Kinkade splash page. Which in turn offers the easy-to-distinguish choices of “Index” and “Home.” The former leading you to a site map containing links to the poems, the latter taking you back to the original not-so-intuitive, takes forever to load, cheap imitation of Thomas Kinkade splash page.
Further down there is also a link to a guestbook one almost misses because graphics are used to represent text … dark graphics against a dark background … which you miss because because between this, and the embedded MIDI files, and the kitchy artwork, you’ve got your hands over your eyes and are screaming “Enough with the Jesus Junk! … Where did I put my purple Koolaidtm?”
Heavenly histrionics aside, if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it at least 13 times, don’t hide your ministry’s light under a bowl. In other words, anything that gets in the way of your ministry’s personality and purpose should ‘get gone’ on your web site.
So what would I do to help this site shine before men as a bright glowing star? First I’d get a different name. Then I would get a domain name and open up a TypePad account. Using that account, I would post the poetry under a category entitled “Poetry.” Then under a category named “Prayers” I might post concerns and allow people to issue comments. No, it’s not the same as a guestbook, but I noticed the guestbook is getting a bit spammed lately.
But if I could only change one thing … it would be the name … that horrible name. And if given an hour and no budget, I’d at least move my poems over to a Blogger account and hyperlink over to a more robust and customizable free guestbook, until I figured out which content management solution was best for me.
And then people wonder why I refer to so much of the Body online as “that great cloud of witlessness.”